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 and talked with him about Creation in the Bible, shared their testimonies and did their best to explain the gospel to him. They were so focused on their conversation with Tikhon they didn’t realize several other kids around them were also listening with rapt attention.
The next day, Tikhon found an opportunity to ask Nuper, one of the American men, if they could talk for a while. Nuper was more than happy to take some time. As they sat by the river, Tikhon shared about all the things he’d just learned about the Bible from the girls. After thinking about it all, he began to realize he was wrong about God and Creation.
“What should I do?” Tikhon asked. Nuper challenged him to put his faith in Christ through prayer, and they stopped and prayed together. “Now what should I do?” he asked. Nuper said, “Go tell someone what you have just done.” Later, Tikhon met again with Stan and told him about the decision he’d made. “He was so happy,” Stan said, “you could just see the difference in Tikhon’s face.”
This is just one example of what God did this summer through our team of volunteers. Through Stan’s prayers, Anya and Yulia’s testimonies and Nuper’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, Tikhon is now a child of God. Even the kids who listened intently as Anya and Yulia shared with Tikhon were changed by what they heard.
There was such an atmosphere of God’s love and grace at the camp! I praise God for the many other hearts that were touched by the gospel. ~ Craig Blair
Craig works with Volunteer Development at Mission Builders International. He returns yearly to Russia (where he lived and served for eight years with Campus Crusade) as a coordinator and volunteer for the English Camp.
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 toward rejuvenation, check out MBI’s website for your opportunity: www.missionbuilders.org
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 would tell us about having a heart for Turkey or Africa, but they were at the campus helping with needs like cooking or maintenance instead of going where their hearts were. I wanted to help with those practical things so they could actually get out and do what God was calling them to do.” That’s when the Cooks decided to invest in missions by becoming full-time mission builders. They bought a pull-trailer and hit the road, making, to date, four circuits of the United States, volunteering at numerous YWAM campuses and taking YWAM missions training along the way.
Together, David and Michael worked at general maintenance projects, repairs, roofing and similar tasks. “Michael was my right-hand man,” David says, “as capable if not more so than me. From blenders to cars, he can fix so many things.” Their biggest project was at YWAM Mendocino in California. “The Woodbutcher cabin, their premier cabin from the ’70s,” David says, “was built on a hill. It was made with dowels and pegs; no nails. The foundation was rotting and needed repair, andthere were gaping holes in the deck. The staff had been at a loss as to how to save it. Michael and I spent 2 months jacking it up, tearing out old foundation and building a new one.”
When the Cooks first launched their mission-building lifestyle, Crystal says, “I felt like I was going to be tagging along; that I didn’t have a lot to offer and I would just be seeing what David would do. Friends prayed with us and helped me realize I had something to offer.” She and daughter Amy started working in the campus kitchens serving healthy, good-tasting food. Now, she says, “I get so much appreciation for cooking! People are constantly thanking and complimenting me! And Amy learned and grew so much; I am confident she could take on any YWAM kitchen.” But it’s more than just putting food on the table. Crystal says, “I like being a mom to the staff and teaching them. I’ve worked with several gals, teaching and mentoring them in kitchen and life skills and speaking into their lives spiritually. We adopt the young folks and feel like they are our kids. Some call me Mom, which blesses me because some of them don’t have good families. We love being family for them, pouring into them like parents.”
Although Michael (to be married in June) has now launched into his own YWAM adventure, David, Crystal and Amy continue traveling, enjoying the countryside, history and parks as they mission build campus to campus. What they like most, however, is meeting new people and making friends. “Our world used to be so small and now it is so broad,” they say, “and we haven’t gone international yet! No, we don’t have a home anymore, but we have many, many locations across the United States where we feel at home. We have people who are like family in all those locations.”
The Cooks agree: “There is so much need out there, and God has given His people the skills to meet those needs. Being the ones God uses is more fulfilling than anything we did living the normal North American lifestyle. Not everyone is called to do what we’re doing for a lifetime, but there are probably a lot of people who are called to do it short term. We wish we’d done this sooner, but we figure we have a good thirty years left, so we’ll make good use of it.”
Are you ready to share your time and skills in missions for a season? Looking for ministries you can serve from your RV? Visit our website at www.missionbuilders.org and see all the YWAM ministries around the world who need your help. Apply online today or contact us!