Holocaust Survivors’ Retreat
We’ve had just over 24 hours between ending the camp for Ukrainian children and the start of a new week for Polish teens, but I’m currently caught up (I think) so I thought I’d take a few minutes to write a real update while the teens are arriving and getting settled in.
The last two weeks have been exhausting, but wonderful. The Holocaust Survivors were very open to having us here and we enjoyed many smiles, hugs and attempted conversations with them. Kazik was bold with his message from the start. Sometimes New Testament teaching is reserved for the end of the week because it can put up walls if they feel we are trying to make them abandon their Jewish faith. But the majority of this year’s group are non-practicing Jews and were less offended by mentions of Jesus. It is always hard to get a report of how the week affected them, but we did hear that there were some asking questions and showing interest in “our church”. There were many expressions of how loved they felt. If nothing else, I think that is something.
If you’ve been following our posts, you’ve seen hundreds of pictures from Ukrainian Children’s Camp. What an incredible week! As always, I was pretty emotional saying goodbye to them yesterday. We had nearly 70 kids, most of whom have not been in church. We taught lessons on the Fruit of the Spirit with a theme “New Me”, focusing on how God grows good things in our lives so we come to know who He is and can reflect who He is to others. I was able to teach the first lesson, introducing the theme and teaching on the first “fruit”, Love through the story of Zacchaeus. I also led crafts each day and put together the daily picture video for our evening session. These things kept me pretty busy each day! We were able to take them to a water park, which was something many of these kids have never had a chance to experience and had a day of giving away lots of clothes, hats, hair bows, balls, etc. Thank you, Patsy Rockhill, for the adorable dresses I was able to give to the girls. A couple of the counselors even fit into them and were super excited about them! A few left-over dresses are on their way to Ukraine now to be given away in the community.
The final lesson was on gentleness and self-control. Sandy taught that lesson and did a great job transitioning to a decision time by talking about how Jesus demonstrated those traits leading up to the crucifixion. She encouraged every camper to take the next step in their relationship with Christ and the seats were nearly empty. 22 of those were first time decisions… day one of their “new me”.
Throughout all of this, Ben has been working on some projects around the camp with his buddy Wojciech – like building new benches for the campfire amphitheater. We celebrated his birthday yesterday by squeezing in a pizza lunch at a restaurant in town. Ethan has contributed his usual pine cone pickup, turned 11 (celebrated with McDonald’s), and spends time with Ben and Klara Korytkowski between sessions. Anna helps Lydia run the snack shack and helps out with various things as needed.
One of the great things about being here is all of the incredible people we get to minister alongside. There are interns and camp staff that are here through all of it with us, but also different teams that come in to lead each week. We were reunited with some old friends and met new ones from Savannah, GA for the week with the Holocaust Survivors, along with a few other additions from US and Poland; enjoyed a fun team from Rhode Island for the Ukrainian Children’s Camp plus the Ukrainian leaders that came with the kids; and now we are getting to know this week’s speaker from Connecticut and a group of Polish leaders. One of the members of the Rhode Island team surprised us (and her daughters) with a decision to be baptized in the lake one night. She had been sprinkled as a baby but had never made her own commitment through emersion. Brooke said she has been thinking and praying about it for a year and just felt the moving of God in this place to a point that she didn’t want to wait any longer. What a great night that was!
… ok, ignore the first paragraph. It’s been hours since I started trying to write this post! We’ve now finished the introductory session of the teen Camp “reGeneration”. Anna was brave enough to join me on “Team Hulk” (green) with one Polish leader and seven polish teens. This is a smaller group with around 30 campers, but I’m hopeful that means better relationships can form. Please join me in praying that God will move in the hearts of these teens this week.
On a personal note, we could also use some prayers in situations that make it hard to be so far from home. Ben’s grandma passed away last week. It was hard to not be able to be there for family or attend the funeral. We’ve also learned that my grandma is not doing well and hospice has been called in to help with her pain. I’m grateful we fly into Indy (instead of Chicago) in a week and I am hope I might have a chance to see her. Prayers appreciated.
I know it’s been almost a week since my last update, but there has just been no time to blog. Since our trip to the concentration camp we have…
- said goodbye to the team from Savannah, GA
- finished the time with the Holocaust Survivors and said goodbye to our new friends from Israel
- “flipped the camp” (aka lots of cleaning, preparing beds, etc.)
- welcomed a new team from Rhode Island
- planning and preparations for Ukrainian Children’s Camp
- welcomed 80 kids and leaders
- finished two very full days of camp
Our title of this camp is “New Me” – The Fruit of the Spirit with a garden theme I (Rachel) was privileged to teach the very first lesson, in which I introduced the theme and taught the first characteristic – LOVE. I made the kids recite the day’s memory verse (“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19), and they had to express love by giving me a hug, in order to leave the chapel for canteen. It might have been partially a selfish ploy to get a hug from every single one of these precious kids, but I’m not ashamed to admit it! 😉
One of my roles is to put together a picture video for the evening session, so even if I don’t have time to write much, I’ll at least share those. You’ll be able to see all the great things going on and pray over this week with us!