It was the last day of camp. The quest that had taken the campers through the woods and into the basement seeking clues to find the source of friendship, had finally lead them to their final destination with all the resources for success. Each team had a long piece of thin rope with a hook at the end and were surrounding a pot full of soda and snickers bars just out of reach. The pot was in the ground most of the way and the campers were kept back by large piles of wood and caution tape. The young men running this station explained that the campers task was to lift the bucket out of the ground straight up and only then would they find the source of friendship. Their clue was “a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.” So what do you think the counselors did? Of course, they said to their team, “we can do this on our own! Then we’ll have all the sweets to ourselves!” It was so neat to see how the children first followed their counselor’s advice but then when they saw that the bucket kept tipping over they realized that they needed to work together. One little girl standing near by kept shouting, “Don’t you guys understand?! The theme of the camp is Friends for Life! We need to work together and help each other or we will all lose!” All three teams eventually decided to work together. They threw all three hooks around the buckets handle, and 1, 2, 3… The pot began to come out of the ground!
I pray that this camp has a lasting impact on the life of the children from our church. I pray that our church grows in love and care for one-another!
Honesty. Ask any of my friends, “What’s Amanda like?” One of their first words of description will most likely be “honest”. Many would say, “She is open and real about stuff.” And anyone who has spent even a little bit of time with me probably has experienced how offensive and shocking this can be. Even in Russia, I do not have a wide vocabulary to be able to choose my words carefully so I just choose the words that I think will be the most clear to the hearer.
Having landed in America in October, I hit the ground running, with church mission conferences, visiting friends and catching up with family. As I share stories about what is happening in Russia I want to encourage the church that God is at work and good things are happening. In reaction, I hear the word, “exciting!” Yes, it is exciting, and I am glad to have a front row seat in so many of God’s amazing stories. I want to be honest, I don’t share everything! There is some hard stuff that happens in our churches! I am working with people, people let me down! I let them down. I get lazy, I get selfish. I keep feeling like people use me as an example to their church. “Give God your life like Amanda did!” I just shudder when I see this happening. If they only knew how many times a day I mess up. How often I have to give God my life again. I am human. I need to be honest with you. I sometimes wonder what I am doing in Russia. I sometimes struggle with feelings of failure. Praise the Lord for any encouragement I am to those who need to be reminded that God will care for those who love Him. But please, please give all, every little bit, every piece of praise and honor to our Lord God Almighty. The honest truth is that God will never leave me or forsake me. The honest truth is that the nearness of God is my good (Ps 73:28). The honest truth is that walking in holiness, sharing the gospel and being a faithful friend are real struggles for me and any time these things are worked out in my life it is only by the faith and grace that God has given me. His grace is sufficient for me and you, for His power is made perfect in weakness. So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me (2 Cor. 12:9). Please, continue to rejoice for all the good that the Lord has done (Ex. 18:9) and give Him all the praise, because He has done it!
Just in time for breakfast the little band I picked up from the bus stop and I crept into Katie’s home. As we took off our coats and boots we quietly greeted each other with sleepy “good mornings”. Katie’s boys had just woke up and the little boy that came with me was staring in awe at his new saroundings. His mother got him settled and we all went into the kitchen. Sitting around the family table, Katie gave us all some kasha and we began our breakfast. It was quiet, but comfortable. I had seen Katie almost every day this week and have become very comfortable with her. But this morning we didn’t gather to plan for youth group or talk about camps, the three of us women decided that we needed time for our own encouragement. So Weser time aside for our Spiritual growth, and God made it even better.
As we began our Bible study I understood that the children were not being ushured out of the room. This was Katie way, she includes her boys in everything she does. It is such a blessing to see. So we began our study on Psalms 139. When I asked my 7 year old friend if he would read outloud with us, I was answered with a big grin and an enthusiastic nod. He did such a good job and in between thinking about the verses and the lesson I thought how interesting that I read worse than a seven year old (in Russian).
I began asking questions and as we all answered together and wrote things down and read more verses I saw a consistent smile on my little friends face. We learned who God is, and how he sees us and how we are to respond to this.
The best part for me was during the time that we took prayer requests. I asked everyone if they had anything we could pray about. The grinning seven year old piped up and said, “I am so glad we have this group! And God knows us and made us!” What a joy it was to see the adults and children alike find this treasure in God’s Word.
Me- “What is your name?”
Thai woman- “One.”
Me (confused)-“what is your first name?”
OH!! Her name is One! I met One at a small church plant in Thailand. She and her husband bring a car-load of children every week and over lunch I began asking how she new the Lord and why did she love serving Him so much.
