I have been to 3 church camps, actually 4, I was a facilitator at a teen's camp (harder work than it seems, but still very sweet). Growing up, I was attracted to the idea of camping and the great outdoors. It is something I had always wanted to do. However, when I asked my dad if I could join the scouts while in primary, he said no. I never asked again. Even after joining secondary school, scouts was just one of those things I liked but never tried out for; camping was a dream for some day when I was 20 something.
I wasn't really raised in the church; I like to tell my friends I kind of stumbled into church. I went for catechism classes but I wasn't so good at the religious thing so as soon as I could, I stopped going to church all together. I began my relationship with Jesus in 2000, when I was 10, that is all I remember. I am not in the lucky bunch that remembers exact dates and situations, I just remember it was 2000, I was 10 and I was in P.6; a year after my father had passed on. For the longest time, I used to think I was scared into salvation; I remember my friend sharing with me about the rapture and the great tribulation and I had decided there was no way I was getting left behind. However, a while back the Lord revealed to me that was not what had captured my heart. My friend, who had lost her father as well, had on top of tribulation, shared with me about how God is the father to the fatherless, so I could have a father in God. I believe that is what sealed the deal on my part. I knew I could count on God for anything; I wrote Him poems and songs and there was nothing I hid or even wanted to hide from Him
Fast forward a couple of years later, without proper fellowship and discipleship and I constantly felt lost; like I was in this great fight to not lose my faith; to keep from "back sliding" , because I loved Jesus so much, it would devastate me if He let go of me. I found my way back to church in 2009. Up until 2007, I had been in school and that is the church I knew, School Chapel. However, in 2008, I was in S.6 vacation, I spent a very long time at home, I easily slipped out of the church habit and grew a few others. *clears throat* I found my way back to church in 2009 because I was sad. I was disappointed by the things I had chosen over God, my heart was broken, my life felt empty and I knew only one thing for sure, I missed my Jesus. I wasn't sure how to find my way back and the task seemed daunting but I made one decision (most likely by the leading of the Spirit); I decided that I would not again miss a single church service. If I did nothing else, if I failed to pray or read my bible, if I shunned all sorts of fellowships (I wasn't a big fan), I would go for church service every Sunday. I also started listening to Power Fm again, everything felt so strange!
One day, I heard on Power Fm that there was a University Camp. I really wanted to be part of it but I found out it was about 2 days away and I was yet to start exams! I felt bad, yet another camp I had missed. So in that very moment, I prayed and told God I wanted to attend camp the next year, I asked that He works out our timetable in a way that I would be free for camp
The first camp I attended which I also believe was the first to be called the History Makers’ camp, was in June 2010. It was my first ever and I was excited!!!! It was at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, or as is known to those of us who were born a while back, the zoo. To add to the whole camping experience, we actually had to sleep in tents, which we were to pitch ourselves, in our respective villages. There is a great lot I got from this camp, from the speakers to those moments when we would have time to ourselves and we engaged in seemingly random yet very deep conversations with each other. I remember Pr. Gary Skinner came on one of the days to talk to us about God and the story of Watoto Ministry.
However, through it all, the most memorable thing for me at this camp, besides the golf carts that we had access to, were the monkeys. Unlike the other animals in the zoo, the monkeys are not caged up. So, they attended some sessions with us, we were warned not to leave our bags unattended as they were wise. True to the warning, one day we came back from a break to find some of our books thrown all over as though there had been a drug search, I found the cover torn off my bible and the front pages of my notebook gone. I guess the monkeys wanted a piece of the word too.
However, because I had just found my way back to church that year, I was dealing with a lot of condemnation for wherever I had been. I looked around and thought “all these perfect church kids, they don’t know...”; then Pastor Humphrey Asiimwe came and talked to us about God’s forgiveness and restoration and I was once again reminded of a loving God who heals.
and then there were tears
Another thing I quite enjoy on top of camping and the great outdoors is road trips, I hadn’t had that many because…maybe opportunities hardly presented themselves. In January 2010, I was part of a discipleship class organized for campusers (University students). We used to have 3 classes a week all taught by Vincent Kasule and once in a while he’d invite other speakers. That class changed my life. It was there that I first encountered the word legalism and started my journey of learning about the grace of God. It was so liberating. At the end of that class we had a weekend trip to Gulu which was nothing less than anointed epicness!!! So in 2011, when it was announced that our next camp was to be in Gulu, I was obviously excited, because this time I would get to spend an even longer time with more people.
|This was just one bus, there were 3|
2011 was a trying year for me. I had been part of campus cell ministry since late 2009, being a cell leader, cell host, section leader and at that point regional intern (scariest thing ever!) I loved cell, I felt like, still feel like my time on campus would have been quite empty if I did not have cell. I met some of the most amazing people ever through cell ministry, I got great friends, organized and attended some awesome small and not so small events. I loved cell. But at some point, it felt like it was the only thing in my life going right. I tried so hard and yet it seemed the harder I tried, the more everything else fell apart. My grades took a nose dive, I was confused about a great many things, yet here God was, calling me to be the next regional leader, was He out of His mind?
