The missionary organisation “International Messengers” has developed an effective model for short-term mission outreach across Eastern European countries. During the summer young individuals attend camps to improve their English, using the Bible. A group of fourteen Christians from Johannesburg were group leaders for camps near Odessa, Ukraine in support of our missionaries currently living there, Arkadiy and Anneke Naydenov. The leaders were divided into two camps, namely Camp Canaan and the Forest Camp.
Camp Canaan was held at a facility an hour away from Odessa. There were 69 Russian-speaking recruits aged between 15 and 25, ranging from young medical doctors to university students to school-goers. They were divided into seven groups according to their English speaking ability, and were provided with a daily two-hour session of English language and vocabulary, followed by exercises or games to practice what had been taught. Mixed groups (irrespective of English ability) were also formed for Bible studies and informal conversation time. Each group had a translator who assisted when conversing with the campers. Afternoons were filled with optional activities. Friendships developed quickly between leaders and their groups, and students were enthusiastic and open. Many campers used free time to talk to leaders about the issues and challenges they face. Leaders were often able to talk about their faith in Jesus Christ and to make positive input into the lives of the campers. The Bible studies focused on teachings from the New Testament, and were pre-planned to take the students up to gospel night, when 11 campers gave their life to Christ. The camp ended with a banquet where campers were treated to a special meal and given a certificate of completion of the English Camp.
The forest camp was held in a forest situated an hour and a half away from Odessa. The accommodation was a tented camp with makeshift showers, basins and toilets. A caravan was set up with a gas cooker where food was prepared and fresh drinking water was brought to the camp from a nearby village. A group of ten people from South Africa USA led the campers, along with three translators and 12 individuals from the local church who also worked as camp staff. In total there were 32 campers whose English abilities were far less than those at camp Canaan. The forest camp followed a similar structure to Camp Canaan with regards to the Bible lessons and English teaching times. Whilst the forest camp had many challenges, the participants found it highly valuable and certainly an experience to remember!
For three days after the camp, the group leaders and participants gathered to cement the relationships that had developed and to encourage and facilitate long-term involvement of the campers in the local church. What a privilege and blessing to be involved with this type of international mission. God is good.