Our second report is a big change up from our first three weeks on Vancouver Island. Not only was our team going on our first outreach together but we were traveling to a new location to work with a whole new ministry team on Vancouver Island. It’s ironic that we were focused on pioneering YWAM Nanaimo and yet we were joining with a ministry that was 5 hours away from Nanaimo. However, this was an outreach that we set in our calendar months before arriving. No matter where we were at with getting established, we were going to volunteer at this camp. But to have a breakthrough of getting a team home days before leaving, this marked our team with indescribable gratitude and faith. We were going into this camp with a capacity to fully focus on the campers and not worry about where we were going to be living for the two weeks that we would be volunteering. We didn’t understand fully what we were going to be a part of or what God had in store there, we were just wanting to go and serve where we could. Esperanza Ministries has a commitment to be a place of hope and refuge that reveals God as our Creator, to the remote communities in the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
After breaking camp and saying goodbye to Living Forest campground and before setting off for our road trip, our team paid a quick visit to the house we just signed a lease on for a mini praise and celebration sesh with God. Then we drove an hour and a half north along the coast to a smaller city called Campbell River. The following 3 hours we drove west past Strathcona Park and through a small town called Gold River. The drive was absolutely stunning and had us marking different turnoffs to lakes and lodges that we would like to return to and explore. Our destination was a small port town called Tahsis, known as the birthplace of British Columbia. We parked our car for the next two week and went on a very scenic 20 minute boat ride to Esperanza. Awaiting us on the dock were most of the camp volunteers and Esperanza community that lived there year round.
Most of our team was surprised and stoked on how many First Nations youth and staff there were at the camp. Though they came from various communities a lot of them were related to each other and had been coming to the camp for years. Though we were prepared to focus our time and energy on the campers, we realized that we wanted to encourage the staff. What was special for us was to be able to invite the staff to visit us and stay with us in our new home in Nanaimo. Every day, God was doing something in our hearts as we looked for opportunities to pour into the youth. There were seeds being planted in our team with what God was doing through Esperanza.
Esperanza is a small, remote, self sustainable community outpost with a marine fuel dock. It’s located in a channel across from the north east of Nootka Island. Esperanza has an incredible missional history of providing medical service and spiritual guidance to the communities in their area. The purpose of the property in the summer is mostly dedicated for four weeks to the youth camps. Our team volunteered for the last two weeks of their camps.
Our first week was a girls camp (9-12 yo), which had many volunteers, and the second week was a mixed teens camp (13-18 yo). Both had a very distinct feel from each other. We all got to oversee various activities like archery, riflery, fishing, kayaking, swimming, board games, improv, etc. Sarah and Chase had the biggest responsibilities being cabin leaders while Tessa and I were campfire speakers for the teen camp. For the campfire sessions, Tessa and I spoke on what it means to follow Jesus. We talked about how to pray, what loving God looks like, what a follower of Jesus looks like according to Romans 12:9-21, and how to walk in freedom. At the end of our time there were so many asking for prayer and wanting to discuss God more. One of the youth said that he felt like a human for the first time in years. We were trying to avoid making a fun, emotional high for the campers and going off external cues. Rather we were interceding hard out for their identity and them to encounter the Holy Spirit. We also wanted to leave them with practical ways of how to rely on God through prayer, what negative patterns to recognize and positive one to replace them with, and the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Bible that’s available to give them deeper revelation of God. It was a real and raw time for us as we shared. Some made the decision to follow Jesus and others said they felt something warm going through their bodies as we prayed for them. It’s at this point where our involvement could have ended, but there was something challenging us for more. And the thought that accompanied this challenge was of the apostle Paul physically going to the churches he helped to establish to encourage and exhort them in their faith.
Towards the end of the camp Sarah injured herself while jumping off a dock. There is a tradition that any time someone, staff or camper, leaves the camp that someone jumps off the fuel dock as a farewell. The height of the dock can fluctuate between 12-20 feet. Sarah landed wrong and hours later, was suffering debilitating pain in her back. We believed she had internal injuries and possibly broke something, we were unsure. Due to our remote location and the possible severity of her injury, she had to be flown out on a float plane with Tessa back to Campbell River. It is not exaggeration to say that hundreds of prayers went out for Sarah. Long story short, Sarah recovered within days with no injuries whatsoever– we’re taking this as a miracle! Our time was at an end and we walked away with so much more than what we came with and gave. It had become so evident that God’s timing for our team being there was perfect in more ways than one. God was forging our team into ardent prayer warriors.
There were some challenges like hearing of how common untimely death was in some communities, or families that start as early as 14, or living on the streets bouncing from home to home not knowing their parents, and even darker issues of injustice that will remain unnamed. Throughout the camp I kept asking myself, what can YWAM Nanaimo do to continue sowing into these communities? It’s a big question and one that has yet to unravel. We started wondering what it could look like to have a few weeks of DTS in Esperanza with kayaking, camping and community outreach to some of the remote communities around Esperanza. The wheels started turning as our prayers fell on the preparation for our first DTS next year in July. Our farewells were more like, “come visit us and stay with us!” And with fondness, this was an invitation that our new Esperanza family actually accepted. The day we drove back from Esperanza was THE big day that we would be moving into our new home and kickstarting a whole new pioneering phase for us.
Check out our next report to see what we’ve been up to since moving into our new home! Here’s a couple hints: open doors and God’s favor.
Special thanks to Amanda Amy, Stephen Johnson, Matt and Tabitha Terlunen for helping with Sarah when she was injured. This team and several others in Esperanza were incredibly compassionate, quick to respond, and prioritized the well being of Sarah with immense thoughtfulness and standard. You guys brought a lot of peace in a very emotional and tough situation. God bless you and your family and all the work that you do in Esperanza and beyond!