“English camp is the happiest place on earth! Coming here, you find yourself in a completely different world. You forget about your problems, you meet amazing, unique and sincere people. There is an absolutely indescribable atmosphere. This camp greatly influenced me and my life, and I am extremely grateful to the organizers and the camp team for such a place. May God bless you all!” – Ksenia Lysenko, camper
Words like these were heard over and over again on the last day of the English camp as kids from each lesson group got up in front of all the other campers to share their impressions of the week.
One young man, Yury, seemed to talk non-stop about his love for Jesus and wanted to tell everyone he met. One day, Yury asked me why his friends don’t want to hear the gospel when he tries to tell them about Jesus. I encouraged him to keep trusting God to work in the hearts of his friends. Our part is to tell them about Jesus, pray for them and love them with God’s love, but only God can change their hearts. He was very encouraged to realize that it is all in God’s hands.
In all, three kids put their trust in Christ during the camp and five more kids have started going to church. More than 50 kids came to the first youth meeting after the camp, and they continue to be in touch with the camp leaders. Just this past weekend, the Volgograd church gathered again for a special baptism of 7 young people.
Pray for more fruit to be harvested in the coming months!
Craig Blair serves as volunteer development staff at MBI and continues to be an integral part of the yearly Christian English camp held just outside of Volgograd, Russia.
Each summer for the past four years, I’ve participated in a summer English camp near Volgograd, Russia, sponsored by members of various location churches. These past two years, I’ve led the team of American volunteers, who come to help with the conversational English lessons at camp and share their lives and love for God with the kids. This year, following my completion of a TESOL course (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at YWAM Montana, I took on the task of creating the lesson plan for this summer camp.
Each year the kids have become more and more receptive to the message of the gospel as we have built relationship with them. The camp organizers felt like this year the kids were ready to go deeper, and God did amazing things in their lives.
I met Yarik (short for Yaroslov) on the first day of camp. He was going to be in my lesson group, but when I spoke to him in English, he replied, “I only know German!” I wondered if he was going to be hard to crack, but as soon as he figured out I could speak Russian, he warmed right up.
One of our daily activities at camp after our group lessons are over is having one-on-one time with one or two of the kids for an hour. I knew Yarik came from a Christian family, but I didn’t know anything about his own walk with God. I figured he would be a good kid from my group to start with.
Most of our conversation was in Russian, as he knew very little English with which to practice. We talked about our hobbies, sports we liked and other general topics. Finally, I asked Yarik if both of his parents went to church. As he began to tell me about his parents and family, tears streamed down his face, but still he continued to share. His dad used to be a pastor, but his mom had walked away from her faith. He was so afraid for her and felt helpless to do anything. He was trying to be a good Christian and a good son, but it was so hard.
I could not imagine that already, on the first day, one of the kids from my group was opening up so deeply. He obviously was desperate for God to do something in his life. I felt God wanted me to encourage him with the story of the prodigal son. I told him not to worry so much for his mom. God still loved her even though she had walked away. He was waiting and longing for her to come back, but she was still his daughter and that would never change. We prayed together for her, and I also prayed for Yarik to find strength and rest in God’s love for him.
Later in the week, a special evening was set aside to highlight the gospel message with the kids at camp. It was called a ceremony of light. The atmosphere was charged by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who was touching everybody that night. Yarik was sitting next to me and very emotional as he thought about his sin and how God, in his love, sent his Son to pay for our sins so we could have a relationship with God.
At the end of the ceremony, we were encouraged to go around and say to our friends words of encouragement, care and love. After several minutes, Yarik approached me and gave me a big embrace, crying and not letting go. He said how, on that night, he finally understood just how much God loved him. It was a big moment for him in his walk with God, and a night he will never forget.
In this camp of 61 kids, we saw 6 decisions of faith in Christ, 3 kids who repented of sins and renewed their faith, 5 more kids who grew in their faith and 14 kids who were touched by the gospel and got more interested in the Christian faith. In addition to that, two boys, Misha and Vitya, who came from an orphanage the churches work with, experienced a tremendous change in their lives. They had been addicted to alcohol and were known as “bad boys.” Since the camp, they have repented of the things they were doing and have become members of the local church. They both desire to get baptized and want to serve other orphans in the orphanage where they live. Praise God for the work in the lives of these kids at camp, and pray for the ongoing ministry in their lives by the local church and youth groups they are now connected with.