One week ago, several Ghanaian Adventist young adults gathered at Northern Arizona University for the 2017 Pagaf Youth Camp.
One week ago, over 60 youth joined together in faith, culture, and community and left their mark on the Flagstaff area through service, laughter, and love.
One week ago, we arose daily at 5:30 am for morning devotions, endured through some questionable cafeteria food, and felt the spirit lead us more toward the Bible every day.
This was Pagaf Youth Camp 2017. This was “Give Me the Bible”.
The week began on Wednesday afternoon with everybody arriving from their various states (in their various travel-wear.. their dukus and their basketball shorts!) Some came from the Phoenix church, just a quick 2-and-a-half-hour drive to the campsite. Others traveled from the Dallas church, with a 16-hour drive in between. People from Seattle, Riverside, San Francisco, both Colorado churches, Houston, Las Vegas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and even Calgary, Canada filed in as well, settling into our makeshift community for the next 5 days.
Pagaf soon felt like home as we were all greeted with dokono and jollof rice prepared by the Phoenix church. Room assignments were given out and the youth were lucky to stay in some very nice suites on the NAU campus. That night, we joined the adults for vespers, praise, and our opening session for the camp. Later, the youth executive leaders held a meeting outlining what would be happening at camp, where to be for our sessions, and where to go if we had any questions or concerns. We all hurried off to sleep— tired from the day’s travels but excited for what lay ahead of us for the next week.
And at 5:30 the next morning, excitement turned to dread as we realized we’d have to be waking up this early for next week to make sure we didn’t miss any sessions. -_- Thankfully, our program leaders, Kojo and Kofi Twumasi, kept us so engaged with their applicable devotions and interactive seminars that our long days at Pagaf felt totally, absolutely worth it.
The next 2 days were a whirlwind. We had sessions about how to successfully conduct apologetics in defense of our faith, how to recognize and get out of abusive relationships (led by Elder Isaac Amo-Kyeremeh), debates about whether or not higher education is necessary for success in life (aided by Pastor Janice Sarfo), how to effectively manage our time, and even a combined youth/adult program about what problems we had identified in the church and how we could collaborate to make a better future for Nagsda churches.
We also can’t forget about the fun we had! Beyond the fun debates and skits we had in each interactive program or session, many of the youth regularly gathered in the first floor lounge to play “Master to John” and other hand-clapping games. People went to the gym, played sports, saaaaaaaang old church songs, tried spicy Korean food, and had candid conversations about what it means to be Christian in 2017. Pagaf, in an essence, was lit.
But our community outreach excursion took seemed to take that “lit” flame and set it ablaze. On Friday morning, the Pagaf youth were blessed to attend a homeless shelter and serve food to others. Despite the rain, we were able to have such an amazing time singing and conversing with the inhabitants of that shelter. Pastor Kojo shared a short sermon of hope to these people, and we even heard a few inspiring testimonies of the people from the shelter, as well. We came away knowing that we had accomplished something great that morning, and that is something I think we’ll all remember for a long time.
On Sabbath morning, our Sabbath school began with a late start (because our Sabbath best no dey be easy) but it was a great session all in all. We split into 2 groups and learned 4 simple tips about how to study the Bible. Prayer, observation, interpretation, and application were emphasized heavily during this Sabbath school lesson, and it felt good to come out with tangible ways to tie the Pagaf theme of “Give Me the Bible” back into our everyday lives.
Later, we joined the adults in the sanctuary for a special graduation ceremony and Divine Service. Dr. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim lead our service with a sermon about how God can use the downs in our lives for the sake of His Glory in a phenomenon called “uncomfortable grace”. We ended our Sabbath afternoon with a question and answer session about the future of Pagaf as an organization and how our small pacific body can fit into Nagsda as a whole.
After having to “bƆ life” for a whole bunch of pictures and trying to make the most Pagaf memories as we could, we joined the adults and children for a cultural show and a concert when the evening set in. The youth choir sang the song “Onyame Ye” (directed by Akua Owusu-Dommey, with solos by Yaw Asiamah and Debora Arko-Mensah) and we all had such a fun time singing, dancing, and laughing with each other in our original, authentic, Ghanaian praise.
Of course we couldn’t end Pagaf 2017 without some good youth bonding, though, and we ordered pizza and kicked back in dorm’s lounge with one final night of good conversation, a stand-up comedy movie, and laughter and love for everybody around.
When Sunday morning rolled around, it was very hard to say our goodbyes as we left the campsite in our various buses, cars, and planes. Winnie the Pooh once said, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”, and for this Pagaf Youth Camp of 2017, I couldn’t agree more. How blessed were we to have enjoyed 5 days of camp in our Ghanaian heritage, in our Christian praise? How fortunate were we to have made such good friendships, learned such great lessons, and found powerful opportunities to impact our surrounding community in such meaningful ways?
It’s only by the Grace of God that He allowed us to gather one year more at Northern Arizona University for our Pagaf Youth Camp for 2017. It is only by the grace of God that he will allow us all to see one year more, to bring us all back for Pagaf Youth Camp 2018, and to keep blessing us beyond imagination into the next year and beyond.
All in all, the 2017 Pagaf Youth Camp couldn’t have been made possible without all of your help. First, we thank Kojo and Kofi Twumasi and all of our guest speakers for taking the time to come out to the west coast for our camp and give us inspiring sermons and wise advice throughout our program. Secondly, we thank all of the musicians for their dedication in leading out song services and moments of praise (song service led by Akua Owusu-Dommey, Dorothy Aning, and Debora Arko-Mensah, and piano played by Nana Kwasi Boachie-Mensah).
Finally, we thank the entire Pagaf youth camp executive team for all of their hard work to make this camp possible, especially the work of youth coordinators Ruby Amonfo and Nate Boateng. In reflection, we know that the success of this camp is the result of these people’s prayers and sowing of good faith, and we’re so thankful to have seen these seeds of faith blossom into such a great youth camp for the summer of 2017.
In 5 short days, we learned what it meant to be a family of Christ-seekers taking our salvation in our own hands and seeking out the Bible for ourselves. At Pagaf Youth Camp 2017, God seems to have heard our earnest plea— “Give Me the Bible”— and gave us His Most Holy Word and so much more.
See you all next year! :)