Today has been a full day to say the least and I will try to recap succinctly, but it may be difficult, since it feels like we have been here for a week already - and its only the first official day of camp!
This morning started off with a leadership staff meeting consisting of members from Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and the USA. We drank coffee together and listened to Greg begin to share with the national team the importance of what leadership looks like - service to others and a disregard for the needs of ourselves. He contrasted this with earthly concepts of a king being served constantly and directed our attention to our primary Example in this role.
From there we went to breakfast and into our first session. This was a dynamic time of teaching what God's word says concerning salvation, our sin nature, our need of a Savior, the satisfaction of God’s judgment of sin by paying our penalty in our place and giving us His perfect holiness as a substitute. This was taught by conveying the Word in preaching, as well as through music worship and drama. There were 3 or 4 skits that illustrated the truth of the gospel in different ways. There are 20 first time campers here in this place this week. Of these 20 new comers, 10 children, ranging in ages from 8 to 17, prayed a prayer of faith to receive the free gift of eternal life, repent of sin, and make Him their Lord. It was great to see the response of these children to the truth and the work of God's Spirit in raising people from the dead. At the conclusion of the session time, we entered into small groups where we talked about the things just seen and heard. I led a small group through a series of questions through a translator, which to my surprise was engaging and thought-provoking for them.
After this time, we broke for lunch and then back to our rooms for an hour of relaxing- or free-time and then back to the camp area where the beach access is located. We swam in the Black Sea together and played volleyball or American football for a couple of hours. This was a great time to connect with kids and have personal interaction that moved into personal relationship development. It is a joy to be connecting to kids who are willing and want to play and share the things of life together.
After our time at the beach, we returned to the camp club house for a second round of servant-leader training for the national team (keep in mind these folks are 15 - 20 years old; it is a very young team physically and spiritually). These teaching times for them are essential to their own growth in the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord, which equips them and encourages them as they then teach others in the outreach and mentoring opportunities that they have. I will be serving as a small group leader for a portion of the servant-leader team starting tomorrow and take opportunity to dive into inductive Bible study questions as well as explore how God is asking each of us to apply His word to any particular parts of our lives that He may be leading or showing us that change is needed.
From there the campers returned to the club house for a session of worship songs followed by a puppet theater that again covered the morning lesson. The kids were very engaged and participating in every aspect of the day, which was great to see.
We had to say our memory verses during this evening session of “building the disciple of Jesus’ house” (which is a piece-meal illustration of a huge house that is “built” each day by applying a new portion of the house to the wall. Todays lesson was salvation and faith in Christ...so the piece of the house that went on today is the door of salvation, which was placed on the solid rock foundation of Jesus Christ Himself. Anyway, I digress....of 10 children plus me, I was the only one that couldn’t remember today's verse - in ENGLISH... They were gracious and we blamed jet-lag, but I have to make it up tomorrow! How embarrassing and humbling. Thats OK, my brain was just mush by this point and I am content that I tried my best, but just could not form right words in the right order.
From here we went off to dinner, which was pretty good...sort of a meat pie and eggplant side dish - pretty tasty. After dinner, we returned for games in the clubhouse where we had watermelon art-carving and speed-eating contests. Thankfully, Sabrina represented the USA on that one and I avoided over-stuffing myself with a whole melon! The games were a lot of fun and helped the kids to get more and more comfortable adjusting to the first day of camp.
The most memorable portions of this day have been in the music worship times where sound and song cross cultural and language borders and bring our hearts into unified worship of our one true and living God. In addition to this, talking with the kids and hearing stories of their circumstances and leading them in small group discussions through the truths of Gods word is priceless. I am thankful and humbled to be a part of this great ministry effort, bringing glory and honor to God.