Each night begin by standing in a circle and praying. While standing, recite the Lord's Prayer, explaining that after praying the group will stay silent for a period of time in order to allow each person to reflect silently in their minds over the day's events.
After praying and standing quietly to reflect, invite the children to sit in a circle. Each devotional comes with some basic suggestions and some scriptural references to connect with the day's events. You will find some key words or stories from which to draw some points to discuss with the campers.
Encourage the children to speak from their experience; do not be afraid of silence or even tangents but do try and keep the conversation focused. The idea is to get the campers to relate to the material that they were exposed to in the day's activities, especially the material that was covered during Orthodox Life, Street Wise, Arts & Crafts, and Chapel.
Avoid speaking for prolonged periods of time and attempt to get each child to contribute. If necessary begin the conversation by connecting the day's events with your own experience and try to then stimulate conversation by asking an open-ended question (an open ended question is one that cannot be answered using a "yes" or "no" response). The suggested time frame is between 15 to 30 minutes.
Ice Breakers: Toss the String
You will need a ball of string or yarn and a group of 15 people or less.
Have the campers form one or more circles. The camper with the ball of yarn starts by calling out a camper's name and tossing the yarn to him/her, being sure to hold onto the end of the string. The camper who catches the ball must call out another camper's name and toss the ball to him/her. The object is to include everyone and create a spider web with the string. The leader can then ask one camper to pull on his/her string while everyone else holds on. How many campers can feel the string being pulled? Use this as a starting point for a discussion on the importance of group cooperation and an individual's contribution to the group.
Points to consider: Given the fact that we will be living together for the next six days together, let's keep in mind the following:
- What happens if at shower time one camper takes a 15 minutes shower?
- What happens if at curfew time one camper doesn't want to go to sleep and is really noisy?
- A cabin that prays together stays together: seeing in the above exercise how important one person is for the group let's remember each other in prayer during the day supporting and encouraging each other.
What does the Bible and our faith say about the values of this world?
- "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:3
- What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26
- "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! Matthew 18:7
- "And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well." Luke 12:29-31
- "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." John 15:18
- "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness." 1 Corinthians 3:19
How can we improve our personal relationship with Christ?
- In Paradise, Adam and Eve after their mistake hid themselves from God "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8). We should do the opposite and show ourselves to God/Christ whenever we do something good or bad and simply say "Lord look what I did. Please forgive me" or "thank you for this or that blessing"
- Make a habit to talk to Him all the time whether you are angry or happy
- If you do not have a disciplined prayer life start now with one minute a day for a month and increase with a another minute next month and so on….
- Try to do as many acts of love as possible. In those acts of love, in helping the ones in need, you will find Christ who is Love (1 john 4:8) and who identifies Himself with the poor (Matthew 25)
Standing up for our values without shame or fear…
- If anyone is ashamed of Me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
- If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)
- However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (Peter 4:16)
Thursday night: The Power of Prayer
One night or perhaps it is better to say early, early in the morning, around 2 AM when the whole world is deep asleep, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos was praying as usual for the whole world. His prayer rule was a very special one; every hour he would pray for the different needs that people have. For example from 11 PM to 12 AM he would pray for all the people in the world who were diagnosed with cancer. From 12 to 1 AM he prayed for all the people and children in the world who were dying of cancer at that hour or that day. From 1 to 2 AM in the morning he would pray for all the teenagers and people in the world who were drunk driving. From 2 to 3 Am in the morning he was praying for all the people who were cold and hungry and abandoned, for people in war, for widows, for orphans and so on and so forth. There was no pain in the world that was foreign to him for his loving heart was aching for anybody who would experience any kind of pain or suffering. Thus he lived all his life keeping everybody in his prayers, healing souls and bodies with the power of the One who said, "Whoever believes in Me will also do what I did" (look for the exact passage). Some times the miracles that he performed were immediately known by the relatives or friends of the person that was helped but many of them remained hidden to the world and are known only by God with Whose grace these miracles were performed.
The miracle I would like to share with you was revealed in a very interesting way. I have read it in a book about Elder Paisios written in Romanian and never found it translated in English, so I will try to share it with you as accurate as possible.
One afternoon before vespers, Elder Paisios was receiving visitors in his cell, blessing them, answering their many questions and praying with and for them. All of a sudden from one of the groups that were waiting for their turn to talk to the Elder, a young man started running toward Father Paisios and screaming out loud: "You saved my life, I know you! You saved my life!" Everyone was surprised to see his behavior but they were even more surprised to see the surprised face of the Elder and to hear him saying "Who are you, I have never in my life met you." "No," the young man insisted, "you know me, you saved my life." And without waiting for anything else he started to share with all the people gathered there how one night when he was a younger, he was driving drunk from a bar on his motorcycle. He got into a terrible accident from which it is hard to imagine that somebody would survive, but he saw "an old man, dressed with black, long clothes and a long, white beard," (who at that time was praying for all the people who are driving drunk) picking him up in his arms during the accident and literally saving his life. After he got well the boy was asking himself and the others around him, who was that "little old man who saved his life?" A couple of years passed by and the young man changed his ways and started looking from church to church to find somebody that resembled Elder Paisios, but he was unable. Until one day his Spiritual Father suggested to him to make a pilgrimage to Mount Athos and to thank God there fo r the miracle in his life. And there he was now, standing right in front of the very simple and humble monk who has saved his life by his prayers and love for mankind.
