Summer 2010 was by far the best summer of my life. I did not spend it, however, on the sandy shores at the Gulf, or lounging by the pool with my best friends. Instead, I was in the Ukrainian countryside, at my new favorite place in the world, Camp Friendship. For several years now, God has opened my eyes, and put love in my heart for the people of Ukraine. Ukraine is often portrayed as a dark place. However I know it in a completely different way. I love this country. When I think of Ukraine, I think about Zhenya, the 11 year old orphan who has is so incredibly smart, who could melt the hardest of hearts with his sweet smile, and who is a new brother in Christ. I think of Lera, the 16 year-old girl from the city. She has a great sense of humor, but is struggling with many things that most American teenagers struggle with. I think about Marina, the girl who told me that her family is Muslim and if they knew she had been at a Christian camp, she would be beaten, but who also loved learning about God. She was joyful, and although quiet, could brighten anyone’s day. I think of all the little boys in my group that I taught. How they soaked up every word like sponges, even if it looked like they were not listening. About 400 kids attended Camp Friendship while I was there, therefore 400 beautiful reasons why I love Ukraine.
Being able to serve in a camp setting is phenomenal! Camp Friendship is located in the Lughansk region of Ukraine. The camp schedule is kind of set up like Student life camp. The mornings are filled with music time, small groups, crafts and games. After lunch is recreation and free time!! We played water games, ultimate Frisbee, freeze tag, and much more!! The screaming and laughter from the rec field could be heard all over camp. Free time was one of my favorite parts of the day because that is when we really got to spend a lot of time one on one with the kids. Getting to know the kids is definitely the most rewarding thing about being there. God uses the staff and Americans there to show them His love, and teach them about Him. It is a wonderful thing to witness children coming to know the Lord. From the time they get up, to when they go to sleep, the campers are filled up with the Word. uncp blackboard They see how there Ukrainian and American leaders are set apart, and are different because they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Camp Friendship has been going on for a few years now, and they are beginning to see the fruit of what they are doing. God is rising up a generation to be strong in him tell others about His awesome and everlasting love.
God taught me so much during my time in Ukraine. He taught me how to strive to love unconditionally, as he loves us. During the first camp I taught eight teen 10-11 year old boys. I know right… what did I get myself into?! The boys in that group were so amazing, but sometimes I just could not get them to listen! However a team member reminded me of something as I shared my frustrations. I explained that I was not upset because these kids just wou;dn’t listen, but because I had grown to LOVE these kids, and I wanted them to listen to what God was trying to tell them during our Bible study time together. I was reminded by my friend that this is often what we do to God. We tune him out and focus on other things when he is trying to speak to us and teach us! I might think I love these boys, but it is nothing compared to how God loves us. I was really humbled by this, and I was able to be more patient with boys. By the end of camp, their sweet smiles and great company made it very hard to say goodbye. But I know that the Lord has a plan for each of them. I hope that during our time together they each saw Jesus in me throughout the camp. Some of them gave their lives to Christ, while at camp, and it was a beautiful sight to watch God transform them! To God be the glory!
I could go on and on for days about everything I did at camp, but nothing can amount to what God did, in the lives of Americans, Ukrainian Staff, and campers. God is truly doing great things in Lughansk, Ukraine and I think that is what draws me there and makes me love it. So I would love to tell you that the reason I go is for the food, (definitely not that) the accommodations, or even the beautiful scenery, however that would be a lie. I go because I have a Father in heaven who loves me and cares for me. Who commands me to go and teach all nations, and who allows me to be a part of the wonderful work he is doing around the world.
Click here if you want to be a part of what God is doing in Ukraine this summer!