Today was the first day of chess camp. We had a good turnout and a great time. Very early in the morning, Mateo, Danny, and Zach woke up to run at the park in order to prepare for running camp next week. Afterwards, we all headed to Amor y Esperanza to begin our week of teaching. About 30 kids from ages 8 to 15 showed up to learn some chess. Roberto decided to split the kids into two groups: beginners and more experienced players. Zach and Zoe taught the beginners with Maria Victoria helping Zach when he didn’t know the Spanish and helping Zoe because she doesn’t know the Spanish. Roberto and Drew taught the more experienced players, while Danny and Mateo assisted by translating and playing some games too.
In the beginners room, the students learned how the paws (peónes), rooks (torres), bishops (alfiles), and kings (reyes) move. In addition, they began to learn how to checkmate (jaquemate) with just two rooks. We were very impressed with the beginners as they quickly picked up concepts (despite the language barrier and Zach’s questionable Spanish) that typically take our American students several hours if not days. The advanced group jumped right into playing full games. In order to determine their playing ability, Roberto had Drew play all of the students in the room at the same time. After the simul, students were paired against each other to play more games and practice checkmate with a single rook.
We also took a break halfway through the day to give the students — and instructors — a rest from thinking. This was a great opportunity for us to meet the students for the first time out of the classroom. We were all really impressed by the self-control of the students inside the classroom, but I (Zach) was more impressed with their energy and passion outside when they were playing. They have so much love and passion for life and each other, and I was just really touched. I know it is kind of cliché, but these kids have already started to give to me more than I can imagine ever giving to them. They have inspired me by showing that no matter how little you have or what situation you are in, you can always be joyful in the Lord and love Him and others with all of your strength. It has truly been a blessing from the Lord to meet these boys and girls and be able to love them and be loved back as one family of God.
After the first day of chess camp ended, we ate lunch at the school and then returned home. The kids immediately retreated to Danny and Mateo’s playroom to play Wii tennis. After setting up a double elimination tournament, Zach ended up playing Mateo in the championship. Zach won after coming back from a loss in the first round to Danny.
When we were done playing, we took the dog, Scooby, for a walk. After a while, Danny and Mateo brought Scooby back to the house and we proceeded to play some real basketball and soccer. Maria Victoria and Zoe don’t like soccer, so they sat out while everyone else played. After an interesting game against some other kids in the neighborhood, we came back to the house to relax.
The Justices laid low while Danny and Mateo went to karate where they both earned their green belts. Soon after their return, Pity surprised Roberto with a birthday cake and decorations at dinner. We think that it was one of Roberto’s favorite cakes ever (and of course it was chocolate). After dinner, the boys played a few games of Wii basketball (NBA 2K) until everyone gathered in the living room for a night of community, family, and prayer.
Pancho gave all of us a powerful message that anything is possible if Christ is at the center of our lives. I know we hear that all the time, but the Lord really spoke to me (Zoe) through all the events of the day leading up to what he had to say to us. At the beginning of the chess camp, I thought it would be very hard to get through to the students, partly because of the language barrier, and partly because, in my past experience, some kids are not really interested in learning chess so it seems pointless to teach them. But God had a different plan today. The children were very kind and respectful, as well as passionate about learning chess even if it was very hard, given that their teachers barely speak Spanish. They learned so quickly (way faster than kids in America, I must say) that I knew that God had to be working in their lives. In the same way, some things may seem very hard at the time, but God is working in our lives. If it is hard to do, God will give us the faith and the passion to achieve it. Pancho told us that any dream you might have, no matter how unattainable it seems, can be accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ.
At the end of our time together, we prayed for our mom’s mom, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, and knew that God can do anything, no matter how hard it seems. As I saw countless times today, when God wills it, nothing can stop him. Romans 8:31, 35, 37-39 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Pancho told us to be strong and courageous, because if Christ is at the center of our lives, he can and will work miracles.
Happy Birthday Roberto! Thanks so much for reading! Nos Vemos.