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