Friday 23rd August
What a day it's been on our last full day. The theme was Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and enter he did. In yet another full day we saw the children and young people enjoying themselves in the activities and entering fully into the evening meeting where the Gospel was presented and the entry into Jerusalem became the entry into their hearts. They have gone away with certificates for attendance, a gospel and an experience of the living God.
In the evening we were invited to share in the church prayer meeting and Alan preached on the need for church members to be involved and bring their gifts into the church. It was a great time and we met many of our old friends who were full of joy because of the camp.
Tomorrow we set off on the long drive to the border at Uzgherod, across the whole of Slovakia and our next appointment with our link church in Vsetin in the Czech Republic.
Thursday 22nd August
The Rich Young Ruler was the topic today and considering 80% of the young people are from outside of the church they took to the story like they had known it forever. There is no doubt about the power of the Word of God to do its own work, as once again many showed their appreciation of the story and its meaning by raising hands. It's so heartening to see how the Bible still speaks even to the youngest minds.
Our team has been beefed up by a Ukrainian leader and a Christian from Slovakia who was just passing through but saw the need and stopped on today to help us. A beefy 26 year old - he was welcome indeed.
The hospitality of our Ukrainian hosts continues unabated. They are simply superb, warm and hospitable and their food is fantastic. Tonight we were all invited to a meal at one church members house and were fed until bursting. Alan's learning Ukrainian and practices at every opportunity much to the mirth of our hosts. There are lots of difficult words and the similarity of ticket and flowers in the Ukrainian language meant that sometimes he asked for flowers for the train instead of tickets! There is a great deal of joy here in the team and the camp and that's a sign of what the Spirit is doing in and through all we do on this mission. It's a great privilege to be a part of it.
Wednesday 21st August
Today we've tackled the parable of the sower and we have seen God powerfully at work once again among the campers. Around 70 now attend and our resouces are stretched to bursting point. Sharka our Czech helper has a class of 27 with no other helpers. Oleg our Ukraine leader has had to go back to work and we have also lost our Czech leader Petr at the beginning, so Alan is now leading the camp on his own as well as teaching, preparing the English lessons and taking the evening meeting.
It was inspirational to pray together in three languages this morning and in spite of the small team of helpers saw God move once again with a large number of commitments from the attendees this evening. It's heartening to see their openness and it looks a lot like revival.
Reflecting too on the simple lifestyle here in Western Ukraine, people do seem happy in spite of being in one of the poorest countries in Europe. Tonight the young helpers from Ukraine and Czech took us out for a night on the town in Svalava. We went to the only supermarket, bought ice creams and ate them in the car park. We then walked through the bus station and spent a couple of fun filled hours in the town square. There was nothing there except the joy of the Lord which is actually all we needed
Tuesday 20th August
Day two of the camp has seen temperatures soaring to the mid 30s Celsius. In spite of the heat, the Czech and Ukrainian members battle valiantly with games in the hot sunshine.
Our theme today has been the raising of Jairus daughter and the teaching and explanation has been deep and meaningful. Some of the older campers are opening up to more of God with one young lad of 15 explaining that though brought up in a Greek Orthodox family he is now seeking his own revelation of God and is using the camp to go deeper.
Our evening meeting focussed on Jairus daughter with sketches music, video, slide shows and a talk explaining how Jesus can bring resurrection to our lives even while still alive - opening our eyes and ears to the secrets of God's kingdom.
So we retire after an exhausting day's work in the kingdom of God.
Monday 19th August 2013
The Ukraine English Camp began on Monday 19th August 2013 with an International team of 6 Czechs and 6 Ukrainian helpers working alongside Alan and Gill from St Philip's.
The first day was on the theme of Jesus walking on water and began with English teaching, games music and crafts led by different members of the team. Around 60 young people and children turned up for the camp and are remarkably well behaved and attentive, particularly in the teaching session.
The evening meeting brought together the whole camp and presented sketches music and drama to all. We witnessed the miracle of one girl being able to walk on water ably assisted by a friend and concluded that Jesus is there to do just that in our lives.
Astonishingly some 40 or so of the children and young people raised their hands after prayer to become friends of Jesus. It's been very unusual to see so many responding so quickly to the word - and a testimony to the three years of camps that have gone into getting many of them to this point.
A team of four from St Philips ran an "English Camp" in Svalyava, Ukraine in August. Alan Bain, Scott Joyce, Tina Joyce and Gill Skuse joined an international team of 14 Czechs and members of Svalyava Baptist church for the camp which drew in up to 70 children young people and parents.
