I can relate!

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!   DSC_0557 (2)

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.

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Each night we had a taste of American cooking. Hot dog and hamburger night! soo good!

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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!  

Youth Camp Star Wars style

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Some people are very happy about walking around with their team in a cardboard spaceship, and some people… not so much.

IMG_2050I 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!

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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.

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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.

A time to plant

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.

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Singing with the children before we split into groups for Bible study.

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The last day of camp is carnival day.  At each carnival game families earn tickets and then come and buy prizes with their tickets.

New Experiences Together

There was a line of cars in front of our church building as the sun began to spread its light.  Almost thirty young people from my church were headed to a youth conference in a city three hours away.  After a few pit stops for car repairs and other necessary things we arrived in Veronedj.  The day was filled with good fellowship, insightful messages and encouraging music but my favorite part of the trip was yet to come.  We stayed the night with families from the church and returned the next day to be part of the Sunday morning worship service.  Hi up in the choir loft our choir took part in the service through song.  It was the first Sunday of the month so we were celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

They prayed for the bread and then made the long trek up to the choir loft to distribute it to the choir first.  With the way we were standing, it happened that I was the first person in the whole church of a few thousand people to be offered the bread.  When I looked at the plate I was shocked and horrified!  The pieces of bread were as big as my fist!  I quickly searched for the smallest piece, to no avail, and bravely took a chunk.  The Lord’s Supper is such a beautiful time of reflection of Christ’s sacrifice and giving of thanks for what He has done.  A few seconds into my time of prayer and reflection I got the memo that we will be singing as the ushers continue to pass out the bread to others!  I began to stuff the mountain of bread down my throat but it was already too late!  The music had begun.  Still having half the piece of bread in my hand I frantically looked around and saw my friend behind me squeeze her left over piece into the palm of her hand, hiding the evidence.  I quickly followed suit, picked up my choir folder and hid my hand behind the music.  Latter, I heard from other choir members their reactions to the massive pieces of bread.  one of our tenors did not realize we were going to sing during the Lord’s Supper so was peacefully taking his time praying when he heard the accompaniment track to our song come on.  He opened his eyes to see our director posed and ready to begin.  What would you do in this situation?  In a split second my friend stuffed the whole piece in his mouth and sang the whole song with his cheeks full of bread!  During the prayer for the wine I managed to inhale the remainder of my bread. Someone leaned over and whispered, “Know let’s see if they bring us all individual liters of wine to drink!”  This, thankfully, was not the case.

That night as our caravan made its way back to Tambov we reflected on everyone’s experiences from the weekend.  But we just kept coming back to how big the pieces of bread were!  While we were pulled over, during one of our car repair stops, people got out of their cars to visit with each other.  One woman who was traveling with us, had not been in church with us that morning because she was visiting her friend’s church.  She shared how that morning they had taken the Lord’s Supper and the pieces of bread were so huge.  BUT, she asked the usher if she could just break off a little piece, and he replied, “Actually that’s what you are supposed to do.”  The people in my car fell silent out of horror and then burst into laughter!  OOPS!

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Also in Veronedj we were given New Testaments and went to give them to people who would want them.  I got to see many of my young friends who are just starting on their walk with God be bold and engage strangers in conversation.  This is a picture of us singing in the park after we had given out the Bibles.

   Two weeks in Europe 

I am blessed to be spending the next two weeks with my future team while they are applying for visas.  Every three months the team in Lipetsk has to exit to apply for new visas.  They found a very cost effective option in Vienna and invited me along.  Only two days into the trip and I am really enjoying getting to know my future team.

Last night we decided we wanted some authentic Austrian food.  So we stopped at a little pub down the street from our hotel and filed in, all eleven of us.  When the waiter came out with the picturless German menue we all prepared ourselves for an interesting meal.  We somehow got across the drinks we wanted and then worked through the options on the menue.  When the waitress came out we tried to ask about certain things.  She was great.  She started mooing and putting her fingers next to her head like horns to show it was cow.  For the dish that I asked about she began squwaking and doing her version of the chicken dance.  The best part was how serious she was about it, so none of us felt it was appropriate to burst into laughter.  It was very difficult.  

Success!!  Sarah was very happy with her “Viner schnitzel.”  

