Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Ultimate Gift...the Ultimate Camp

So I’ve been back in Kiev for about a week and have been procrastinating in writing anything about our most recent camp! The reality is that when I come back there are so many thoughts, so many moments, so many stories, that I really don’t even know how to begin to process them all or begin putting them into succinct words.  Instead I just avoid writing anything at all!

I’ll use this post as a general summary of our time and then write some more personal accounts later on--I think the writing process will serve as therapeutic for me!

We had 78 youth between the ages of 15-19 attend the 10-day camp that took place on the Azov Sea.  We had anticipated more of the youth being repeats from last year, but I think there were only about 8 or so that were returners.  On one hand this was disappointing, as we weren't able to follow-up with as many as we had hoped, but the advantage was we were able to recycle more games and activities from last year!

our poster displaying the 9 'gifts' we gave at camp
Using the themes from the movie “The Ultimate Gift” worked out really well and provided us with good subject matter for morning discussions, evening teachings and even helped inspire some of the daily games. 

The kids were in for a real shock on the first morning when we surprised them with the “Gift of Work” by having them get up at 6:45 and do some manual labor on the beach!!  I’m sure they were thinking, ‘how did we end up here??’  However when we showed the corresponding clip from the movie later that day, all ruffled feathers seemed to be gone and they understood the gift they were being given—to value work and to work hard.  

We had an amazing donation made by the website affiliated with the film, which allowed us to present all the youth with a bracelet memento that held charms that represented each of the days’ themes/gifts.  They all were thrilled about getting the bracelet, and loved the practicality of being able to look at the charms and remember what they learned about work, friendship, gratitude, giving, problems, love, and other ‘gifts’ we presented them with throughout the week.

We didn’t do a traditional “alter call” this year, as many of these youth regularly attend events put on by our partner ministry, Agape and almost expected this.  Instead we gave the youth concrete challenges throughout the week and encouraged them to talk to their leader or our main pastor if they were ready to accept Christ and desired for Jesus to direct their lives. As a result of not doing the alter call we didn’t have the ‘masses’ as we did last year flock forward (and then turn away 2 months later), but there were about 7 or 8 teens that took the step in talking to their leader and prayed to accept Christ.  I know many many more were open to hearing about God, and made steps in His direction.
Youth at the evening program 

Any way I look at it, this was a tough group to work with.   If you take a group of  15-19 year olds that grew up in 'normal' families, that would be a challenge in itself….but when you take kids who spent the majority of their lives in an institution,  it is another story all together.  We had girls present who have had multiple abortions,  girls that were pregnant, one with a baby, youth that have been addicted to smoking since the age of 9, youth that were sexually abused by relatives or others in the orphanage, and those that have undergone regular abuse by caregivers.  And our task is to 'reach' them.  To show them that Jesus is relevant in their lives...no matter what they have come out of.  It really is a challenge.  The encouraging thing to know is that ultimately it is not up to us or how hard we try.  God is faithful and I saw that even through the transformations that began to take place throughout the camp.

Lena doesn't want to say goodbye!
We always joke that they cry when they come and they cry when they leave.  And that is truly what happened again this year.  We witnessed amazing changes take place in their hearts and in their characters, in just 10 days!  When they all collectively piled off the bus on day 1 there were looks of angst and fear and the desire to flee. However on the last evening, as we were all gathered around the camp fire, person and after person would share about how they came with one expectation (negative) and are now leaving with great appreciation for all  that they learned.  Many were saying that they didn't want to leave at all! They expressed deep love and admiration toward all their leaders and our camp staff.  

When it came time to leave on the last day, the same kids who had been in tears when they arrived were tearful again as they hugged their leaders goodbye.  "You really showed us what true love and care are this week, and I won't ever forget that.  I'm sorry it took me a few days to recognize it for what it was," said one girl on the final evening as the microphone was passed around the camp fire.
enjoying the sunrise on the final morning
These camps are hard. Plain and simple.  As a team we average about 5 hours of sleep each night and are faced with some of the most challenging 'kids' we've ever met and all the issues they bring with them.  But no matter how hard it is, I still see a great need for this specific type of outreach and the follow-up that goes with it.  We are planting seeds and I know that in many of these youth these seeds are taking root.   No not all of them...but then again, we never really know.

 "That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear."  
Matthew 13: 1-9

Let your prayer be that they will not only have listened, but they will have truly heard.

*An extra special thank you to Orphan's Promise, Northshore Baptist Church and all of you individuals who gave to make this camp possible!  

Some photo highlights....

my team of singing boys (after a week of english lessons)!

our amazing team of volunteers!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Я рада за то, что есть те, кто готов давать часть своего сердца и мудрости другим! Это больше чем ВАЖНО!
Иногда нужно услышать простые вещи, чтоб потом сделать великие дела!!! Думаю многие уже изменились после этих 10 дней. И они не будут прежними.

Твоя Ленка