Working Together to Bring the Gospel to Students in Ukraine

This year, 102 children and teens ages 10-16 attended Ukraine E-Camp 2016. This camp is a direct result of the YFC WorldLink partnership between YFC Greater Louisville and Ukraine YFC. The American team, Ukraine leaders plus translators, counselors, sports and music leaders, a camp evangelist, photographer, videographer, local pastor, cooks, a nurse and a few supportive wives with their really cute little kids made up our staff team of 50.

On June 26, the American-Ukraine team, including Mike and Judy Manna and six other Americans, prepped the camp for the arrival of the campers on Monday.  This year, the campers came from YFC Day Centers around Western Ukraine. These Day Centers (DCs) are YFC Ukraine’s main avenue of ministry. The YFC staff trains volunteers in churches to open their doors to street kids or neglected children through providing a craft, games, homework help, a Bible lesson and a meal. Most churches run their DCs two to five days a week. With 82 DCs around Ukraine, they have proven to be a wonderful way to minister to children and youth at risk. Sometimes entire families have started coming to church…and have come to know the Lord.

At E-Camp, the English classes are divided by the DCs, keeping kids together with their leaders so that relationships and trust are deepened.  All of the campers return home with ongoing discipleship and support of their YFC staff and volunteers.

The camp schedule went like this: Staff meeting and prayer at 7:30am, breakfast, English songs, first English lesson, crafts, lunch hour, second English lesson, snack, camp games, supper, free time, and then a 2-hour evening meeting comprised of skits, worship, a testimony from a Ukrainian and an American, Tolik’s evangelistic talk drawing, a short message, and in closing the much-anticipated music video of the previous day! After the evening sessions, each class had discussion/snack time with their leaders. After the campers were in bed, all of our staff met for a final meeting and prayer … at 11:30 PM!

The days were long and full, and because of the camper’s home lives (or lack thereof) some of these were tough kids. Some kids were not used to understanding instructions, obeying or showing respect. Others were great! A few of the older campers could communicate a little in English, but most of the younger ones knew only the customary, “mother, father, brother, sister, please, thank you, and sit down!” Some of the teachers with rambunctious young boys found themselves frequently repeating that last one! J

After the first class of the E-Camp, especially if the students are not able to read or communicate in English, the American teachers can feel overwhelmed and wonder if they will accomplish anything in their classes or be able to build relationships, since they cannot understand each other. (Mike, Judy, and their daughter, Katya have a definite advantage though since they speak both English and Russian.) After the first or second class, the teachers are already learning how to tweak the lessons to best teach and involve our students through sharing ideas that work with each other.  Every day, through teaching, playing games, eating meals, and lots of laughing, hugging, and charades, communication grows.

When it is time to go home, the American-Ukrainian team says goodbye to children and teens, translators, counselors and other staff who have grown very dear. Posing with kids for picture after picture, along with tender goodbyes and that repeated last hug take over an hour before the buses filled with waving arms pulls away.

The Manna’s adopted their daughter, Katya, while they lived in Ukraine between 2002 and 2012. Katya, a sophomore at Huntington University, is an intern for YFC Louisville this summer and also a leader at E-Camp. What was special this year is that two of Katya’s nieces, Yulia (10 yrs.), and Vika (9 yrs.) from Northern Ukraine were invited to attend E-camp! Yulia gave her hear to Christ and Vika began to pray to God.

It is through the support of sending churches and friends, the support team at National Service Center, and the prayer warriors in which ministries like this happen. None of this would have happened without the partnership of so many. We work together as members of one body – hands, mouth, feet – for the purpose of sharing Christ with others. We are always aware of and praying for God to bless you … and one day you will share in the rewards as you meet Alosha, Andre, Vlad, Ura, Ruslana, Nastia, Masha, Yulia, or so many others in Heaven. Around 80 young people poured forward on the last night of camp to ask Jesus to forgive their sins and help them to live their lives in obedience to Him. Please pray for those who committed their lives to Him at E-camp that He will help their faith to grow. Pray also for the YFC staff and volunteers who are discipling these kids on a weekly basis.

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