Ukrainian summer Bible camps a learning experience for children and leaders

This program is supported by Project 1313, and this feedback is provided by Sergei Bevz.

Similar to previous years, some congregations of the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Ukraine (SELCU) had five-day Christian camps for kids 6 – 15 years old. The camps were held in congregations of Nova Kahovka, Krasnoperekopsk, Odessa and the Bogomazy village from June 24 till July 19, 2013. The children were looking forward to the camp, many of them had taken part in it before. The total number of children who StroikaUkraineparticipated in the camps was 120.
The theme of this year’s  camp was Stroika (“Building”). The purpose was to show the kids how we can build our relationship with God, neighbors and ourselves through Jesus Christ. The main idea was presented through a rich program with skits, Bible lessons, songs, crafts etc.

The team of staff consisted of five full time volunteers from different congregations. For all of them, apart from one experienced veteran of the camps, it was the first time they participated in such a project.

Ten days before the first camp they gathered in Odessa to prepare the summer camp program as well as to participate in the annual “Days of Faith” Conference, where they also had a chance to serve kids. And after the last camp was finished, they continued to serve back in their congregations. They visited a youth tent camp at the Black Sea. There they worked with small children. In totally the staff spent more than six weeks ministering to kids for the Lord. It was a very active and blessed time.

There were also difficulties when we were planning this project. Many of those who participated in the camp last year were not able to join us this year and could not share their experience. That is why the team was less experienced and not as numerous as before. It was especially evident when we had a large number of kids. It took a lot of work and learning from our own mistakes. However, with every camp the team became more experienced and united.

Also, the help of all four SELCU congregations was very much appreciated. They took an active part in the camp and provided helpers for it as well. We thank Lutheran Church–Canada for volunteer Joshua from Drumheller, who joined the team in Odessa and participated in the program. Thus, together with the helpers, 17 volunteers participated in the camp.

In spite of all the difficulties, we can see that because of this camp we were able to prepare young people to be volunteers next year. It also helped them to realize they can work with our Sunday schools, lead youth services and have received some wonderful and practical experience, as well as grow in their faith through morning and evening Bible studies. It is wonderful to feel like a useful instrument in God’s hands. Therefore when the project was coming to an end, they were already thinking about helping out next year.

For many people it was the first time they learnt something about the Church and our Lord Jesus Christ. The camps were a blessing for churches, they enriched their work with children, gave opportunity to serve and helped to get new people in their Sunday schools. For the children who already attended our camp, it was a great opportunity to get rooted in the Church (at Sunday school) and to grow in their saving faith.

Sergei Bevz, Vicar, Project  Supervisor,
Alumnus of Concordia Theological Seminary (Odessa), 2013

Personal Testimonies of the Participants

Luba, 17, volunteer from Nikolaev
“This year I was a volunteer for the Christian camps. I was sure I would not get into the team of volunteers because the time of the camp overlapped with my college exams. But nothing is impossible with God! Of course, it took some prayer, but God allowed me to take part in this mission. I learned a lot during this time: how to work with children, how to pray, I learned many spiritual lessons during the morning and evening fellowships, as well as how to work together as a team. I received new experiences and understood my strengths as well as weaknesses, realized my mistakes and how to correct them. In general, I am very happy about my participation and I thank God for all I received. It was my first time on the team, but I hope it won’t be the last.”

Kristina, 21, volunteer from Nikolaev
“It is my 5th time on the team and I know that every year is special, different from other years. Every time I want to be part of the team, in spite of the fact that there are always difficulties, it is not always easy to find compromise, and I don’t always have enough love and patience. But when I think that this work is pleasing to God, I get encouraged and gain new strength to go on and to open my heart to children. I know that it is better to give than to receive — it is a great joy to see the kids happy! God united many people into one team for one purpose, forgiving and teaching us by His grace. This year I learned how to accept people the way they are, not trying to change them, but praying for them.”

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