2017-08-03 / Front Page

Thirty-six El Salvadorian visitors join local kids at Camp Next Gen

By JANE ELLYN AARON news editor


Faith Community Church hosted over 30 children at this year’s Camp Next Gen, who enjoyed not only learning about their faith in Christ, but also enjoyed several outings with over 40 Lincoln County chil­dren such as baseball games, a visit to Stone Mountain, and other team activities, getting a good taste of Southern culture and hospitality. Faith Community Church hosted over 30 children at this year’s Camp Next Gen, who enjoyed not only learning about their faith in Christ, but also enjoyed several outings with over 40 Lincoln County chil­dren such as baseball games, a visit to Stone Mountain, and other team activities, getting a good taste of Southern culture and hospitality. Bridging cultural gaps and geo­graphic distances, this year a special group of El Salvadorian visitors attended Camp Next Gen at Faith Community Church, demonstrat­ing that one commonality can bring anyone together regardless of the circumstances – a shared desire to serve the Lord.

The weeks spent at camp not only gave the congregation the opportuni­ty to share God’s love with them, but the Lincoln County community was also able to provide the guests with a taste of real southern hospitality.

“This has been the most wonderful camp experience because of the in­ternational kids, they really brought a unique element with them, and so many new connections were formed,” Pastor John Belangia said.

Visiting from the Mision Cristi­ana Church, Nuevo Pacto Christian School, in San Salvador, 36 children, along with 46 of Lincoln County’s children, had the opportunity to celebrate newly formed friendships, share cultural differences, and even learn new languages.

One Salvadorian in particular, Sandra Ayala, who was sponsored by Faith Community to attend, had the special experience of turning 18- years-old while at camp.

It’s been such a huge blessing to be here, it’s been super fun, and I’ve received a lot of blessings from God here,” she expressed. “I’ve loved making new friends. Everyone has been really friendly to me, and ev­eryone has been able to understand me.”

Ayala’s journey, like many of the children who were able to attend Camp Next Gen, is considered mi­raculous due to many restrictions with their country’s government.

According to Sofia Vielman, an English teacher with the school, El Salvador’s embassy will often reject travel based on family income lev­els – and in the case of many of the school’s children, they come from low-income homes.

“We are so blessed because we were able to make this trip in the first place, it really has been a miracle,” Vielman said.

Not only was transporting over 30 children from the central Americas to Georgia considered miraculous by everyone involved, but Ayala too saw a personal miracle in the accom­paniment of her 13-year-old cousin Fabiola Romero.

Romero has a severe condition known as Pulmonary Arterial Hy­pertension, and will ultimately need a heart transplant to live, but through a lot of prayer and doctor’s checkups, she too was permitted to attend Camp Next Gen, complaining of only a slight headache for the entirety of her visit.

“Through the preaching here I learned that I need to keep putting God first for these things to happen,” Ayala commented.

As a church that puts an empha­sis on mission trips and making connections around the world, the friendship between Faith Community and Misian Cristiana was liaised by children’s pastor Jamie Campbell. “Seeing the kids super excited about camp has been the best part, because it’s such a huge opportunity for them to experience our culture in so many different ways,” Belangia explained.

From baseball games to visits to Stone Mountain and other field trips, to grits and glazed donuts making quite the impression on the Salvador­ian visitors, this particular immersion into Georgia’s southern hospitality only added to an already impactful camp experience.

Camp Next Gen has been a tra­dition at Faith Community since the 1970s, and coupled with daily, uplifting services, the youth also participate in team-centric activities oriented to encourage integrity and spirit.

“For our church we have what we call the ‘Four Pillars,’ which are four foundational pieces that we focus on, and one of those is next generation ministry,” Belangia said. “We will forever be a church that will do as much as we possibly can to pour into our young people.

“This week has, obviously, been about faith, but also in my experi­ence, one of the best things that can come from this type of experience are relationships,” he continued. “We want to bring the community together in a big way through our camps and events like it.”

Presenting thoughts on evangelism and outreach, the youth were encour­aged to focus on what they can do to personally make the world better, what their roles are in reaching others for the Lord, and how to take “the next steps in their own faith.”

“We love how pastor John has been so sweet to us, and opened his heart to us, and it’s not just him, but everyone here has bee so sweet and so great with us and our kids. A lot of kids wouldn’t have an opportunity to do this unless the doors were opened up to them, and we really thank John and his church for doing that,” Viel­man said.

“Security is very important, and we’ve felt very safe here. El Salva­dor is not safe, so having that sense of safety has been wonderful, and for the children, at least they get to feel that once while they’re here,” Claudia Vielman, principal of Nuevo Pacto, included.

“We look at this as a ‘kingdom connection,’” Belangia said. “Their church has blessed us so much, and we wanted to the same thing for them. The idea is to help each other, to grow together in the Lord, and to keep growing that connection.”

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