|Photos from the village in the Ulpan Valley, Guatemala, on which Lipscomb’s Missions Camp will be modeled. Photos by Jerry Atnip.|
It is impossible to go on a missions trip to Guatemala without venturing outside the Volunteer State, but Lipscomb University thinks that a staycation simulation of such a trip will help prepare teenagers and college students for future mission work. The university recently announced that students as young as seventh-grade can immerse themselves in a missions experience at Missions Camp to be held July 10-15 on a farm in Dickson County.
According to Lipscomb, Missions Camp will be a complete third-world immersion experience. Campers will live as if in the rustic environment of a village in Guatemala, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, complete with minimal electricity, no running water and “natives” cooking tortillas. Daily activities will be designed to open students’ eyes to another culture and the best ways to interact within that culture. Camp staff will speak Spanish, meals will be Guatemalan food and the dwellings will be furnished in keeping with the Guatemalan culture and resources.
Why Guatemala? The university has ties to the Ulpan Valley there. Mission teams from Lipscomb's Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering and groups targeted to meet specific needs (such as engineers at Otter Creek Church of Christ) have been traveling to the Valley since 2008 to carry out holistic, long-term community development in the region. Engineering students installed a water transport system for two communities in the valley and built seven solar-powered cell phone recharger towers that have brought new income to the residents. Missionary-in-residence Steve Sherman headed the valley’s first two medical mission team visits, and Steve Joiner at the conflict management institute is working to negotiate water and land rights for the natives. Kristopher Hatchell, a Lipscomb engineering grad who new serves as missions coordinator, has been to the Ulpan Valley several times working on various engineering projects with Lipscomb students. Lipscomb’s work in the Ulpan Valley has grown to the point that Hatchell will be leaving Nashville in August to live there for two years, just after he wraps up Lipscomb’s first Missions Camp.
The missions staff have reached out to Grandview Church of Christ, to organize some of the Guatemalan members to help at the camp. Lipscomb will be also be reaching out to other friends and contacts to find both mock and real Guatemalans for the camp.
Missions Camp aims to provide a complete missionary experience for seventh- through tenth-graders, requiring participants to raise money before attending and to recruit prayer partners. Cost to attend is a combination of a $35 registration fee, $100 personally earned by the student and whatever participants collect through 30 fundraising letters.
On the first day of camp, the Lipscomb campus will serve as a “mock” international airport, introducing students to the rigors of long-distance travel. On site at the camp, Lipscomb University students and missions staff will serve as mentors to the campers, guiding them through the preparation process and attending camp with them.
The idea of Missions Camp was born from a similar camp with an African simulation that Stephen Meeks of Good Soil Ministries in East Tennessee holds each year. Other universities and organizations have simulated third-world learning areas, but they are mostly used for training college-age youth and adults, said Hatchell. According to Hatchell, there is not a comparable immersion experience in international missions for teenagers available in Middle Tennessee.
“We want to transform missional thinking in the upcoming generation by embedding the idea in very young students that the mission of God is not something separated from their future vocation,” said Hatchell. “Every moment – from working to install solar panels on a hut to receiving a care package from supporters ‘back in the States’ – will be a learning opportunity.”
The Lipscomb Department of Missions is currently accepting online applications for Missions Camp at missions.lipscomb.edu or contact Hatchell at 615.966.6050 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.