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Matt Collier and Chris Anastos planned to go to Bangladesh to assist with a scheduled camp. However, changes that the government made to their visa procedures, forced them to change plans. Even after pushing their flights back several weeks, their visas barely arrived on time—obviously, the Lord wanted them to be in Bangladesh. The original plan was to assist Pastor Joseph and his camp team in launching camp in a new area – near the capital city of Dhaka. However, at the last minute, the government revoked their permission to hold camp in the area because of an upswing in COVID numbers. The team did not want to cancel and disappoint the young people who had already registered, so they decided to hold camp in another region of the country near a property they had used before. It turns out that it was a really good thing for them to run camp on their own – and in a familiar setting. And it turns out that they were ready. Around 250 young people attended camp, many of them for the first time. The 50 staff were recruited from the pool of counselors who had served at the 3 previous camps in various locations (the only downside was that the former counselors who were not invited were deeply disappointed). One highlight of the camp was that quite a few returning campers shared publicly how the Lord had saved them at the previous camps – these testimonies had a major impact on the new campers. Sixty-seven campers professed Christ as Savior that week and were counseled personally by the staff.

Because of the schedule change, Matt and Chris shifted the focus of their trip. Matt asked Pastor Joseph to invite his key camp team members to attend a “camp summit” for Bangladesh. They gathered in a small hotel room in Dhaka, meeting for 3 days. It was a blessing to rehearse what God has done already over the last several years through camp, and to dream about what God wants to do in the future. It is obvious that camp has great potential here. The population of Bangladesh is quite young. The young people have responded positively to this new model of ministry. And the churches are grateful for another tool to reach young people. Those who have experienced it are clamoring for more – and those who have only heard about it are asking for a camp to be held near them. Every camp held here has been used to bring many young people to Christ.

As we’ve been walking through a strategic planning process, the men came up with a “big goal” for camp in Bangladesh. To see 5 self-sustaining camps established in key regions around Bangladesh: Khulna, Barishal, Chattogram, Dinajpur, Mymensingh (don’t even try to pronounce those.) They selected the regions according to clusters of local churches who have expressed interest in camp. Incredibly, well over 30 local churches have already participated in camps that have been held, and there are many others who are interested. There is really no need to purchase property as rental space is easy to find and facilities can be kept rather basic. Now we are working on getting specific with how to move toward that goal in the next 3-5 years.

So even though this trip may not seem as exciting as watching a large group of young people play games, enjoy fellowship, and respond to the preaching of God’s Word through the eyes of faith, it was just as exciting to see these five men planning and preparing to spread the gospel throughout this needy Muslim country using the effective tool of Christian camping. What a joy to come alongside these faithful servants of the Lord to prepare them for their next phase of gospel advance! We’ve also been able to personally walk them through our new staff training material that they will be looking to translate and implement in the near future.

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