We didn’t all get what we thought we orderd but it was all very good!  We waited and waited for the last two meals that we thought had been ordered, until finally I tried to ask the waitres when their meals would come.  We all understood that the two children that had been waiting, actually did not have any food comming.  Of course we thought we had ordered them something… I wonder if she thought that we were just so cruel to have these two starving children sit there and watch us eat.  We had all shared with eachother and had more than we could eat so the children did not go hungry.  In the whole mix up I asked… No, I tried to ask, for the check to see if their meals were orderd.  She came out with the menue.  I tried again, drawing pictures in the air of a rectangle pice of something.  She came out with a pen and paper.  I finally took money out of my wallet and pretended to count it out and hand it to her.  She then understood.

Now I have a new language I want to learn!  We’ll see how long that desire lasts.

Grandma Loobov (love)

It was a wet, cold day in November and Lisa (my roommate) and I were headed to the hospital. We entered the campus and made our way to the last building in the first line. After handing in our coats to the coat check (because they are dirty from outside) we put on our plastic shoe coverings called bahili. Off we went to the corridor and were met with a nearly suffocating stench of medicine and other such things (not sure what all the smells were, not sure I want to know). There was no front desk or anyone to ask where our friend’s grandma was so Lisa tried to remember from her visit the day before. As we waited for the elevator (lift) to the second flour we wondered if the four people waiting would fit in the regular sized elevator. We all squashed in, with Lisa and I stuck in the back and us exciting first, of course. After wandering around the second floor for a few minutes we peeked our heads into a little room and found the tired smile of Sergei. He has been sitting with his adopted grandmother all week. Feeding her through a tube, running after nurses for medicine and changing her pampers. His adopted mom had come once the day before but pregnant with twins and often in a drunken state, she can not be bothered with caring for her mom. So Sergei has asked for help, because he can not sit with grandma Looba twenty-four seven. There is no bed or food for him here. He needs his rest, he already has a bad cough. So Lisa and I came in, wide eyed and nervous. Sergei showed Lisa how to give babushka Looba water through her tube and to hold her hand so she wouldn’t pull out the injection. As Sergei was leaving I handed him a bag of food insisting that he eat. He kind of promised and went off to his doctors appointment for the cough.

Looba had a stroke and is left without speech and strength. I believe the three other grandmas in the room have suffered from the same thing. We have a husband sitting with his wife, a woman who looks very healthy actually, and the third one (with purple hair) has a nurse that her family pays to sit with her.
A nurse just came in to put needles into babushka Looba’s stomach while she was sleeping. Lisa had to hold the cotton over the poke when she was done, I guess it saves on bandaids or tape.
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Please pray for  grandma Looba that she would regain strength and be able to go home. Pray for my church that people would come and care for this dear boy and his grandma. And pray for Sergei to understand the love God has for him and accept Jesus’s free gift of holiness and receive an amazing relationship with The Lord.

Fear of Men

Asking wisdom from godly friends is so important. Following their advice has been difficult but I know it is wise. So I have been trying to be faithful in following their wisdom.

But I realized that it had begun to turn into fearing men. Deep down in my heart I would wonder if my friends saw me acting this way would they approve? Would they think I was following their advice? It was steeling my joy and freedom in Christ. I realized that my actions should not change (I do not need to stop following their advice), but my heart, somewhere deep inside, had to change. I needed to call myself out on fearing men and live a godly, holy life blameless before God.

Praise The Lord, He gave me opportunity to clearly see this in my heart this week. I acted in a way that was not according to the wise advice I had received and was convicted to apologize to our camp leader. I purposed in my heart that the first time I saw him in the morning I would tell him. I saw him, and hesitated, but praise The Lord my feet just started taking steps towards him. Before I knew it I was standing before Igor and offering my apology. And as God’s grace would have it, turned out that Igor did not say that he disapproved of what I had done. Even so I knew my heart had been wrong before The Lord but it proved to me that I am not to fear how men view me. I am to stand before God in blamelessness. This does not mean I should not apologize for wrongs I do before men, but my motivation is not to gain approval, it is to remain right before God. Does that make sense? Anyway, it’s a little hard blessing that God has been teaching me during the past camp.

Here is a picture from the Lipetsk children’s camp, with the theme of Alice in Wonderland. My ministry was crafts, teaching English Bible songs, doing English club, and trying to serve the staff whenever I could.
Please pray for the upcoming Yezidi children’s camp.
– team unity
– health and energy
– creativity and clarity as we teach the Word
– salvation and spiritual growth of the children

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