Many of Arcadia’s campers have been attending RKD every summer for years. Tradition is a large part of Camp’s legacy. However, it is fun to welcome new guests to the mix, too. That’s what happened this summer when the youth group of St. Augustine Lutheran Church attended for the very first time.
This energetic group of teenagers is unique from other campers at Camp in that they come from an African Immigrant church, as America was not their first home. These young people came from a variety of different African countries at various times of their lives, but all ended up together at St. Augustine in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The congregation of St. Augustine Lutheran Church is made up of immigrants from 17 different African countries. On a typical Sunday, about 70 members worship together, with about half of them being under the age of 20.
“It’s typical in a community to have a Kenyan church or a Nigerian church or something like that, but to have 17 countries represented is unique. These are countries at war with each other, but through the Holy Spirit, our church members are able to get along,” said St. Augustine’s youth leader Paula Booth.
Booth is proud and excited to lead a group of such motivated teenagers, and said that this faithful and involved group rarely misses a Saturday night meeting. That being said, several of them jumped at the chance to attend Camp together for a whole week.
“A lot of Lutheran churches are associated with a school, and we don’t have a school. Since they don’t see each other every day, they can’t wait to see each other at Youth Group. They are genuinely such good friends. There’s just comfort in being with people who get who you really are,” said Booth.
Their mission in coming to Camp Arcadia was to provide an experience the teenagers might not have otherwise gotten, and to grow in their relationships with each other and with God.
“These kids are truly like a family,” said Booth. “They fight like siblings and watch out for each other like siblings. It’s just a different dynamic because it’s sibling-oriented.”
Of course, this fun-loving group fit right in and embraced Camp Arcadia quickly. They were very grateful for the time they were able to spend together in such a new setting.
“God really put me around different people this week, and I got to experience something new. I want to come back and try a Teen Retreat next time!” said 14-year old Ketsia, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
During their time here, the group participated in program activities, as well as special group time amongst themselves. They completed challenge course activities, worshiped together under the stars, and went on the canoe trip together. Not only were they able to bond with each other, but they also were able to make lots of new friends!
We all need time for rest and renewal and I think the group from St. Augustine saw that Camp Arcadia provides the opportunity for just that. It was great to see the youth come to RKD and not only grow closer together as a group, but also develop new friendships with the other guests over the course of the week.”
“It’s been great to see how welcomed and accepted these kids are here,” said Booth. “Here, they’re not as different as they thought they would be.”