by: Haley Henson

Oct 2 2017

About Creation? About God? About Sin? About Jesus Christ? About spreading the gospel?
These were the questions that, together, created our theme for Roma camp this year.
With the grace of God, the willing hearts of volunteers and partnering with our American brothers and sisters in Christ, we were able to create a fun, Jesus centered camp for the children in Perechyn, and Seredne, Ukraine (two villages near Uzhgorod, Ukraine).

The first two weeks of August were devoted to teams of young people from Ukraine working together to ask the children if they had heard of who Jesus is. Youth from L’viv travelled to Uhzgorod, a young woman, Sarah Nichols, made her way from Oklahoma, as well as several young people from California and many of the local youth in Kamyanitsa came together to form a team.

Camp began in Perechyn with a little bit of a rough start. There were conflicting schedules that caused some team members and leaders to arrive later than planned, communication problems between the Roma leaders and the team created issues with the time tables and the heat of the days was nearly unbearable. After the leaders were all assembled, and prayer began in the mornings prior to leaving for the villages, we began to see God work.

In Perechyn, though the days were extremely hot, we kept the children cool with water games, and indoor stations. Camp opened in the morning around 10. The campers were lead in songs, games and dividing into teams. Each team was given bracelets of one color. Our teams were red, blue and yellow. And each color corresponded with a team name, and a theme for each team. Red was “God’s love”, blue was “Army of Christ” and yellow was “God’s sunshine”. This created a sense of unity among the team and allowed for them to grow in their knowledge and love of Christ together throughout the week.
At the end of camp, the team that behaved the best throughout the entire camp was awarded an extra prize. Each team was made of 25 children with one Roma leader to guide them through the camp.

After opening games and dividing into teams, we sent the children, by team, into varying stations. The first station for some was craft. In the craft station the children were told a Bible story, depending on the theme for the day, and then were able to create a craft that corresponded with the story.

The next station was music station. This station included learning new songs to praise our God. As the week progressed it began to include dancing games and an opportunity to explore worshipping our lord through hand motions and dance movements.

The third station was snack station. In this station as well, the Bible story of the day was reiterated and explained more deeply. The children were then able to make a snack that related to the story. For example, when the children learned about the disciples casting their nets into the sea for fish, the children were able to take pretzels, Nutella and a cracker shaped like a fish to create a “fish stuck in a net”.

Each station lasted for approximately 25 minutes. After the stations ended we were able to gather the children together to clean their hands with wet napkins and to eat sandwiches for lunch. After lunch, we had a closing of singing songs, reviewing what was learned in camp for the day and announcing which team had behaved the best for the given day.

At the end of camp, we awarded the winning team with a prize. All children were given hygiene packs at the end of camp. The packs included shampoo, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Many of the children do not have regular access to these products. It was a blessing to be able to gift the children these small presents.

Camp in Seredne was planned much like Perechyn, however, due to the rain we were stuck indoors most days. We decided to work as a large group rather than breaking into stations. They were still given colors and team names that reflected themes of Christ and His love. The kids worked through morning exercises, storytime in the form of a skit, crafts, snacks, and reading exercises.

When we were able to venture outside, we had the kids playing games like “tug of war” and “duck, duck, goose”. The kids enjoyed going outside the church and learned to work as a team.

Though some of the children were a little out of control and the team was working outside of its culture and norms, God blessed the camps. We faced challenges in language, time management and weather related delays. Though many of the team came from a distance, they came with excitement and joy. When the rain poured, the kids danced harder and laughed louder. When the weather was unbearably hot, we cooled off with water games and found ways to glorify God even when it seemed impossible.

Each child went away from camp with a few questions answered and curious hearts to learn more about God and to share what they’ve learned with others. We hope to keep the spirit of camp alive throughout the year by continuing children’s ministry on a weekly basis.

God bless you all!

Haley Henson