An often forgotten aspect of the persecution and differential treatment faced by pastors and ministry workers is the trauma and loneliness experienced by children of such pastoral workers. These children are rejected by other village children of their age and even their classmates do not associate with them. Sometimes even their parents do not have adequate time to spend with their children as they are occupied with ministry work. Like forgotten flowers, these young lives blossom in a dark corner, while the best years of their childhood are lived in sadness and without the joys only a childhood friend can offer. Then there are the children of pastors who serve amidst abject poverty. There are very few amenities afforded to such children and often their living conditions are not conducive for a happy childhood.

In a bid to reach out to such children, the Religious Liberty Commission organises an annual Kids Camp to offer a time of rest, relaxation, fun and respite from the troubles and difficulties they face at home. Over a period of 3 days, the children stay at a safe and secure environment at the NCEASL’s campsite – Sanctuary House. At camp, the children sleep in air-conditioned dormitories, eat nutritious meals and delicious desserts, learn life lessons and take part in a variety of fun games and activities, including a talent night.

In 2018, the Kids Camp was held from 28 to 30 August, during the children’s school vacation. A total of 110 children benefiting from the Evangel Care and Kids Ed scholarship schemes attended this camp which was held under the theme ‘Light of the World’. After a period of rest, the children were gathered for a time of fun games following which the children were formally welcomed to the camp by the NCEASL staff. The children were then divided into three groups according to their ages for their first lesson. The sessions continued throughout the first half of the second day, following which it was time once again for fun games. Thereafter, the children were given time to prepare for the talent night which was a colourful show filled with song, dance and little comedies which had the audience in fits of laughter. The talent night concluded with a time of music and dance which was enjoyed by everyone. The third day began with sessions too at the conclusion of which a time of worship and dedication was conducted before the children left for their homes.

The sessions at this year’s camp were geared to not only provide a fun atmosphere for the little campers but to also impart values and lessons. These lessons which were based on biblical stories, aimed at providing the children with encouragement to face the problems life hurls at them while also equipping them to overcome such obstacles. For the older age group, discussions on how to deal with social expectations, relationships, peer pressure and addictions to technology and social media proved to be very important as the children themselves expressed the difficulties they face in such areas. Through the sessions, the children were instructed on how they too can be a light in their communities while they also received guidance on how to overcome obstacles that prevent them from being a child of light.

To add to the fun and excitement, all participants were divided into four houses at the beginning of the camp. At the time of games, they competed against the other teams in friendly matches and were awarded points for their performance. The campers also won points for their good behaviour and helpfulness while they lost points for bad habits such as food waste. The four teams were also awarded points for their performances as teams at the talent night and the end of the second day, the points were tallied and the winning team was selected. Team Joshua emerged as winners and bagged the Kids Camp challenge trophy for the second consecutive year.

Every year, these little kids look forward to the annual camp at which they learn many valuable lessons, receive advice for the problems they face and have a wonderful time with their friends. Even though there were several newcomers at camp this year, they soon found out that they were quite at home with their new-found friends. Often, these friendships last a lifetime. Leon, who along with his younger brother is a regular at Kids Camp, was almost in tears as he shared his testimony. “I thank God for bringing me to this camp” said Leon, holding back sobs as he explained that he is sad because this is his last camp. “I am sad but I am also very happy because I was able to make so many good friends. Even though we competed against other in teams we are like brothers and spent so many happy days together” explained 18 year old Leon. “I thank the NCEASL for this wonderful time at Kids Camp.”