Thursday, September 24, 2009

Last VBS !!! mountain camp-western Ukraine

I can't believe that I am posting this picture, but I guess I am. I must be slipping. Jason and I have this joke between us about how many pictures he takes of just roads. Well, they usually are pretty cool roads, as in rocky, bumpy, or ones with rivers runny through them. I have joked that he has enough pictures of roads that he could fill a full book of them( I really don't think that is stretching it too far). But back to the reason that I decided to put this picture on my blog, we did spend a lot of time on the road this summer. Thank God that not all of them looked like this one, but some of them did. After working with the Gypsies we went to another mountain range far back in the Carpathian mountains of western Ukraine. We were near the Romanian boarder. Any way, we were glad that it had not rained in a while because we would have had to hike up this road in the mud. Even our 4 wheel drive could get to the top if it was wet. We were headed to our final VBS of the summer. Just a little tired but glad that we, with God's help, had made it this far. Once again we camped out on the mountain top and enjoyed the cows coming through our camp every morning, noon, and night headed to the watering hole. The Appling girls didn't know what to think of the cows.
We had the joy of cooking over a campfire three times a day, and washing our clothes in the river, and finding a bush if nature called. It wasn't all that bad. Josh actually liked bathing in the river. But physically we were slowing down. Thank you for praying for us. God really did help us in this camp.
Here is the camp medic, or doctor. Bandaging burns and fixing everyone up. Josh got a pretty bad burn and Dr. Jason is making it all better. What do you know, he even has his duck tape out again. Good job Daddy!!!
The children that came to the mountain VBS for the most part were shy and backward. Some of them couldn't read, while others were very quick. Only one family were believers and they wanted to reach out to their neighbors and their children. Several children came who did not go to church or have other ways to hear about God. We set up our VBS in the orchard and invited the children in. Once again, we shared how God loved us and He created all things. The animals were created in a special way and we were made special too.
Here we are singing and teaching the children songs. Our theme song all summer long was " God has a plan for my life". Artyom and Vita did a very good job leading the children in the singing.
At night we had some fellowship with the teenagers, and one night we even showed the "Jesus" movie in Russian. On the last day that we were there we had a picnic for the children and their parents. We played some games......(look at those mountains in the distance)
... ate some good food...

...and Jason gave out Bibles to the children who came. Pray that God's Word will go into all these homes and will bear much fruit.
It was a hard "good bye" for Jessica and all her new-found friends. She made some good friends that she will remember for a long time.
They begged us to come back. Some of them even had tears in their eyes. We left very tired after a long summer, and headed back home to Osikova, 14 hours away. God gave us help and strength and we want to say thank you to everyone who prayed for us. I will have to say, every VBS, hour of work, and mile we traveled will be worth it if even one child makes it to heaven because we came.
All the children are showing you the craft that they made. Good bye western Ukraine and so ended our summer ministry.

Thank you

Here is one more picture that I forgot to add to my last post. It is the team we worked with them most this summer and our host, Vita's parents, and their daughter. We are in front of their lovely home. We camped out just up the mountain from their home. Vita's mother was a wonderful cook and did a great job feeding all of us. Thank you for all you did to make our stay comfortable. from L to R last row; Artyom, Vita and Stepon (our translators) Vita's father and mother,Vasya and Maria.
front row; Jeff and Stephannie, Seth, Shelby and Gracie Appling, Masha (Vita's little sister), Jessica, Joshua, Joanna (that's me) and Jason (that's my man)

