Friday, July 26, 2013

Due Season

Thursday, Anton took me and Taryn to the original Camp Druzhba (Druzhba is the Russian word for Friendship).  Right now we are having camp at the orphanage because the scope of having it at the official camp was larger than GtU can manage at the moment.  Having gone there yesterday, however, I am so motivated to move the camp back to its original location. We are putting together a video about camp and its importance to this region.  We interviewed Anton while at the camp site and toured the new dorms.  Many improvements have been made.  What was sad, however, was that when the last missionary who was leading camp left Ukraine, the coal mine, who owns the camp site, took down all signs of previous Christian influence.  The stage painting of Jesus welcoming little children had been replaced with a painting of a lion and a turtle.  The sign outside the gate touting Camp Druzhba as a Christian camp for children had been taken down. 

Fortunately, however, Christianity is not about signs and paintings.  The evidences of Christian influence at Camp Druzhba continue in more profound and meaningful ways.  Anton, himself, attended camp there; became a Christ follower through translating and is now the camp organizer.  Many of our interpreters here now attended Camp Druzhba over the years; learned English; heard the gospel and are now following Christ and sharing the gospel with the next generation of children.  Many of our campers are here because they have attended previously or they heard about us over the years.  Since 1998, seeds of the gospel have been planted at Camp Druzhba and we are privileged to see the fruit.  This encourages me greatly and I can tell you that GtU is not about to leave this place.  Certainly, if God were to call us to go elsewhere, we would be obedient.  But right now, we are firmly planted here and will do all we can, by God’s grace, to continue to water the seeds planted over the years.

God continues to move here.  Children are hungry to know the Word.  Relationships have been built over the years that we must continue to nourish.  We see kids everyday that we met 6, 7, or 8 years ago.  The community benefits financially as well as spiritually from our presence here.  We have been on TV, and we try to take advantage of that notoriety, all for the glory of God.  The people here are entrenched in legalism and superstition.  Most cannot begin to comprehend the grace of God that saves them and keeps them.  But then again, neither did I for many years.  Please pray for these people.  These children.  For GtU and its team to have wisdom, discernment and perseverance.  We hear stories daily from orphans and other children that are gut wrenching.  The weight of it all can be staggering as we try to accept that we cannot fix every problem or save every child.  We must simply be obedient to God’s call to be here; to share the Gospel, and trust that He is doing things we cannot yet see.  Just like those before us.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

God is at Work

We are only in the third day of the second Bible camp, but already we see God at work.  Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  But in this instance, the pictures cannot begin to convey what is going on in the hearts of our campers and workers. 

This morning, the older girls’ 45 minute Bible Study, last over an hour.  The girl’s were asking questions about sin, the Holy Spirit, how to hear from God.  Yesterday these same girls listened intently as Alexandra told them they were made in the image of God and they explored ways in which that should effect how they live.  Alexandra said it was obvious they had not heard these things before.

Each night, the Bible study leaders go to the children’s dorms right before bedtime, to pray and have a short devotional.  Last night, the older boys were still talking after an hour.  They, too, had serious spiritual questions.  One wanted to know why our beliefs were so different from the beliefs of many professing Christians in their village and why our beliefs seemed “better”.  Kyle and Blaine patiently shared with them into the night, opening the Scriptures and praying for wisdom and discernment.

One 14 year old boy who goes to school in Lugansk explained to me that he got many invitations to summer camps but he chooses to come this camp.  He and his twin brother started attending when the camp was lead by Shane and Marilyn Duke.  He has a hunger for the word and is eager to share it with others.

Dorm parents are asking questions, moving from skepticism to real interest.  Team members and interpreters sit in the hallway of our dorm at all hours of the day and night, reading the Word and sharing their testimonies.  Prayer requests are moving from the simple “pray that I play soccer better” to the more serious “pray that I can share my faith in school”. 

Each of us on this team has come to Ukraine believing this is where God called us to be this summer.  Our team members are young adults, 19-21, except for me and Taryn.  We each raised our own support to get here.  We are from different churches, different cities and states; no one church or organization has sent us.  We are doing nothing grand; nothing fancy.  We are simply here, the Body of Christ, brought together by a common desire to share the Gospel in a place that is “white for harvest”.  God is doing a work, often times in spite of us.  Please pray with us and for us, that the Gospel seeds that we are planting will bear fruit and that the Glory of our God will spread though the village of Belaroschenska, Ukraine and beyond.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bible Camp in Ukraine

The first Bible camp ended 4 days ago and the second camp will start 4 days from today.  Words just cannot do justice to the blessings we have experienced while serving here in far east Ukraine.  

This camp is not specifically for orphans.  Children from this village and surrounding villages are invited to come.  Many of these children are impoverished; many live in difficult situations; some are children of local taxi drivers or businessmen. All of them need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and that is why we come. 

The last night of camp we asked the children to tell their Bible study leaders what they believed about Jesus Christ.  Some said he was the Healer.  Some said he was God.  Many said “He is my Deliverer”.  These words were sweet to our ears.  One older girl said the one thing that she remembered most from our Bible studies was the Jesus could calm the storm simply by speaking.  I am thankful to our team who conveyed these precious truths and thankful to In Lumine Media for the Russian translation of the Jesus Storybook Bible.  It was exciting to see kids sitting around in the afternoon reading their Bibles.  Encouraging when, after reading the next to last story in small group, an older girl asked if they could read the last story so they could know what happens next. 

When I first met with our worship leader for camp, I was not sure we were going to work smoothly together.  He conveyed to me that the songs I had chosen for the children to learn were too deep; he thought the children would not understand the meaning of the lyrics.  How precious to watch the children’s faces as they sang “I’m running to your arms, the riches of your love will always be enough, nothing compares to your embrace…..”; but also to see Maxim’s excitement grow daily as he taught them about worship.  Maxim turned out to be one of the strongest leaders at camp and he and I were always on the same page as we lead the children deeper into the word.

I am honored to serve alongside all these believers, both American and Ukrainian.  But I cannot end this blog without mentioning my friend and partner, Taryn Kilpatrick.  Taryn sees a need and with a fierce determination, seeks to meet that need.  She saw that we had food leftover after each meal; so she began taking food to the handicapped, the poor, even the intoxicated.  She serves the Lord with reckless abandon in this and so many ways and I love her.

Please like our facebook page and check out all the pictures if you have not already.  You will be blessed.  Thank you to all who give to make our ministry to the orphaned and poor of Ukraine possible.  Hosting, Bible camp, special needs ministry, bibles; we could do none of this without your prayers and financial support.  God is certainly being glorified through it all.