Friday 24th August
We reached the climax of the week today as we took as our source stories the death and resurrection of Christ. Not easy subjects - but the team went into the story with the same enthusiasm, and children and young people gained a great deal from reading it.
So many of the young people here do not understand or know the story, but the word of God is reaching into their hearts. One young lady from Alan's advanced english class made a comittment last night. She really only came into the church for the first time through the camp.
In our meeting we saw a powerul move of the spirit as we explained how Christ has taken away sin on the cross and how we can reach out now to God. Three books, from small to large, illustrated how sin builds up in our lives but how Jesus takes the sin on himself on the cross. The resurrection is the proof that what he came to do he accomplished. It's remarkable how such a message is received here, and once again, when invited, many hands were raised to reach up for what God has for them.
We also led a service for church members tonight on the theme of spiritual warfare. Some from the camp who dont go to church came along. Once again, its such a privilege to be on a mission where we see God so powerfully at work.
Gill had a nice surprise from her class. Three teenage lads came up to her today and presented her with 3 sweet lollies. They said, "You are the best English Teacher we have ever had."!
Tina on the other hand went into a shop today to get some sweets for her class and came out with a quarter of a kilo of cough sweets.
Thursday 23rd August
We have had a great Bible teaching time with stories of Jesus calming the storm and the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The young people here just lap it all up. The English teaching is a lot of fun with translations of the text, reflection on it and lots of quizzes and interactive games to keep up the interest.
After the first session they go off for a time of games, crafts and music which keeps them refreshed before coming back for the second session. Our evening meetings are a blast with lots of fun and music and a retelling through drama and a video of the Bible story. There are always lots of pictures takenwhich also give a recap of the day.
Tonight we asked for the children and young people to raise a hand to come to Christ and around 15-20 did. You never quite know what it means but it certainly shows the power of the word of God already at work in their young lives, and its just as important for young people and children to make a committment to Christ as it is for adults. There are many adults who still remember how important it was for them as children.
There's no chance to really stop and see the area but we are just loving being on this mission and seeing God at work in all these young lives. Its a privilege to be working with the Czech and Ukrainian team and to see how God can bring us all together in the Gospel. They are all such great people!
Last night we heard from a Ukraine family of how it was with the Soviets in charge and how they had clandestine meetings of the church in the woods. They would be arrested just for having a Bible at home and one family wrote it out by hand in sections so they could hide it from police searches. Now we can preach freely and give away Bibles. What a privilege we have - dont take it lightly
Wednesday 22nd August
We are two days into the camp and it's building all the time. Hovering just over 60, the young people and children are bringing in their friends and family all the time. We are working hard at the English teaching based on the gospel of Mark.
The first day we looked at Jesus calling the disciples and yesterday it was the healing of the paralysed man. The plain English Gospels we brought with us are perfect for the task and they are managing to read them easily. It’s amazing to think that the majority of them do not know any of the Bible stories and are reading them for the first time.
The Czech team are brilliant and working alongside us to do games, crafts and activities like a home grown choir. Scott is coming into his own with his own unique form of rap to worship songs - he had the whole gathering dancing to drum beats last night in the evening meeting. It was quite a sight!
Evening meetings are creative, fun and powerful with a Gospel message based on the passage which hits home to the oldest or youngest. Some good news we heard last night is that five people joined the church as a result of last year’s camp and two of them are now also bringing their whole family along. So it’s good to hear about the concrete results of our mission.
Today we prepare to do our third day based on Jesus calming the storm. The church here is hospitable, grateful and warm. We are enjoying the food and one plus for Alan is that one Czech team member speaks Spanish so languages around the dinner table are often, English, Ukrainian, Russian, Czech and Spanish!
Monday 20 August
We arrived after a long journey from Budapest, which is as beautiful as ever, and were greeted with a wonderful Ukrainian meal that seemed never ending. They were delighted to see us and we soon felt at home.
The English Camp is like a holiday club of children from 6 years old up to late teens with lessons and activities from 1-7pm. We finish with sketches, songs, a talk and photo round-up of the day. It's all a lot of fun and there are children everywhere! We're working with a team of Ukrainian church members and six Czechs and we've already got to know some of the characters in our groups.
Swalyava is a small town with poor houses and some large houses side by side. Life for the people here is difficult for many and gleaming Mercedes occupy the same pot-holed streets as the horse and carts bringing home the workers. The church stands resplendent amongst all this and is a sign of the Good News amongst the difficulties and hardships they face. The church is an old converted cinema that has been rebuilt over many years. You go through one door and it’s nice tiles and go through another and it’s all falling to bits.
