"I just really wanted to help the GEMS in Africa," said Kaitlyn Klumpenhouwer, an eighth-grade student from Living Hope/Redeemer Christian Reformed Church in Sarnia, Ontario, who raised over $200 to help send girls in Zambia to camp.
Kaitlyn's motivation to help was inspired by her own experience at Get Connected! Camp, the GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) summer camp for early teen girls.
"[Get Connected! Camp] made me grow spiritually," Kaitlyn recalled. "It made me realize that there are a lot of other girls just like me, and that I'm not alone—God will help me through anything."
Her sentiments were echoed by hundreds of other GEMS across North America. Girls held bake-offs and dinners, made and sold crafts, pooled their allowances, worked odd jobs, and donated birthday money to help their African sisters in Christ.
Because of their efforts, 130 girls gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, last August to experience God in a new way. The purpose of Get Connected! Camp—Africa was threefold: to connect girls to critical truths from God's Word, to prepare Zambian counselors to run future camps, and to inspire the older GEMS to be counselors at these camps.
Each morning started with breakfast, worship, and connecting girls with a different biblical truth. Girls then spent time in small groups discussing the applications of that truth. Between the sessions were opportunities for activities including volleyball, crafts, drama, and creative movement.
Girls were shy at first, but by the final day it was obvious that new bonds had been formed between the Zambian girls and the 10 college-age and post-college-age counselors from North America.
"Camp, for me, was a huge testament to the work that the Lord is doing through GEMS in Zambia," said Stephanie vanKampen, a counselor from Prince Edward Island.
"Get Connected! Camp was an opportunity like no other, and the girls took advantage of it . . . . In a country where young women are overworked and undervalued, GEMS is giving them a chance to lead."
"So many lives were significantly touched by God at camp," said Jan Boone, executive director of GEMS. "It's just so incredible to see how God takes what we offer him—our best efforts—and grows that into something significant for his kingdom!"
—Amy White is publications and web coordinator for GEMS Girls' Clubs.