Volgograd English Camp 2016

Each summer, I look forward to serving the youth ministry of the Christ the Savior Church in Volgograd, Russia, by helping with their summer English Camp. Our team is very international, including English-speaking volunteers from Africa and the United States, who serve with the Russian team from local churches. For the third time, I was the coordinator for the U.S. team and helped to create the English lesson books for the camp, applying what I’ve learned through YWAM’s TESOL program. The goal of the camp is not only to give Russian teenagers an opportunity to practice their English with native English speakers but also to introduce them to God’s love and grace, found through faith in Jesus Christ. The majority of kids coming to the camp are non-believers, while many of the teenagers serving as helpers are believers and came to faith in Christ at previous summer camps. It’s always exciting to observe them growing and maturing in Christ year after year. This year some kids who were in the process of seeking God or showing some interest were invited to serve as translators. One young translator, named Tikhon, still believed he was a scientific atheist. The teacher he was helping, Stan, wondered how this arrangement was going to work and started to pray for him. Little did Tikhon realize God had a plan to work on his heart this summer. It started with two of the Christian girls, Anya and Yulia, who were also helpers at the camp. They knew Tikhon was an atheist, but they were determined to challenge his thinking about God. One afternoon they sat...

Resignation or Rejuvenation?

For most of us, it doesn’t take long to feel overwhelmed when reading, watching or listening to national and international news. How dumb, how ignorant, how stupid, how outrageous, how immoral, how heinous, how tragic can it get? Which reminds me of King David’s laments: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do” (Psalm 11:3)? “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me” (Psalm 13:2)? One alternative is to ignore the news; to just turn it off. Sadly, it doesn’t go away or get better by simply ignoring it. King David answers with this: “In the LORD I take refuge” (Psalm 11:1). Since God doesn’t retreat or ignore the plight of the innocent, he sends those who are willing to say: “Here am I, send me.” Mission Builder volunteers like Pat and Thelma Lewis (our lead story) are not Hollywood-style heroes. They rejected resignation and chose to trust God, who rejuvenated their faith to just show up where he led them. Gratefully, most Mission Builder opportunities are pretty tame—but not boring. Sometimes the opportunity may be more challenging to the faith of friends or family than to those who actually go and get the job done. Until Jesus returns, the world will continue to be a dangerous place. But we serve a dangerous God who promises us his refuge and rejuvenation—not resignation. It’s my belief that when we respond to God’s call, the enemy is pushed back one project, one person, one sorrow at a time. If you want to take a step...

Love Looks Like Something (Part Two)

In our last newsletter, we shared about YWAM Bend, Oregon, a one-of-a-kind ministry with a vision calling for equally visionary mission builder volunteers. True to form, the first project accomplished at their location was out of the ordinary, just like the mission builders who showed up to help get the job done. David and Crystal Cook happened to be in the area in early October of 2014 and volunteered to help set up YWAM Bend’s Mongolian gers (yurts), which would become housing for ministry staff. In the span of four days, David helped spread mulch, set up one ger, disassembled a second one at another location and prepped it for moving. Crystal helped with meal preps and garden gleaning (and David found time to cook some of his famous burgers for the staff as well). With the Cook’s help, the YWAM Bend team was settled in before the snow fell. YWAM Bend wasn’t the first ministry nor will it be the last to benefit from the Cook’s volunteerism. Along with their son, Michael, and daughter, Amy, the Cooks began their mission-building adventure while visiting friends at YWAM San Francisco six years ago. David, who owned his own construction business, says, “While we were there we noticed so many broken toilets and door hinges and the like. We said we would stay and help and began to get a glimpse of the need out there.” On their first long-term mission building trip, the Cook family traveled from Seattle to YWAM Orlando in Florida in a truck, living out of a camper on the back. There, David says, “The young staff...