Apr 8, 2008

Jungle Camp

by Drew Menard & Jennifer Schmidt
Seven Liberty students left the beaten path during spring break to experience Jungle Camp in Pennsylvania for five days. Joined by students from three other colleges, the three-credit intensive course run by New Tribes Missions (NTM) was held in the same camp where NTM missionaries are trained. Students learned about culture and language acquisition during morning sessions. In the afternoon, students were required to practically apply what they had learned in a simulated tribal village.

All of the staff missionaries have previously worked as full-time missionaries with indigenous tribes. They brought experience and firsthand accounts to the classrooms while also dressing up and acting like members from various South American tribes in the mock village.

“I had no idea what they were saying — it was overwhelming,” senior Bear Yarbrough said. After being taught how to look for language patterns, students were tested in real life scenarios.

Senior Hannah Watson could not even recognize the missionaries who were in character when she first entered the mock village. Upon entering the camp, Watson was immediately engaged by a boisterous Yanomamo woman who was not familiar with “personal space.”

“(The missionaries) are so good at getting into character and playing the part,” Watson said. The missionary’s portrayal of a loud, in-your-face native was consistent with the Yanomamo people, who tend to be very outspoken. Watson also worked with a missionary acting as a Joti, pwho are a more laid-back and quiet culture. “(The Joti and the Yanomamo) are about as opposite as opposite can be,” she said.

“It’s amazing how real it seems,” said Liberty Professor and NTM mobilizer Laurie Schweinsberg. “(Jungle Camp) is a good opportunity to learn how to practically do missions.”

In addition to their class time and practice sessions, the students participated in extracurricular activities. Skeet shooting, canoeing and a seven-mile hike were just some of the practical adventures the students experienced. They also learned how to make a “mumu,” a common feasting practice in Papa New Guinea where food is wrapped in banana leaves and is cooked in the ground throughout the day.

Many of the activities were designed to teach students how to survive in the jungle or to build teamwork skills, such as a giant game of human foosball.

Jungle Camp has been running for several years although Liberty students first visited the NTM facility in August 2007. During that time, the students were able to live in huts similar to those that might be found in the jungles. Over spring break the students stayed in regular dormitories due to cold weather.

Although they did not get to live in the huts, Schweinsberg said the students had plenty of exposure to authentic missionary life, including taking baths in the river.

“The class took the whole field of missions and broke it down so it just seemed like a regular job done by regular people,” senior Ethan Crowder said. Yarborough said that the best part of the whole course was “the practicality of it.”

In addition to valuable information, the missionaries took a special interest in each of the student’s lives. “It doesn’t feel like a class. It feels more like a home,” Watson said. “The missionaries are very interested in who you are.”

Senior Tracey Cooter, who has gone to China twice, said that Jungle Camp was an appropriate capstone to his time at Liberty. “The amount of information given to you to prepare for your journey is just unbelievable. It will totally open your eyes,” Cooter said. Contact Drew Menard at ajmenard@liberty.edu.
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