Vanlal is reserved and well-spoken but getting to know him takes time and patience with silent moments. I met him as an 8th grade student at one of our middle school clubs. Van was well behaved amid what seemed like middle school chaos… he was always content and ignored the loud and demanding behavior of some of his peers. During a spring retreat I learned that he was born in Burma and went to India to attend school to learn English. He lived with his mom and his brother while his dad was working in the USA to create a new home for his family.
Van recently went camping with us at Rocky Gap State Park. I noticed him stoking the fire the first night and as I “supervised” this natural talent we talked. “I learned to build a fire when I was five years old. It was my chore for the outdoor kitchen which we used to cook fresh chickens. This is how you keep a fire a going…” he explained.
One of our final day activities at camp is to rent a two-man canoe and use the hour rental in a challenge to reach the dam at the end of the small lake and return. The key is choosing the right partner. Van agreed to row with a rambunctious peer who talked a good story but within 10 minutes they returned to the dock. Van was frustrated while his peer was frightened from the experience on the water.
Who chooses a 60-year-old partner to attempt the long distance in an impossible 45 minutes at this point? VAN DID! Well, I offered, and he gratefully agreed because he wanted to reach the dam. Van and I paddled and found a rhythm that worked. We talked a little but mostly found peace in the journey. Although I was sore after the canoe experience, I would do it again. It was a spontaneous opportunity to spend 45 uninterrupted minutes with a sincere young man!
Van also grew in his faith that week. “I liked worship because you and the other leaders speak to us about Jesus in ways we can truly relate.”
CMYFC offers many benefits to students besides a summer camping trip, or dinner and snacks at each meeting. We also train and equip adults who are willing to listen to students and get to know them. We need more adults who want to get involved in helping with clubs and mentoring students!