Many times our prayers seem to be unanswered and they might at times seem to be simple words thrown into the air. But if we pray from the bottom of our heart, with humility and with an ardent love for our fellow human beings maybe on that day of Judgment, when all the books will be open, we will discover that we have helped enormously by our prayer or even saved someone's life.
Read one of the two inspirations and let the kids share a few thoughts about them.
Drink Plenty of Water!
I've heard it. I've read it. As long as I have been running, it's always been the same message: "drink plenty of water." All along most racecourses are water stations, and most runners slow down to drink a cup of cool water. Keeping your water level up is critical when you run. If you get slightly dehydrated, you will not run well. If you get moderately dehydrated, you will become disoriented. If you get seriously dehydrated, you can die. It's serious business. The first year I ran was 1991, and I was inexperienced (also younger, slimmer, stupider, etc.) I passed water stop after water stop, occasionally drinking a swallow or two. I felt good, and I wasn't going to waste precious seconds by drinking water, even though it was a hot, humid day. Big mistake. As I neared the final mile, I "hit the wall." My energy level dropped to zero, I began having to walk some, and I realized I would have to work hard just to finish. I did make it across the line, but only with a tremendous headache and hardly enough energy to walk. It was not much fun. I learned an important lesson that year. Stopping for water doesn't actually slow you down. In fact, you will run a better race if you do drink water. The bottom line is that your body is simply not designed to function without water. In the same way, your spiritual stamina depends on stopping for regular drinks of "spiritual water." The dilemma for busy believers is finding time to invest in reading the Word and meeting with God in prayer. Like the runner intent on reaching the finish line, we tend to put off those regular drinks of water until we are totally parched. But in the long run, you will run a better race if you will stop for spiritual water. In fact, finishing the Christian race at all may depend on it. And runners who don't ever slow down to take a drink often stumble off the course far short of the finish line. In this year's race, I saw a man become dehydrated just a mile from the finish. Strangely, he didn't seem to recognize that anything was wrong. He was swaying from side to side as he walked, mumbling over and over, "I'm fine. I'm fine." He was so disoriented that he didn't even recognize his own sick condition. If you let yourself become spiritually dehydrated, you may not even be able to recognize it. Stop today to drink some cool "living water." For serious runners, it's a must.
Isn't It Funny?
Funny how a $20.00 bill looks so big when you take it to church, but so small when you take it to the mall.
Funny how big an hour serving God looks and how small 60 minutes are when spent watching television, playing sports, sleeping or taking a lunch break.
Funny how long a couple of hours spent at church are but how short they are when watching a good movie.
Funny how we get thrilled when a football game goes into overtime, but we complain when a sermon is longer than the regular time.
Funny how laborious it is to read a chapter in the Bible and how easy it is to read 200-300 pages of a best-selling novel.
Funny how we believe what newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
Funny how people scramble to get a front seat at a concert, but scramble to get a
back seat at the church service.
Funny how we cannot fit a gospel meeting into our schedule with our yearly planner but we can schedule for other events at a moment's notice.
Funny how we look forward to that big date on Friday night, but complain about getting up for church on Sunday morning.
Funny how we are rarely late to work, but always late to church.
Funny how we call God our Father and Jesus our brother, but find it hard to introduce them to our family.
Funny how small our sins seem, but how big their sins are.
Funny how we demand justice for others, but expect mercy from God.
Funny how much difficulty some have learning the gospel well enough to tell others, but how simple it is to understand and explain the latest gossip about someone else.
Funny how we can't think of anything to say when we pray, but don't have any difficulty thinking of things to talk about to a friend.
Funny how we are so quick to take directions from a total stranger when we are lost, but are hesitant to take God's direction for our lives.
Funny how people want God to answer their prayers, but refuse to listen to His counsel.
Funny how we sing about heaven, but live only for today.
Funny how people think they are going to Heaven but don't think there is a Hell.
Funny how it is okay to blame God for evil and suffering in the world, but it is not necessary to thank Him for what is good and pleasant.
Funny how when something goes wrong, we cry, "Lord, why me?" but when something goes right, we think, "Hey, it must be me!"
Or wait...maybe all this isn't so funny after all.
Invite the campers to write a letter to themselves. Provide them with paper, pen and an envelope.
For the camper:
This letter will be read only by you.
We will provide you with an envelope and you will address the letter to yourself.
Once you have finished writing the letter put it in the envelope and seal it. Again you will be the only one who will read this letter.
The letter will be sent to you when you least expect it.
The letter must begin with "Dear. …(Your name)
Make this a personal letter for yourself, written from your heart. You may choose to write about your triumphs, your challenges, your shining qualities, your deep desires, your accomplishments, your wishes for yourself, and your wishes for your relationship with God etc.