We are working really together well as a team with Tina and Scott on the elementaries, myself on the intermediates and Alan with the advanced. All of the children and young people just love it and they are so keen to learn. Our Czech friends are a joy to work with and help with the classes and run music and craft workshops and take over all the sports, which is great for us and gives us a breather.
The Gospel comes over well in the evening meetings and we can see it’s all sinking in. Today we used the story of the call of the disciples and tomorrow it’s the man being let through the roof to meet Jesus. Pray for the word of God to sink into the hearts of all those on the camp!
Each evening has been a feast of international creativity with Czechs, English and Ukrainians involved. We have made solid relationships with the different classes and we are treated like old friends.
By request, we put in an extra session on Thursday morning before we left. We took the theme of the Wedding Banquet, where many are invited but few respond, inviting commitments afterwards. The children, parents and young people gave us a standing ovation at the end, and wouldn’t stop clapping. Considering that most are from outside the church this is amazing and shows a deep work of God that’s been going on.
The Baptist Church we have been working with is also enthralled with the effectiveness of the evangelism. They have announced that each week they will lay on an “English Sunday School” in the church service for all the people who have been attending the camp. They want St Philip’s to provide materials so it looks like Gill, who has provided all the materials for the camp, will have her work cut out!
This is very formative time for the Ukrainian church since Ivan the Pastor, himself, a great evangelist, is one of the overseers of the Baptist Churches in the Ukraine and looks after the many churches in an area spreading from the Romanian border up to Slovakia, Poland and Belarus. He wants to see these camps extended.
It looks like we might have a job on our hands keeping up with the demand but the team are tired but thrilled with all that’s happened.
We have had a hot and tiring trip home with temperatures soaring to 38C. We had a Thursday evening meal by the Slovak Sea, Friday breakfast in Bratislava and lunch in Brno. The evening meal will be in London!
It's been a fantastic and dedicated team effort and we are excited with what God has done through us all involved in the camp.
It looks like the August Ukraine camp could well become a fixture in the future, and who knows where God will lead through this breakthrough!
The second day was exhausting and exhilarating. A few didn’t return but more came. We think around 60 have now attended and the evening meeting was a fantastic evening of celebration drama and music. Considering the vast majority -and their parents - don’t attend church it was once again fascinating to see the power of God working though His word on their lives.
The teaching was on the Lost Sheep and we had youngsters acting out the story speaking in English and singing like angels. The Czech team have produced an amazing scratch choir each day and the children have also been singing Bible songs to their parents.
We shared this morning how the camp has affected us all and how much we have gained through working in an international team. As I mentioned 20 years ago this would have all been a dream but God has broken down all the barriers, political and cultural, and His word is active and alive and we see it affecting young people with no experience of the word.
Today we major on the Lost Son and we’ll be challenging for commitments. So pray for us. The church here is delighted and so am I. Daniel and I even managed to find a Ukrainian sauna - built from wood it was brilliant.
We arrived seamlessly in the Ukraine after one plane, two trains, two buses and a taxi. Amazingly it all seemed to work and we arrived at the church in good time though a little shell shocked. We even managed to intercept the train at Brno with our Czech friends in it on the way to Bratislava.
Sunday saw us in the church where Alan preached and the others gave testimonies. In the afternoon the whole church went off to the woods for a gigantic BBQ in the forest which lasted until dusk. It was very reminiscent of the pictures we used to see of the Cold War church under communism.
We learnt that we have 4 Brits, 7 Czechs and 5 Ukrainians on the team so we feel fully equipped for the task. Gill’s lessons plans have set us up for the groups and Monday morning saw us preparing for the onslaught of the campers.
We expected 30 but 48 young people turned up with their parents. Amazingly only 5 of the of the young people attend the church showing the value of evangelism through teaching English. The age range was wider than expected with 9 year olds up to 17 so a quick change of plans was called for and a children’s group quickly formed by 3 Czechs. Alan took the intermediate group, Joelle and Rachel the advanced and Tom and Daniel two elementary groups. Our Czech friends laid on music classes, games and crafts.
It was an excellent first day with lots of fun and with the Bible teaching based around the Good Samaritan. The final evening session saw the groups presenting their version of the Good Samaritan in various grades of drama judged by a clapometer, songs from the newly formed choir, worship songs and a talk from Alan.
The majority of the young people are not members of the church and don’t have any knowledge of the Bible, but they took to Bible teaching, songs and worship in a very easy way. The final session was exciting, colourful and meaningful as we saw how the word of God has a power to transform even those who don’t know it. We are looking forward to tomorrow.
Finding the way to Slavala
The Ukraine Czech English team