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Greetings from Bagiou City, Philippines! For those who are unfamiliar with Philippine geography (which would be the vast majority of the world!) Bagiou is just a short 7 hour bus ride directly north from Manila. And it is also quite a bit higher in elevation than Manila which makes about a 20 degree temperature difference – a very good thing for camp when Manila regularly hits a sweltering 105 degrees! I arrived here yesterday afternoon – just in time to take part in the third and final evening of training. Due to some last minute schedule changes, our ministry partners moved the camp and training to a day earlier than we had originally planned, but it was fine, since Mike and Tan were able to arrive on Monday. Mike and Tan have been ministering with CampsAbroad ever since we first came to the Philippines in 2009 and have been a huge blessing over the years – I’d call them our “right hand men” for e-camping. It is good to be back together with them!

We are currently working with two main churches in this area – both well-established ministries. But there is the potential of quite a few more churches being involved in the future. The main reason we agreed to come here is because of Pastor Joshua. He attended one of our first camp training seminars when he was a student in Iloilo and has been conducting camps ever since – mainly in Leyte and Cebu – his home islands. But ever since he came to Bagiou, he has been encouraging them to pursue holding their own e-camps. I don’t think it required much convincing! Anyway, we were expecting 30 for staff training and ended up with 50 instead. Today, we are expecting about 50 campers but could easily end up with more. The limiting factor is the facility – we are holding camp at a church property which has an open space about the size of half of a tennis court for games! So we are looking around for other options – including a private concrete runway across the street. Flat space it hard to come by in the mountains!

Report by Matt Collier

Well, this will be brief, but I wanted to at least let you know that we ended up having about 60 unchurched young people come to the camp. Add 20 counselors into the mix and we are maxed out. The sleeping quarters are classrooms, so there is plenty of room there, but I think I mentioned that we have very little space to play as camp is being held on a church property. You should have seen free time yesterday – we had basketballs, volleyballs and footballs flying around our little courtyard – I’m amazed nobody collided with each other. So, we’ve been getting creative. We found out that the government-operated airstrip across the street is open for public use after 4:00 each day – it doesn’t really sound safe, but apparently they do it all the time. That was a first for me – we played three ball baseball on a runway!

The big news this morning is that our water tanks didn’t fill up for some reason. Still not sure why, but we ended up sending the kids out to some nearby houses to take their showers. Praying it doesn’t put a damper on spirits. The kids seem to be having a good time so far. They woke up at 5 am this morning (actually some of the more energetic ones were up before that. I preached last night and gave the gospel, but didn’t press for a response other than to encourage them to talk to their counselors. The kids listened really well.

Report by Matt Collier

It’s just about midnight here in Bagiou (almost lunch time for you in the States). The campers left around 11 am this morning – then our 20 counselors stayed around for another couple of hours for clean-up, a testimony time and lunch. I’ll start with the testimonies since they are fresh on my mind. We sat around in a circle of chairs and listened as most of them shared what they had learned through the camp and the training. Here are a couple of quotes. “This was the closest I’ve ever gotten to kids.” “Praise God for all the things I learned here.” “Hoping for another e-camp.” “Like to express my gratitude for the training.” “This is a camp like no other!” “I laughed and cried with my campers.” The training was a recurring theme. It really seemed to make an impact in their thinking. Roujay, one of our guy counselors, mentioned that the training was like preparing for a battle and that he went into camp ready. One of our girl counselors said that the training really encouraged her to think about investing in eternity.

Spiritually speaking, the results of the camp were encouraging. I mentioned earlier that we shared the gospel in three separate sessions on Friday. Around a dozen young people responded to the invitation, saying that they wanted to trust Christ. The counselors did a great job staying with the kids and engaging them – especially during free-time. At the end of camp counselor meeting, we asked how many of them had been able to lead one of their campers to Christ and most of them raised their hands. All told, well over 20 young people made professions of faith. And we know that quite a few others were brought to a decision point and chose not to accept it.

The highlight for me in this camp has been working with the guys who trained with us over the years. In addition to Mike and Tan, Josh and Gideon were also a key part of the ministry this weekend. Josh has run several camps on his own and plans to continue doing it when he returns to Leyte later this month. What a blessing to see the guys “continuing in the things they have learned”! Thanks so much for your prayers – the Lord answered in some specific ways – even sending a water truck to fill our tank on Friday morning.

This will be my last update for this trip since camp is over, but we will be heading back to Manila tomorrow to hopefully connect with a potential ministry partner before catching a flight to Cebu the next morning to meet with another group of churches who are interested in e-camping. Praying for God to give wisdom for future ministry in this region of the world!

Report by Matt Collier

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