Gypsy VBS western Ukraine

I know I am doing the unpardonable sin by putting a sunset picture at the beginning of my post. But will you please forgive me. By this time in our summer ministry, we were all so tired that we didn't know if we were going or coming, if it was a sunset or a sunrise. Any way it was beautiful. I loved the mountains in western Ukraine. We miss our mountains in Colorado so it was great camping out under the stars and listening to the crickets . Don't get me wrong it wasn't a vacation, just a beautiful location to serve. We camped on top of the mountain and went to bed watching sunsets like the one above. We were staying on Vita's parents farm.
It was so nice to get some good Ukrainian food. Vita's mother even cooked us some food from the Carpathian mountains. I loved her cook shack. It was so quaint. There was a big, wood burning cook stove in the corner and then cabinets and a little work table. Why would you want to heat up you house in the summer time with cooking, when you have a great place like this. You should have seen the tomatoes growing right outside the door.
When I say that this trip was no vacation, I'm not kidding. Working with the gypsy kids was WORK!!! I have never done children's ministry with kids like these gypsy kids. You can't help but love them, but man are they Wild! Most of them have never been to school so they can't read. Not only that, they can't sit still, or be quite. You just have to talk over them, and them reward the one that was the best behaved.
We tried to play games with them but that didn't keep their interest very long.
We did feed them every day after telling them a Bible story, and singing with them. We tried to make crafts with them and some of them kept eating the craft supplies.
Our time was split between being with the children and cooking for them.
Of course when you are serving food all the moms come too. Artyom was helping serve the gypsies here. I was so proud of him and the way he loved the kids. He is a very, VERY clean person, and gypsies are... well not. At least the ones we were with. The paster required the children to wash their faces before they could come to VBS. One little guy had no pants but he got his butt cleaned as well as his face. But Artyom would hug those little kids even if they smelled bad and had lice. I prayed the we would see the little people that needed to see God's love not just the dirt.
They all just found a place in the shade and chowed down.
After they were done eating , what do you know, they had a new hat. Who said that one person's trash is another's treasure? Any way they could be pretty funny.
One thing for sure, they really loved the watermelon. I think one little guy even used it for hair gel. Hey why not? They make fruit smelling hair spry, don't they? The kids had not been taught a lot of manners, and we had a hard time getting them to say "please" or "thank you" for anything. But when I had a big bowl of watermelon and I would only give a piece to the ones who would say "please", they learn real quick.
Even though we were all worn down by this time and it was the hardest VBS of the summer it was so worth it when you saw the smiles on their faces, the twinkle in the eyes and....

... the group that came forward to pray. We showed them how to pray and ask God to forgive their sins. Then we knelt down and prayed together. It was one of the hardest things we did this summer, but Oh, so rewarding. If you can't tell, I kinda like being a missionary and teaching kids about God.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Youth Camp O9

I am finally getting back to blogging and letting you all see what we did this summer. I promised you that I would share some pictures about Youth Camp so here they are, in three parts. Our youth camp here in Ukraine was by the Black Sea this year. It was a wonderful time and we had a great camp with the Lord's help. We all missed Katrina very much, as she was supposed to lead camp this year, but had to be in the States getting a broken leg fixed. Here is the whole group by the sea, with the team flags. Slavic came to camp for the first time this year. He is from our village and from the looks of it he is enjoying camp so far.
We set up our tent in the trees along the beach and set up camp. We all slept in tents, bathed in the sea, ate food cooked over the fire and used the bathroom in outhouses. The weather was nice, no rain. It was cool in the mornings and evening and pretty warm during the day, but not unbearably hot. We thank the Lord for a great location. Here you can see our church set up. Workers tents are on the one side and behind the cross was the boy's tents. Looking the other way was the kitchen, more worker's tents and then the girl's tents.

Here we are all unloading and getting ready for the week.

We had 25 campers this year and we split them up into two teams. Our team leaders for this first team, Light of God, was Jeff and Tonya Duddek. Their helper and translator was Vita. They were a great team. Their team learned the most Bible verses. Thanks Jeff and Tonya for all your work!!!
The next team was the Seraphims. Jeff and Stephannie Appling were their leaders and Stepon as helper and translator. They did a wonderful job leading their team. The teens really learned to work together and won with the best time in the morning obstacle course several times. Good job Applings!!!
Nodiea and Roman led the singing for us in the services. The teens really liked to sing and Roman did a good job leading them.
Not only were the Applings and Duddeks leaders they acted out skits every night before the evening preaching.
It was a great way to get some spiritual truths through to the teenagers. The teens caught on to the idea and they even came up with some great skits of there own. Here is one that they shared in the night service about sharing God's love with the needy. It was a great idea.
Every day we gave the teenagers time for them to have personal time with God, reading their Bibles and praying. I am so glad that we did this. One boy told me that he couldn't wait until this time every day. He would run to his own quite place on the beach so not to waste even one minute of his alone time. How many of us are that serious about our prayer time?
We had a ticket system at camp where the teens could earn tickets for memorizing verses, taking part in the evening services, and extra work. Then they turned them in at the "store" for snack food. Some of the teens really got into earning tickets. Faith ran our store for us. Thanks Faith!!!
We had so much fun this year. Our theme was "On the trail with Jesus". Every day we learned something new about staying on the path to Heaven. Many of the teens said that it was the best youth camp yet. Thanks to all who prayed and gave.

