Today was a very busy day and the usual morning routine of the camp proceeded as on each of the other days. The guys in my small group continue to respond to questions and engage in meaningful discussion, which is a great thing to see and be a part of. I am humbled to have been called and used in this ways with these guys. I may never see some of them again, or any of them again...but I trust that the work God is doing in their hearts this week will see them through this life and into the one to come - if they truly have believed like it seems they have. There is one young man in particular, Slavik, who seems to still be confused or at least is merely agreeing that the Bible can be trusted and is a good book, but so are many others. We are of course trying to reason with him daily about the supremacy of God's Word, but so far it seems that it is not quite the Word of God yet to him, but only another book with excellent principles by which to live life. He is missing the salvation portion in my opinion that will open his eyes to the truth. In the meantime, we will keep praying for God to reveal himself and remove the scales from his eyes - like only He can do to accomplish any and every true conversion to Christ.
From lunch we practiced another skit and then returned to the same orphanage. We performed the piece and the puppet team shared the gospel through puppet interaction and then song. It was fun to watch the kids really engage with the puppets and pay attention to what was being said. We had a craft time consisting of wire and beads, to construct anything they wish. One little guy was excited to show me the heart shape he had made. Another girl made a bug, I guessed what it was (properly in Russian thanks to the alphabet ipad program that taught me that word - amazing what tools come in handy. I never would have thought I would need that word to communicate with someone on this trip). Upon guessing correctly, the girl just beamed with pride that her creation was recognizable.
At the end of the craft, I initiated a conversation with an older kid who seemed very healthy and strong. I figured he might be too cool to talk with me and blow me off, but gave it a shot anyway. He lit right up when I spoke with him, starting to ask me all sorts of questions. We sorted our way through an animated gesturing conversation about European football and American football. He was so kind...a small chocolate cookie bar thing was passed out (like wafer bars dipped in chocolate I guess). He originally replied, “Look they are small and get one. I am big, two or three times their size - you should give me two!” After our conversation, and on our way out to kick the soccer ball around a bit, he insisted that I share a bite of his bar. Very generous. He saw my wedding ring and asked if I was married...so we talked about Amy and he was amazed that we have 8 children. We made it through him asking if the "malinky" baby was a boy or girl and what her name was. He was talking a million miles an hour...he was very excited and I had fun communicating with him. Before we left, through a translator finally, he said he had so much he wanted to ask me - what is life like in America what do we eat and drink, what kind of houses do we live in, what do our stores look like. We had to tell him that we would not be back tomorrow, and that I was unable to promise a return trip. I told him that I was glad to meet him, in Russian, thanked him and said good-bye. He stood by the bus window and blew kisses good-bye to the team as we left. Wow - I didn't expect that from an 18 year old boy somehow still in the orphanage.
After we left there, we headed back to camp to participate in the evening program of review and memory verse recitals. Here Greg announced audition opportunities for the upcoming theater gospel presentation that goes to many of the local camps and puts on the “Greatest Star of All” musical. (you can see a video of scenes from these outreach shows on their website - www.nlminfo.org). From there we left for a dinner out with staff, where we had a nice traditional meal together by the sea in an open air dining room. It was a beautiful setting - much like you might envision Wilmington night life - perhaps 20 years ago. After this, we went on a tour of the main city square area. We learned many things. The city is over 2500 years old, with some artifacts dating back to BC times. The pictures of the glass dome encase some archeological digs that have revealed some things from that time period. We also found out that the city is bustling with people from mid-June to the end of August. All the local people make all their money for the entire year during the summer tourism season when everyone flocks to the beaches. The city basically turns into a ghost town during the winter with an occasional car passing by in the distance and maybe one or two people out in the streets. No more vendors, no more entertainment - empty. Quite remarkable how it goes from one scene to the other, our host told us it was like being in a scary movie - you can hear every footstep and you wonder who is watching you from their windows! Crazy.
We got back late, and even as I write this now it is midnight (much like when I write almost every evening) and I must get up at 6am - so that is my report for today, hope you enjoy the pictures. BTW, these “statues “ that people are posing with are real people...standing here for hours and changing poses when you drop some money in their bucket. Pretty wild. Goodnight.