My last straw came when after being sure beyond a reasonable doubt, that I had received a very specific promise from God, concerning a certain area, it turned out the opposite way. I felt crashed. I felt like, God, my love, my one and all had betrayed me, like He had teased me with something and then went and let a horrible thing happen. In my head there were three kinds of people, there were the favoured ones (which was pretty much everyone I interacted with), there were the normal ones, levelled playing field with everyone else and then there was me, and that broke my heart. I thought God loved me, but maybe not as much as the next person. I felt like I was at the bottom of His list. Nevertheless, I picked myself up, I sucked it in and forced my way through the days ahead.
I was excited for camp, sooooo many people were coming for this one, it was from one Friday to the next which is a really long time in the world of church camps; we even had a team that had come in from Princeton University, some of whom I’d had the previlage of meeting prior. According to me, the coolest part was that we got to carry the Deejay with us. As in, come on!!! You have to admit that is a really sweet deal, we had our very own Deejay, not just for the last night but for every day? Keep quiet and take my money! Gulu was Bittersweet for me. I was really excited but I somehow couldn’t shake the feeling of sadness that was in my heart. Every day, during every session, I felt like I was on the brink of tears. I kept asking God why I was so sad. Whatever had happened had happened in April, it was August, I was over it. I guess it didn’t help that we were reading from the book of Job and talking about tough times.
One fateful day, during a session, after Pastor Joe who was the then Pastor at Watoto Church Gulu had spoken, he asked for questions and the hall was dead quiet. It could have been because it was a hot afternoon and most people were dosing. So, being the leader I was, I decided to go and ask a question, to get the ball rolling and to encourage people to come up, because you know, I am a nice person. However, the question I asked was too close to home and I heard my voice trail off, I could feel the tears coming and the only thought in my head was “get away from this mic now!!!” From seemingly nowhere, Priscilla came and put her arm around me and we all know how that can be your undoing. So I covered my face, went back to my seat, thank God I had worn a sweater, buried my face in it and cried 7 months’ worth of tears. I wanted to stop but I couldn’t. It was hard to believe I had broken down in front of 300 something people including dudes I may or may not have had crashes on. People seemed nicer to me after that, I got so many hugs from people I did not know. Something happened when I cried; I did not get answers to my questions though some tried to answer them but I felt lighter. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Everyone had already seen me cry.
|my cell :) ; this was actually a few hours after the tears|
I remember on our last day there, a friend of mine, Cornelius Kuteesa came to talk to me. We were both too early for breakfast, him because he really loves food and I because I wanted a chance to interview the DJ before he became busy (did I mention I wrote for the Youth Media Team too?) We got chatting, he asked a few usual how are you, how is home questions. I gave a few generic answers and thought, what’s left to lose, this is Connie, my very good friend, if not him then who? He said something to me and something clicked within me, divine revelation.. He said “God’s promises are true, don’t doubt that you heard from God. If you heard from God, you heard from God. He promises you a bright future and He will make that happen regardless of whatever means He uses” That there, was a defining moment in my life. There was something about what He said that somehow reassured me of God’s love for me. I was pretty much walking on air after that. Up to this day I feel like 2011 is one of the most beautiful years I’ve ever had and yet that was August. I was still a bit nervous about being the regional leader but a little more confident in God’s love for me and His presence in my life. His promises were true. For the first time in my life, I understood Romans 8: 28 “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord, for those who are called according to His purpose”
During my fourth year at campus (yes, I was in school for that long), I realized two things. One was that I did not want to practice what had kept me in campus that long, the other was that I was not sure what my alternative was. I therefore decided that after handing in my project report, I would take a break to rest because those last days had been so stressful and to just be and figure things out.
I love road trips and going to Fort Portal was as exciting as going to Gulu. Plus this time, I did not have to get back to a semester. I went for the Fort Portal Camp with one main thing on my mind, I was ready to serve. My heart was light and I was there looking for someone to whom I could be a blessing. Also, I had realized that I was missing in almost all the Gulu pictures which were so many by the way, simply because I was not participating. This time I packed for sports, for the last night and decided I would be part of everything, which paid off in terms of photos.
The scripture focus was Romans 8, which really is like a love chapter. The truth of God’s love for us was engraved deeper as we learnt about being pre-destined and chosen and called. However, I think my best part about this particular camp was the cell that I had the privilege of leading. I was meeting everyone in my cell for the first time but the level of honesty and the questions they used to ask was amazing.
True to my promise, I participated in sports in way of cheering and rounding people up to participate. Unfortunately, I was part of Zion, which despite our triumphant name, kept losing. It kept getting worse, from sports to creative wear and presentation, I wanted to hide. I have never lost that much in my life. It was so bad that it became funny. Zion oye?!
|Some of the uummmph designers|
Special shout outs go to the amazing uummph designers, under the leadership of Dorcus Mwebaza who were responsible for making the hall super beautiful, with a runway and balloons and ribbons and all the pretty things we could get our hands on.
If asked to, I don’t think I would be able to choose a favourite camp. At the zoo, I was reminded of a God who restores and throws my past in the sea of forgetfulness. In Gulu, walls were broken and I was once again re-affirmed in my Father’s love for me and that He who promised is faithful. In Fort Portal, on top of meeting Prince Oyo, I somehow re-discovered the joy of service.