I don’t like camping. Period. It’s a lot of work, especially here in Botswana where it really does mean bringing almost everything but the kitchen sink. However, when our church went camping one weekend last year, I could tell from the reports afterwards that we had missed out on a really good time. So, when our church decided to go camping again this year, I told my husband, Mark, that I would give it a try. It helped that the location chosen was much closer this year — in Mopane, only about 20 minutes from home. This meant that an escape was possible, should the conditions prove to be too trying for me or our daughter, KG.
Most folks went out on Friday afternoon. We didn’t go until Saturday, so that meant that most of the hard work had already been done. Actually, all of the hard work had already been done. The food had already been bought, the food preparation tables had been set up, the fire had been made, and the meeting tent had already been pitched. Even lunch preparation was already well under way, and since I had to get KG oriented to the camp site (she is visually impaired), I didn’t feel too guilty about not pitching in to help.
My first question to Carl, our stalwart camp director, was “Where are the toilets?” “All around you in the bush,” he said. “I mean the flush toilets,” I said. (KG is also physically disabled and can’t crouch in the bush.) “Oh,” said Carl, “they didn’t get them finished in time. They were supposed to be over there,” and he pointed toward a half-finished wall of cement blocks. “There is a flush toilet back at the first rondavel you passed,” he said, “and you’re welcome to use that.” It was much too far for KG to walk, so it was immediately obvious that she would not be able to stay the night. She had been looking so forward to sleeping in a tent. I knew she would be disappointed. Fortunately there was a lot to distract her – a delicious Setswana lunch, followed by a ride to the “mud bath” to watch the other kids go down a steep, precarious slide into a pit of ooey, gooey mud. KG had a great time watching that! We all did! The young adults, and a few older adults with something to prove, had fun climbing ropes and proving their prowess in other ways. It was tiring just watching all that physical activity, and KG was willing to go home when it was over.
Mark stayed at camp overnight. He greatly enjoyed supper and then a time of singing and fellowship around the fire. Sleeping didn’t go so well – it was very windy, and the tents were flapping and making a lot of noise. But everyone managed to get up early the next morning, and most of the campers went for a long hike to the top of Mopane Hill and back. KG and I returned to camp just as they were finishing breakfast, so we were in plenty of time for “church,” a time of worship and preaching under the big tent. A church elder from Zambia, Jim Ngambi, shared with us from the book of Nehemiah, and then others shared testimonies.
We were blessed with a cloudy, cool day, so while lunch was being prepared by the ladies, the other campers engaged in foot races, bowls, and kite flying. This time I offered to help with lunch. The Batswana cooks took pity on me. Assuming my ignorance of how to prepare Setswana food or how to cook over a fire, they gave me menial tasks like hauling water. That was fine with me. I actually have some Setswana cooking experience, but it’s minimal, and, besides, food always tastes better when someone else cooks it.
I had a wonderful time at church camp! Of course, I didn’t actually camp. But I know I can speak for all of those who actually slept in tents and made do without a flush toilet – it was a wonderful weekend of fellowship for our church. I can’t wait for next year!