As Russian Ministries teams are busy running summer camps in more than one hundred locations, help is urgently needed to complete their goal of reaching more than 5,000 needy children across the former Soviet Union.
“We’re looking for partners who would want to be part of this marvellous movement to help children who still face so many problems from the legacy of communism and the turmoil in their countries,” said Russian Ministries president Anita Deyneka.
Already a month into their summer camp program Deyneka says help is urgently needed to reach their goal of impacting over 5,000 kids: “It has been magnificent so far with the children coming and the response, but what is more challenging is having enough funds. We still have another month of summer camps and we need at least $75,000 to finish the summer. It costs $50 per child to attend one week of camp and every one of those dollars is an investment into a changed life.”
Anya is just one example of the thousands of young lives impacted each year. When she came to camp as an eight year old, she had been smoking since the age of three. Her vocabulary was peppered with curse words, her hair was uncombed her shoes worn out, her jacket ripped. She lives with her mother and older sister. Her father abandoned her many years ago. The mother drank heavily and was hardly ever at home.
Deyneka said: “When Anya first came to the camp she didn’t want to hear about God. She was resistant to even coming, but by the end of the camp she was begging not to leave. If you could see the difference in this little girl, the transformation in being in a camp and knowing about Jesus who does love her even if there were so many people in her life who didn’t.”
There are so many more children like Anya who come to camp from broken backgrounds, children with alcoholic parents, street kids, orphans, children with disabilities, tuberculosis and HIV. One of the toughest places where Russian Ministries is running camps right now is in Chechnya where all the children have known in their lives is war.
Deyneka says the impact on those vulnerable young lives goes way beyond summer camp: “That is one of the marvellous aspects of the camps. It’s not just that one week, but our national co-workers, who are leading the camps, keep a connection with the children. The camps are a bridge into a future of ongoing relationship with the children and their families and communities. The children want to keep in touch so this open doors. They often return to non-churched families and talk about what’s happened and their parents come to know the Lord and come to church.
“Then the community sees what is happening that there are these Christians that care about the children and care enough to organise the camps. That leads to all sorts of wonderful paths for the future for not only the children but also the communities. The camps are a great blessing in themselves but the ripples after that are just amazing with the ongoing impact in the lives of the children.”
With more than ten years of Russian Ministries’ camp ministry, many of those that were children from the beginning, now come back each year to serve as camp counsellors and then become involved in the School Without Walls non-formal training program that provides Christian discipleship and leadership.
But help is desperately needed to ensure this legacy continues. To find out how you can sponsor a child to join a Russian Ministries summer camp go to: www.russian-ministries.org
Peter Wooding, Europe Bureau Chief for ASSIST News Service