Church on Sunday in Svalyava was packed to hear the feedback from the English camp. An international team of Czechs, Ukrainians and Alan and Gill from St Philip's helped the camp to be a success.
The wooded and rolling mountains of the Carpathians was the venue with the camp set in wooden chalets complete with a meeting room and dining area and outside space for volleyball and other activities.
About 40 people attended the camp with 30 young people a large percentage of whom didn’t attend the church but were invited by friends. English lessons took up the morning with fun games provided by the Czech team and an evening meeting based on the themes of health and beauty, knowledge, fame, money and love. One day was spent ascending the highest mountain in the area – as high as Ben Nevis and quite a slog in the heat and later thunderstorms.
The strong teamwork and commitment of the international team of leaders meant all flowed smoothly and we witnessed a great move of the Spirit over the camp with deep meetings based on the theme and Bible stories to suit. Lots of drama, fun and wonderful worship in Ukrainian and English provided the backdrop and as Alan said to the church, “Though much of what we saw will be eternal we also saw many young people responding to the Gospel and turning to Christ and others being strengthened in their faith.” Alan thanked the church in Svalyava for such a delightful fun-filled group of youngsters. “ A credit to the Ukraine,” he said. Gill shared her testimony at the camp and also shared in church about how God led her into English teaching in Bath, Czech Republic and the Ukraine.
Over the camp and church hangs the shadow of war in the East and it is never far from people’s thoughts with emotions ranging from deep sorrow and upset to anger at the way this beautiful and gifted nation is being ravaged by forces beyond their control. It’s affecting their jobs, livelihoods and families and every male between the ages of 18 and 65 have to be available for the military if necessary. Some young people from Svalyava have already been sent to fight.
There is a lot of anxiety about what may happen if the war escalates. These are emotions we haven’t experienced in the UK for many decades. We assured them of a continuous flow of prayer to God from St Philip’s as they face uncertainty and fear for their future.
Oleg and Tanya from the Ukraine masterminded the camp acting like mother and father to the young people. They did a fantastic job in pulling all of this together. We have many friends now in the Ukrainian team and in Svalyava church after 4 years of camps and when we meet it’s like we’ve never been away. These are friendships that only God cold have led us into and we are truly blessed by them. We have watched their children grow up in age and in faith.
Of course, our old friends from Vsetin in the Czech Republic are a constant source of encouragement on the camps and also when they come to St Philip’s helping us with the holiday club. Never flagging in zeal, faith or humour we so enjoyed working with them again and look forward to fulfilling our new invitation to join them in Vsetin in October 2014.
These camps are a real sign of what God can do with his church for those who are willing to follow where he leads. We have seen a great move of the Spirit, young people starting on the life of faith and three churches encouraged to do more for the Gospel of Christ. We can ask no more.