refugees

We’ve Been Busy

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My apologies for a delay in writing.  My last post described preparations for the big 45th Anniversary celebration of Ostroda Camp – and what a great day it was!   Although I couldn’t understand hardly a word (the interpreters were all very busy through the day with various tasks), it was great to see the reactions to pictures, camp artifacts and stories shared about memories of time spent here.  Ben was able to finish the new camp sign in time to unveil it.  I know I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty amazing.  Just another example of how God gives us each our own unique gifts and then uses them for His glory if we are willing to serve.  Here’s a the old sign and its newly created replacement.

13418551_1804860999803236_1211767344721537391_oI’ll add some more pictures from the day to our photo album on Facebook, but here’s one of the kids ringing the bell to call everyone to the chapel.  Anna and I also had the privilege of singing as part of a small ensemble we pulled together for the grand finale in the final session.  We sang Agnes Dei.  After much (much, much) practice, God pulled our voices together to close out the day.  Several people joined us even when we sang in English, but when we switched to Polish… WOW!  The place was just filled with worship when we hit a  final chorus in both languages a ccapella.  It was awesome!

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Once again we flipped the camp, this time preparing for the arrival of new team members from Missouri and Michigan, and 68 Ukrainian Children plus their counselors.  The American team arrived late last night and we spent the day getting to know one another, going over the camp schedule and making final preparations. At the last update I heard, the bus from Ukraine was at the boarder.  They expect this to be about a 2 hour process as the line of vehicles is TEN miles long and everyone over age 12 is fingerprinted.  Once they are in Poland, they will have another 8 hours on the road to reach Ostroda Camp.  We expect them early in the morning, and we are ready.  During this camp, we are playing a supporting role.  The group from Missouri is doing the teaching and leading.  There will still be lots and lots for us to do, but I’m hoping this means that I can spend more time just loving on these kids!

I really do have some spiritual thoughts to share sometime, rather than just news updates.  But the hour is late, I am very tired and brain-dead, and tomorrow begins early.  So I’ll just leave you with this… God is working and I can’t wait to see what He does with this week of camp.

Faces That Will Melt Your Heart and Life Stories That Will Break It

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Our time with the Ukrainian children has been wonderful so far.  And heartbreaking. 

IMG_2149They are such beautiful kids, with contagious smiles, and they seem to be having a great time at camp.  But we’re learning more and more about the life they are living as war refugees, and I won’t even be able to write this without tearing up.  The lesson Ben and I taught on Thursday was about the point where Joseph’s life went from good to bad.  As we prepared to teach, the parallels were obvious – especially the fact that Joseph had to leave his home and was separated from his family.  We found a beautiful pot and put a nice plant in it as an illustration of Joseph’s life.  As we reviewed the things his brothers did to him, we destroyed it – blow by blow with a hammer, until we had a heap of broken pieces.  (Trust me.  This was hard to do.  It was a IMG_2157pretty pot.)  Then we talked about how God has a way of making new, beautiful things out of broken pieces… including our lives.  Later this week, we are going to make new stepping stones for the camp with what was destroyed.  I chose my favorite verse for our memory work that day.  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12  So we moved to a time of asking exactly how we can be praying for them in their time of affliction.  Several people commented on how the kids didn’t have to think at all before they started writing.  It was clear that each of them had something on their mind.

I started getting the slips of paper back today from the translators.  I knew that these were refugee children and that many of them have lost family members in the war in Ukraine.   But reading through them, by names that I can now put with faces…heartbreaking.  “Pray for my dad to come back”, and Oksana would add the note for our information that his dad was killed in the war.  There is one child who said to pray for her family, and we found out that a bomb was dropped on their property, killing her mother.  There is a boy here whose mom came with him because his father was killed and he won’t let her out of his sight. We have certainly seen moments when these things overcome them and they breakdown. When I think about what they’ve been through, I’m truly amazed it isn’t more. Even those who haven’t suffered such tragedy have clearly been impacted and are fearful. Almost every paper said something about the war, asking for peace, or wanting to go home. By “home”, I don’t think they mean they want to leave camp. They want to return to homes they have been forced out of because of the conflict. 

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So I ask you to join me in praying over these precious children, their families and Ukraine.  May God speak love and hope to their young hearts during this brief time they are with us.