Camp Penuel, in Costa Rica, gives kids ages 7-11 a chance to get away from challenging situations and come to a space where they can just enjoy being kids while learning about the love of Jesus. Woodland Hills has been sending teams to support the camp staff since 2014, but this is the first team that has been able to make a trip since 2020.
There were nine team members, some who have been going since year one and others brand new to the camp. In their two weeks at Camp Penuel, this team served 240 kids during four different camp sessions.
A typical day at Camp Penuel begins with breakfast for staff and campers, followed by morning chapel and drama. This drama featured the story of Joseph and his brothers, told in parts over the span of the camp. The rest of the morning campers participate in activities like crafts, games or learning to bake cookies. Lunch is followed by afternoon swimming, and the day ends with dinner, worship, teaching and more drama. One evening features a bonfire with songs, testimonies, prayer and (of course!) marshmallows.
Michelle, co-leader for the trip, shared that as the team went into these two weeks, their first prayer was that hearts of the children would be soft and open to Jesus. This prayer was answered over and over again. As team member Gary said, “I saw God melting their sometimes hard shells and opening their hearts to the love of Jesus.”
Crafts and activities shared the love of Jesus in creative and tangible ways. For team member Brynden, the craft that stood out was making paper lanterns with LED lights inside. “They were told how each lantern may look similar to the next, but that each was special, and a little different from the next. Then they were told the light inside represents God’s love in us and how it should shine bright in the darkness. It was truly humbling to see 40+ lanterns shining in the darkness.”
Hilary, who was making her first trip, was especially moved by a balloon activity. “Children wrote on balloons all the negative things that have been said to them and the negative words they say to themselves. We tied a string to the balloon and around their wrist. Then we walked down a gravel slope; toward camp as we all cheered, ‘Si se peude!’ (which means, ‘Yes, we can!’). At camp, they stomped on their balloons, destroying the balloons and the power of the negative words, and instead learning about the words God says about them. I saw crying and rejoicing. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit, like a waterfall, wash the darkness away.”
While the team saw God working in the hearts of the children, he was also answering a second prayer: to encourage the camp staff members. Michelle said, “God gave us so many opportunities to minister and pray over the staff—the times where we saw God were countless.”
Co-leader Tim also saw this and shared a particularly meaningful moment. “I was sitting with some staff members while one shared some pain from his life and we all prayed over him. As I sat with him after, he shared his story, a lot of which I had also experienced in my life. I told him, “I see you, my friend,” and was able to speak truth and life to him. It was a sacred Holy Spirit moment and I was so humbled to be able to let God use me to bring his healing into that young man’s life. It was not part of the plan for the day but it was part of God’s plan.”
The ministry was not one way, though! As God always does, the team themselves were ministered to. Christine had a special moment where God cared for her through a member of the local community. “I had been dealing with an injury in my back and shoulder before we went. I felt God saying, ‘Just go, it will be okay.’ On the last night a woman showed up from the church and offered a backrub to me. I told her that I felt that God would take care of my back there. She said, ‘God told me to come and give the missionaries a back rub.’ Praise God!”
Judy has been on three trips, and summed up the experience well: “I have seen how God is working through the staff at Camp Penuel and in the lives of the children who attend camp. From my past trips I feel that I have left a piece of my heart at Camp Penuel and taken a piece of Camp Penuel home with me. I always go with the intention of serving but I return feeling even more blessed myself.”
Thank you Costa Rica team for following Jesus on this trip; it certainly encourages us to hear what God is doing in Camp Penuel!
To learn more about Camp Penuel check out this video.
One thought on “Costa Rica 2023”
What a wonderful story and video of the Costa Rica trip.