Youth Camp #2

Every morning our two teams lined up a 7:45 to do the Obstacle Course. Here Jeff A. and Stephannie are trying to get their team awake and ready to win with the best time on the obstacle course. The team with the best time received tickets for each member. But one day the team with the best attitude also received tickets. Also in the night service the camper, for each team, with the best attitude received 10 tickets! Here we have started off and swinging across on the rope swing. Then on to the .....
team skies. Artyom had such long legs and took big steps that his team kept falling down. There were other things they had to do like fill a bucket with water from the sea by passing a pop bottle down the line of people, and walking across a board, Oh and crawling through a tunnel.

One day they had to climb the rope to the top.
I think the best part of the obstacle course was lining up the words for John 3:16 (in Ukrainian) on a board and then carrying until you crossed the line. If they hurried too much and dumped it they had to start all over again.
It was a great way to start the day and it really helped with team spirit. I think it really brought the teens together and taught them how to work together. Not a bad thing for anybody to learn.

Youth camp #3

At youth camp this year there are a few things that stand out in my mind. You could call them the "highlights of the week" or "my favorite memories". But without a doubt the Wed. night service was a highlight for me and many others. God came in such a special way in the skit and then Vita gave her testimony. There was a special prayer time after the service and 16 teens came forward to repent. One young man came to pray later in the night, so that makes 17 young people getting help at camp. God was so close that night!!! It made it worth all the planning and work just for that one night. These pictures are pretty dark because it was evening. Here is another picture of that wonderful night. Thank you for everyone who prayed for this camp and the teens.

Another great service was the last service, Fri. night. We had the teens come forward and nail their sins ( written on a paper) to the cross. We told them that they didn't need to take all their sins back home with them. God had forgiven them. It was a very serious time, and some of the teen really meant what they were doing.
After they all had a chance to nail their sins to the cross, we took them all down and burned them in the camp fire. Praise the Lord we don't have to carry those sins with us any more.
Yes, the skits were great and the night services were a highlight for me. But there were other times in the week that we all felt God's presence near. Like the early morning worker's prayer meeting. We had prayer together before the teens were allowed out of their tents. Seriously this prayer meetings gave me the help I needed to make it through the day!

Another thing that was really great was to see the kids try so hard. One of those that did his best was Vasea. He was the only teen from his village. His Dad didn't give his permission until the very last day, so we didn't know for sure if he would be able to come. But we are so glad that he did. Whenever there wasn't anything else going on, you would find him studying Bible verses or reading his Bible. We were all happy when he received "Camper of the Year" award (it was a new back pack).
So many memories, and so many things I could tell you about. Like singing around the campfire after the evening service...

The jokes the teens played on each other. The girls took the boys shoes and buried them on the beach. As you can see they were very happy when they finally found them.
Another joke that one camper found when he climbed out in the morning.
I love the memory of the teens on the beach having their quite time with God. Please pray that God's Word will impact their lives.
One thing that most of the workers and teens both agreed on was that everyone like the food. Nodiea and Aunt Valya did a great job. It was so good that some of the teens said it was like restaurant food. Cooking over a campfire in the heat is not an easy job, but they worked hard. Thanks for all your work!!!! ( and the good food)
Over all youth camp 09 was just pretty good. Perfect no, but good and lots of good memories to have for a life time. Thank God for a good youth camp and for you praying for us.