In the summer of 2014, my wife Anne and I got our first experience at one of the EV Free Church of Dresden's DASS_Camps (Deutsch-Amerikanisch Sprach & Sport Camp) or German-American English & Sports Camp.
Ten years ago a couple from the First EV Free Church of St. Louis, Missouri got an idea to help its new German partner church reach German youth for Christ: they dreamed of teaching English and American sports like flag football, softball and lacrosse in a Christian camp atmosphere. First Free in St. Louis has sent over at least one team every summer for the past ten years to Dresden to teach English and teach, coach and referee American sports. Hundreds of kids have come through these annual summer camps. They've all heard the Gospel and a number of them have decided to follow Jesus.
My wife's experience this summer started in the middle of the first night when she became aware that one of the teens had gotten sick and vomited all over his sleeping bag. She didn't get much sleep as she and another leader washed out the teen's sleeping bag in the camp's shower room and tried to help make him comfortable.
As it turned out, S. was not a cooperative camper and we were unsure why he'd even come. For the first couple of days, he wouldn't talk to anyone, wouldn't eat and wouldn't particpate in any of the activities—even though he's fast and has good hands.
Aware of his difficult background, we leaders did all we could to encourage him. By the end of the week he was participating in most of the activities and had even caught a touchdown pass to help his team win its only football game during the week.
One of the things that bothered me was how the campers (55 in our camp) kept throwing their candy wrappers on the ground instead of in the trash can. (The Americans brought lots of candy for motivation and rewards; one of the team members gave me a genuine St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap too.)
I already had a Univ. of Alabama 2009 National Champions cap (pictured)—Roll Tide!—and I wondered if maybe one of the kids wouldn't like to have the Cardinals cap instead. So I announced a competition: The kid that picked up the most pieces of trash by the end of the week would win the cap.
Guess who won the contest? S., naturally. He wanted that cap badly.
Fast forward to November 2014: The EV Free Church of Dresden put on a week of evangelistic meetings and I was the speaker on the last two evenings.
On the last night, a woman approached me and asked: "Are you the Jeff who gave my son his baseball cap?" (Of course it's me, I think I am the only Jeff in all of Germany).
"Well," she continued, "I just wanted you to know how much he loves that baseball cap. He had such a good time at camp learning to play baseball that he said he wants to go again next year."
I was dumbfounded. He had a good time? He wants to come again next year? Huh?
S., his mom, dad and a couple of others in the family all showed up for the meeting that night. A former pro soccer player turned famous street dancer turned Christian turned pastor told his story—and it was just perfect for this family.
One of my co-workers who's been working with this family for quite some time came up to me after the meeting that night really excited: "Wow! They came! And the program was great and what you said spoke perfectly to their situation. They only came because the Jeff who gave their son the baseball cap was speaking this evening. What an answer to prayer!"
This family is a long way from starting to follow Jesus; however, they took a big step in his direction that night—all because of some American and German Christians working together, a sports camp, a big-league baseball cap and a lot of encouragement and prayer.
– Jeff Ingram, #DresdenInitiative
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