When she was a teenager she was studying to be a budist nun. She dressed all in white and learned the different prayers by heart. One day she met a woman who told her that Jesus was the savior of the world. This foreigner spoke Thai and One began to wonder why was this message so important that a person would study her people language to tell it. Around this time One saw a church and noticed that there was a cross on the building. She wondered what the cross meant. As One visited more with the foreign missionary God began answering her questions about life and Himself. She began to study the Bible in a small group, then after a little while started going to church. So she accepted God but was still practicing Budism and worshiping at the temple. Finally the missionary told her that a person can not serve two opposing things. She had to choose! So she chose Jesus.
At school when all the children bowed to the idle she was the only one that stayed upright. Her teacher was so surprised and alarmed. She asked One why and One told her that she found the God that can hear, speak, and move and she did not need any other god. The teacher began to cry and try and change One’s mind but it was no use. One said that she has the best God and she will not give Him up. After that she began to receive poor grades in school. Although her father and uncle are leaders in the budist temples she was not excommunicated from her family. But she really loves them and wanted them to know God.
Know she and her husband hold Bible studies for the children in their village and pray that they will accept the good news of the gospel.
Maybe some of you are confused. “I thought you lived in Russia.” Your saying. I am still living in Russia. My mission sent me to Thailand for a month for some training and meetings. I returned home last week and am happy to see that here November is white and crystal!
Happy thanksgiving to all and a merry Christmas!
It was the Wednesday morning before youth camp and one of my teammates was walking me through the unique qualities of her home. I was going to care for her apartment while she was away. One of the things mentioned was that perhaps she would leave me a few bags of clothes to bring down to the trash bins. People use the trash bin as a second hand shop of sorts. If items are placed next to the bins, they are generally not trash but are no longer wanted by the original owner. After this meeting I had about 15 days of youth camp. My brain turned into oatmeal and I had no memory of anything that she had told me, and I couldn’t find where I had written it all down. The first few times I was able to stop in after camp I saw two bags of cloths next to her door in the entrance way that she shares with her neighbor. At first I left them, not being sure if they where in fact hers or not. Curious, I wrote her an e-mail, knowing that she was traveling and it might be a while befor she could get back to me. But there the bags where every time I stopped in. One day I decided that they must be hers so I took them and put them in my car. I drove around with those bags for a few days, still uneasy about giving them away without being sure. Within that time I had come and gone from the apartment a few times and the neighbors, who I had not yet met, had not come out to yell at me, so I figured that the bags did not belong to the neighbors. I finally left them by the trash bins and drove off. When I went past the bins a few hours latter the bags where already gone. A few days latter I received an e-mail from my teammate, “Don’t take the bags, they’re not mine! But you have probably figured that out by now.” WHAT!!!??? The next day, with great trepidation, I rapped on the neighbor’s door. I introduced myself and they appeared to be quite nice. Then I pointed to the dreaded corner where the bags had been placed and said, “there were two bags…” Before I could go on they exclaimed, “oh it was you that took them, don’t worry we were going to give them away anyway.” I practically leaped for joy, “Praise the Lord!”
I wouldn’t suggest this as a missionary strategy but it worked for me. Want to meet your neighbors? Steal from them. And now my little neighbor raps on my door with more bags of things, asking me if I know someone who can use this or that and to please take it to someone.
The thrill of watching something begin! The excitement of being a part of a huge dream unfolding! This fall God has put the pieces in place for a new ministry to slowly peak its head out of our dreams. The ideas wiz around as volunteers from our orphan ministry team plan the beginnings of a drop in center for graduated orphans. We hope to provide classes to help the orphans develop life skills. Or desire is that the relationship we build with the children in our orphan ministry will be a bridge for them when they come out of the orphanage. We want them to know we love them and have trust already established.
We are praying for:
Finances (for more information visit Hope and Help to Orphans.)
What elements to involve in the program.
A convenient and neutral location
Our friends to accept the love and salvation of Christ!
Thank you for your prayers!
Praise the Lord for a great retreat we had! Orphan ministry teams from three different cities got together to encourage and share experiences with one another. I think we all came away with new passion to care for our children.
We can not sit silent while we know so many without the hope of knowing love! So we prayerfully make plans and in God’s wisdom think creatively. By God’s grace there will be fruit of our work and by His strength we will never give up. We are planing our third annual orphan ministry seminar. The team has grown this year to include people with very divers backgrounds and strengths. I am honored to be a part of this very important work! Surrounded by graceful teachers I decided to use this time as a learning experience so I took notes on the board.
As I made mistakes or asked for clarification my team practiced such patience and helped me in my journey to a better knowledge of the Russian language. They also blessed me with the opportunity to serve during the seminar in creative ways since I would not be able or comfortable leading a session. I will be taking care of the coffee-break and preparing some important questions for a hand-out.
