A Real Update

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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.

Ukrainian Children’s Camp Day 7

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Day 7 Pictures

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Isaiah 55

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The camp leaders (Ukrainian, Polish & American) gather at 7:30 for devotions before our camp day begins.  I got to lead them this morning.  All day yesterday I was praying for God to lead me to what He would have me share because I honestly had no idea what that was going to be.  Several people have shared this week their personal stories of how they struggled when God’s answer to their prayers came in a way they didn’t understand or expect, or when they had to wait so long for it.  That kept coming back to my mind as well as the fact that many missionaries (short term or longer) struggle at some point with doubts about their presence, purpose, and effectiveness.  I went to Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”  As I read the surrounding verses, I was blown away by the perfect connection to our garden theme and our teachings this week on the Fruit of the Spirit.   My sweet friend Sasha said to include our personal stories, even though I’ve shared them before.  Because I believe what I shared about God having a purpose much bigger and farther reaching than we would ever think, I’ll share the thoughts here too.  Maybe there is something here that will encourage you.

Yesterday was our son Ethan’s birthday. And as we celebrated the blessing of having him in our lives, I couldn’t help but think about the circumstances leading up to his birth. Ben and I aren’t as crazy as some of you with your families of 5, 6, 7 kids. We had kinda thought we would have two. But many of you know that our second child, our daughter Grace, passed away at birth. There is a lot more to that story, of course. But sometimes when I look at Ethan I wonder if we would have him in our lives if Grace had lived. I don’t know why we had to go through that tragedy, but I know God has brought so much good from it. Sometimes the plans we make for our lives and what God has in mind are not the same. I think it is because it isn’t really about us at all. It’s about a much bigger picture.

There’s another example from my life… actually, from my parents before me. When my mom and dad were dating, my mom had an opportunity to use her medical training on the mission field by moving to Zimbabwe to help start a new medical clinic, and at that same time, my dad asked her to marry him. There were several circumstances that meant that she had to choose between the two. You might assume she would choose the mission field, that  choosing to marry my dad might seem like she must be ignoring God’s calling on her life. But she prayed and prayed about the decision, as was sure that she was making the right choice when she accepted the proposal.  45 years later, she was able to visit that exact medical clinic, which is still successful, and meet the people God had called there. And in that time, God has used her and my dad to minister to hundreds of college kids for several decades. They also raised my brother and I.  We both have wonderful God-following spouses, who we partner with in multiple aspects of ministry and mission work, including our attempts to raise the next generation to follow and serve God. So my Mom obeyed what she felt God was telling her, even when it didn’t seem to make sense, and that one decision has had a ripple effect that has resulted in a much bigger spreading of the gospel in several countries.

I want to read Isa 55:6-13

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD,
and he will have mercy on them,

and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the LORD.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.’

God’s ways, His thoughts, are so much greater than our human minds can understand. He is a master gardner. He sends out His Word like rain and it will not return empty. It will produce joy and peace, and all the other Fruit of the Spirit we are learning about this week.

You may have moments when you wonder why God brought you here, what your role is, or if there is anything you are accomplishing for the Kingdom. Trust the God who brought you to this place, time and purpose. Even if you never get to see the fruit yourself, He is is growing a garden beyond your imagination and you get to plant some seeds.