Ukraine is much in the news today, since the annexing of Crimea by Russia and with the continuing conflict on Ukraine’s eastern borders.
Its politicians struggle with an economy that has been devastated by the loss of its eastern industrial base resulting in a free falling GDP, heavy currency devaluation and rising gas prices as Russia plays brinkmanship with its supply.
The deaths of many hundreds of conscripted men and women and the displacement of over a million civilians arriving into central and western Ukraine is the newest of problems facing everyone in Ukraine today.
The cost of living has soared by 50 per cent and wages (if you have a job) are stagnant — if you ever get paid for your work!
Reaching the generations
In June 2014, four teachers organised an English holiday club that drew around 100 children aged 6-13. One of the main ‘draws’ was that the camp would have five native English speakers, two from the UK and three from the USA.
The leaders met at a briefing meeting for the first time, aware that a challenge lay ahead but confident that the Lord could do marvellous things. And so we applied ourselves to the task of eating, sleeping, talking, teaching and playing with these young people over a period of seven days.
Naturally, parents had a keen interest in what was going on
They knew it was an ‘English’ camp, but run by Christians from different churches, evangelicals (like Baptists!) who were not from the Orthodox fold! Gaining trust was going to be key to success.
‘Would my kids be safe? Would they get enough to eat? How will they sleep? What about this Christian thing of Bible teaching?’
Building a team
The Lord was at work among us, so that, by the middle of the week, we saw parents who had come to see how things are have their child shy away from them — parents became very ‘uncool’!
‘Yes, we are having a great time. Yes, we are sleeping (OK — well, between midnight and 7.00am!). Yes, the games are fun (and safe), and, yes, the Bible stories are good too’.
During the week the leaders bonded in a deep way
Our day started with Bible devotions and prayer and ended with a review. In between times, we were fully occupied helping with conversational English lessons, walking and talking with the kids, organising games and serving at meal times.
Making a difference
Did we make a difference? With the Lord’s help we believe we did. There were conversations that indicated something of the Christian message and Christian life was getting through, often by simply explaining why we there. But there was a hidden ‘spiritual’ work too.
On the first Sunday after camp, four children who had never been to church went along at the invitation of their new friends. This was such a blessing to hear, because the consequence of this would continue long after we left.
Another difference was the acceptance of parents with no church background, who started asking, ‘What can you do next?’ Trust had been established; the teachers had been accepted. And so, the work among young people would be extended and widened.
Come over and help?
The camp is being run again, from June 22 and June 29, and you can make a difference! We are looking for helpers — late-teens to pensioners — who have a heart to simply be warm and loving to the children.
You don’t have to be an English teacher or a teacher. You can show the love of Christ simply by just being there. Are you willing? Will you come over and help, or support in some other way?
We went out last year knowing that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but not realising the blessing we received would be so great. It was not easy, but we are convinced that, under the sovereign hand of God, we did make a difference.
For more information contact either Graham Hilton or Barry Davies. Graham and Barry are both elders at Whitby Evangelical Church, North Yorkshire, UK.