I am looking forward to all the churches that will be participating in this weekend the last few days in August. I pray that through this time they will be filled with strength and passion to take into action the things they learn. Please pray with me for the Lord to lead the speakers as they prepare there presentations. Please also pray that many will attend and orphan ministry will begin to spread like wild fire in our area.
Чистое и непорочное благочестие пред Богом и Отцем есть то, чтобы призирать сирот и вдов в их скорбях…
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…
A strange feeling covered the little campground as our Russian friends fearfully filed up to registration. I could see fear in the eyes of some, wondering what they had gotten themselves into. For the next 5 days we all forgot all the Russian we knew and only spoke English! It seamed like our campers where almost going through culture shock. But they all made it and no one was hurt in the process!
A team from America took the responsibility of teaching the English classes, while the team from Russia worked on the program. What great teams we had! The group from America did such a wonderful job teaching, freeing us to focus on making sure everything else ran smoothly. I was in charge of the music; leading practices and getting the slides ready. Also each morning we roused the campers with morning exercises! We did songs like the Hokie Pokie and the cha-cha slide!
Other than that my job was to speak English with all the campers! It was a refreshing change of pace compared to the other camps where I sometimes miss sleep and down time. Half of the campers were not Christians and every night they heard one of their teachers give their testimony. Please pray with me for these campers and for the English club that we have year round.
Each night we had a taste of American cooking. Hot dog and hamburger night! soo good!
Each evening we had a “Late Night Show” During the show we played songs like Don’t Worry Be Happy and interviewed one of the teachers. During the show we played games that got the campers up and talking! Here is a game kind of like rock, paper, scissors…
Since the camp was somewhat small, each person was noticed. We became almost like a big family toward the end of the week. Some would go running together every morning. Before bed we would gather outside in the cool of the night and jump rope or visit. But the thing I really treasured was how, each morning, we would spread out around the whole camp site to spend some personal time with the Lord. Before breakfast there was always a hush over the yard as God’s children sat with Him.
I was sitting on my bench, the place I always go, where the sun shines through the trees onto my face and usually no one notices me. But this morning one of our students was returning from his morning run and wanted to talk. He had caught me reading Romans and so I began telling him what I was reading about. He was engaged in the conversation and seemed like he wanted to know more. I encouraged him to read the Bible and ask God to make Himself known. Later I heard from another missionary that this student noticed how so many of us read our Bibles every day. He asked he if she reads her’s every day too. 🙂 I just love how God works! Where else would this man get to live life with Christians for a week and see who our God is through how we live and how He works in our lives?
Please pray that God will send another team next year to teach English! And pray that God will use this ministry to spread His good news and bring Him Glory!
Some people are very happy about walking around with their team in a cardboard spaceship, and some people… not so much.
I was that mean Jedi that worked on a team of other nicer Jedi’s, forcing team bonding by confining 8 to 11 people to one small “spaceship”. the Jedi’s were the quest creators for our campers at youth camp this year. Every morning the campers flew out of camp in search of resources on their planets to trade for other resources on other planets. But the galaxy is a dangerous place!
The second day of camp a war broke out and the campers had to start looking out for storm troopers who would attack their ship, destroying its protective covering. In the afternoon the campers flew around in their ships working together to complete challenges as they sought the whereabouts of the New Planet.
They completed tasks such as untangling human knots and searching for evidence under a cosmic blanket while not falling off into the abyss. They worked so hard to find the new plant where mars bars grow on trees and Pepsi grows up from the ground like a bush, but they needed the secret weapon to defeat evil and enter the wonderful planet.
Finally they broke the code and used the two edged sword to quench the watery darts of the enemy. Victory!
I praise God for all the answered prayer during these very busy few weeks. The Lord made Himself clear to me one day when it was raining. Cardboard in the rain is not a great combination and I prayed that, if it was God’s will, He would keep the rain away during the quest. And He was very exact. The quest time came and the rain stopped. As soon as the quest was finished the heavens opened up! I was surprised to realize God cared about our quest! It was something I had put hours and hours into and it meant so much to me and then to see that it was blessed by God… it was a huge encouragement. God uses even the strangest tasks (like pinning candy wrappers to trees) for His glory when we serve as to the Lord and not to men.
As I was busy organizing games for the carnival and typing out songs for evening services I was disappointed how little time I had to visit with campers. I reminded myself that my busyness was providing the families with opportunities to relax, study the Word and enjoy time together as a family. And I was running the daycare program so each morning I got to love on the youngest kids group and work with one of our youth as she taught a little lesson. Sometimes I think that I brush off time with children as just fun and refreshing for me, but it is an investment and counts for something when done by the will of God in the power of God. Praise Jesus that serving Him does not wear me out completely but gives me new life.
Singing with the children before we split into groups for Bible study.
The last day of camp is carnival day. At each carnival game families earn tickets and then come and buy prizes with their tickets.