​10 Days of Summer English Camp Not Enough

May 10 2016

Although Ukraine has a long history of Christianity, 70 years of Soviet atheism and the recent influence of post-Christian Europe have made it a country with an interesting mix of spiritual interests.

Many grandmothers here still hold to the traditional Christian faith—often visiting the Orthodox church services with its candles, painted icons of the saints and sing-song liturgy in an old form of Russian.

Many middle-aged people, meanwhile, remember their scientific Soviet education and don’t put much stock in the teaching about a Creator.

But many young people have spiritual interest—some lightly holding to the traditional Christian faith, while others are trying out Eastern religious practices in search of deeper spiritual meaning or seeking an identity in an ancient pagan religion from Ukraine’s past.

This is where OMS has been led to invest its efforts in evangelism and church planting among the more spiritually open young people.

The OMS team in Kyiv (Kiev) has been working among university students and young adults, seeking to make disciples who want to gather in small groups called Life Groups and to reach out to friends and family with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

It’s an exciting adventure, and it’s been a joy to see God raise up young leaders called Encouragers, who have taken responsibility to lead Life Groups, to share with their friends about Jesus, and to help organize special outreach events at Christmas and Easter.

But the biggest evangelistic event of the year is our English camp ministry. We recruit teams of native English speakers from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand to help lead the camps. And then we invite pre-Christian, but English-speaking, Ukrainian university students to participate.

Camps are a great way to see God work through ordinary Christian people who come together to just show the love of God.

We’ve had farmers, cell phone store managers, school teachers, small business owners, pastors, university students, architects, veterinarians and many others participate as teachers in our camps each summer, and God has used them powerfully.

They didn’t have to speak Russian or Ukrainian. They didn’t have to be theologically trained experts. They didn’t even have to know the ins and outs of English grammar. They just needed to be in love with Jesus and willing to let him love Ukrainians through them.

And he does. One of the most common student responses we get at the end of our camps is how much the Ukrainian students loved the atmosphere of the camp.

“I loved the busy schedule and the great atmosphere of cheer and faith,” wrote 17-year-old Sasha at the end of the 2014 camp. “I loved everything, but maybe 10 days isn’t enough!”

Lola, also 17, agreed. “Our sincere talks with some people were better than anything. I felt a lot of pain inside, but such amazing people here helped me to overcome all the bad feelings inside of me.”

On the last night of one recent camp, one girl stood up at the final banquet and said that she came to camp empty in her soul, but she said her time at camp had changed her. She said Jesus had filled her heart, and she was going away full.

But Ukrainians aren’t the only ones who are changed—so are the native speakers who come to help lead the camp.

“This was an amazing experience, and it helped me grow closer to God as well as to make many new friends,” wrote a bank teller from southwestern Nebraska.

“It’s an awesome way to minister to others!” wrote a university student from Pennsylvania.

“I learned a lot from the entire experience, and my faith has definitely grown as a result of the camp,” wrote a businesswoman from New Zealand. “This is one of the best (if not the best) camp I have been to.”

We have a few spots for women left at our two camps this summer if you would be interested in joining. Or you could start planning for next summer. It’s a great opportunity to stretch yourself and to grow in your relationship with God. Not to mention that it’s a lot of fun!

And if you can’t come to the camp, don’t worry. You can pray. We need more prayer warriors for Ukraine and financial gifts for the camper scholarship are always welcome.

By Randy Marshall, OMS missionary in Ukraine

Tags: summer camp, english camp, ukraine, ukraine history, religion, camp fun,

English Camp Makes a Splash in Ukraine

May 3 2016

Olya, a 24-year-old graduate of the Linguistics University in Kiev, Ukraine, was so shy, she would barely mouth a word during our weekly Life Group meetings.

She was content to just sit and listen and think.

Sometimes, when we called on her, she would say some significant things, but she preferred not to talk much. Her quiet personality led her to feel rejected by some classmates during her school years, and that might have contributed to her reserved behavior.

Although she had made a decision to follow Jesus at one of our 2013 summer English camps and started attending a Life Group faithfully, she didn’t really grow significantly until one of the 2014 camps. We invited her to help reach out to new students, but God reached out to her.

“I understood what it means to live with Jesus and to follow him,” she wrote after camp. “I want to change my life totally. Not to be afraid to leave my old life and habits and to be brave enough.”

Now Olya is growing significantly. She has even led the Bible discussion at one of our weekly Life Groups a number of times. She is a thinker and not afraid to ponder questions deeply. She still doesn’t talk a lot in Life Group, but when she does, she usually shares a powerful idea or asks a significant question.

Olya still is learning boldness, but God is changing her. She recently shared how she felt the Spirit prompting her to challenge her pre-Christian brother about some disrespectful comments toward their parents.

He responded not with anger, but remorse—expressing that he feels helpless to stop his behavior. And he asked Olya for help—opening the door for deeper spiritual conversations.

Olya is just one of many Ukrainian young people who have been touched by the Spirit through the English camp ministry in Ukraine. We’ve been privileged to organize 20 camps in Ukraine since 1994.

A goal of our camps is not to teach English—but to help students who already speak English get lots of practice with native speakers. That’s why we invite teams of 10 to 15 native English speakers from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

But our main goal is to place pre-Christian university students in a camp atmosphere with a group of vibrant, Jesus-loving Christians. And the students usually experience a love and acceptance that they’ve never felt before. It forces them to deeply consider the claims of Jesus and the Bible—most for the first time ever.

It’s always amazing to see students who come to camp with an ambivalence toward Christianity and the Bible join so enthusiastically in the worship by the end of camp. The Spirit of God and the love of Jesus have a powerful transforming influence.

To give to the Ukraine Summer English Camp fund, click here.

By Randy Marshall, OMS missionary in Ukraine

Tags: ukraine, summer english camp, students, fun, teaching english, life groups,