Where disciples learn discipline:Youth toughs out mission program
At the beginning of the year, Nathan LaGiglia, 12, of Glenwood made a contract with his parents and God.LaGiglia agreed to do undesirable jobs joyfully, he agreed to be thankful, he agreed to make smart dietary choices and he agreed to raise more than $1,600.He made this agreement so he could spend an exhausting six weeks of his summer at a boot camp in Florida and in Latacunga, Ecuador.Nathan and 19 other 10- to 13-year-olds from the United States spent a chunk of their summer doing missionary work with Teen Mission, a Christian Youth ministry created in 1970 to prepare and discipline teenagers by introducing them to individual missionary work.Teen Mission takes teenagers to countries all over the world, but before they leave, they’re required to attend a 10-day training course or “boot camp” in Florida.At boot camp, the kids get up at 6 a.m. and work until breakfast at 8. On average, the kids do hard physical labor for 5-6 hours a day. They get breaks to eat, read the Bible, bathe or do laundry using a bucket and cold water.The kids also participate in an obstacle course. On the course, they cross murky swamp water while holding onto a rope. Their landing pad is a bunch of slippery tires that are half submerged in water. Flying through the air and landing on tires may seem like fun, however, each student had one pair of army boots for the entirety of the trip and wet boots lend to discomfort and blisters. “It was more challenging than fun but it was fun too,” said LaGiglia, who attends New Creation Church. “During the day we lost all of the water in our bodies.”If the kids don’t get up on time, if their tents are not clean, if they don’t do the work required of them, they get a special blessing, LaGiglia said.A blessing in disguise, the special blessing is a punishment that requires the blessed kid to work during free time or lunch.”This was not a place to go to be pampered,” said Donnalyne, Nathan’s mother.Donnalyne had a hard time getting used to the idea of not talking to Nathan for six weeks. Teen Mission kids are not allowed to have phone or e-mail contact with their parents once they leave the country. They communicate by writing letters once a week.Donnalyne had faith in her son and didn’t want to keep him from something that was so close to his heart.At night, the teams got a little break while they attended revivals which usually included some kind of entertainment that ended with a moral lesson.For example, one night, a cowboy whipped a bullwhip through the kids’ legs – without touching them – to show how important it is to have faith.Sometimes, like when a bullwhip whispers through your legs, it’s important to hand your fate over to faith.This is the second year LaGiglia went to boot camp in Florida. Each year, LaGiglia fell asleep once during the revivals but he tried to stay awake so he wouldn’t be punished by doing more chores.”I had to trust the Lord to help me through the days when I was exhausted,” LaGiglia said.LaGiglia’s family – he has two younger sisters – visited him while he was in Florida but couldn’t wait to leave because the area was so bug-infested, Donnalyne said. “We packed our tents as spiders bit our fingers,” LaGiglia said of getting ready to leave Florida and go to Ecuador.At the end of 10 days, Teen Mission had a communion and each student who wanted to continue, or work in the field in their designated country, lit a candle. Those who had had enough didn’t light their candles and stayed in the United States.Though a few of LaGiglia’s team members stayed behind, LaGiglia lit his candle and took the long flight to Ecuador.In Ecuador, LaGiglia helped build a roof, dig ditches and repair a fence. LaGiglia used large, cumbersome tools, including a 20-pound stud bar that’s used to smash buried rock that can’t be dug up but is in the way of construction.LaGiglia also ate hamster, saw a truck full of pigs heads at a market, stood on the equator near Quito and had a milkshake that was mixed by using a boat motor.LaGiglia has been on missionary trips with his parent but going alone taught him he can persevere through anything. He also learned that anything he wants, he has to get, and that it’s possible to make friends with all kinds of people.LaGiglia loves to build things and may pursue a job that deals with construction.”I love to work hard,” LaGiglia said.Apparently.Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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