Love as life

Love as life

The camp “Bethel” 2021, which has been held for 10 days in the center “Crystal”, has just finished. The camp for people with special needs. Sometimes very special. For example, Pasha Kustov, a wheelchair-bound invalid: although he has learned to easily handle a stroller, he cannot eat himself. He has great difficulties with speech. Without his mother, his stay here would have been very difficult. Zhenya Borodin, our poet, is also in a wheelchair. After the death of his mother, his older sister and her daughter take care of him. Zhenya is completely unable to serve himself. Last year, a volunteer Christina came here with him. Today, volunteers from Saratov – mother and son Natalya and Damir Bystrovs – have come to help him live through his stay in the camp. Zhenya also has big speech problems. But this year he nevertheless decided to read his poems himself at the final concert. Actually, all the guys mostly disabled from childhood with cerebral palsy come here with their parents. None of them can do in everyday life without outside help. But is it possible to limit someone in the ability to glad, sympathize, love?

Nobody is ashamed of anyone here. It is wonderful how boldly, fearlessly, and easily these guys take part in all camp activities, in all performances, competitions and contests.

The camp “Bethel” is distinguished by some special, amazing atmosphere of family, love and kindness. It seems that for all 10 days that we have spent here, not a single rude displeased or annoyed word has been heard. Though our “special” children with both mental and physical disabilities can infuriate anyone. Here is a striking example – Anya Ryzhikova did not have a single epileptic seizure for the entire period! This girl – who always has a tense, anxious expression on her face, – in the camp was constantly glowing with joy. So many kind words, so many “hugs”, so much attention she, like other guys, is unlikely to find anywhere else. That was amazing to see how our children blossomed in this atmosphere of love, how free they were. Without abilities to walk or speek properly, sitting in wheelchairs, they sang and recited poetry, performed characters in kits and danced, painted and made crafts, drawing their mothers to tears. Last year every day of the camp opened for us one of the Christian virtues, such as faith, joy, patience, humbleness, selflessness, self-sacrifice. This year we together have remembered biblical parables, learning their wisdom and moral beauty.

Our camp has reminded me of the life of early Christian communities which were full of love and brotherhood. People suddenly saw that it is possible to live without hostility, without rivalry, without envy, without greed, without humiliation – in purity and goodness. This is happiness! Why do people look for it in something else?!

Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Eurasia Eduard Khegay, who was at the camp together with his little daughter Lida, encouraged us with the strength of Evangelical message. Every night his sermons on one of the biblical parables led us to reflection and creativity.

The soul of the camp was, of course, the family of pastor Svetlana Tsoi. They carried the whole camp on their shoulders! Svetlana and her husband Vladimir took over all organizational issues, and their three wonderful daughters Katya, Lera and Danya and their friends Amina and Nastya served as volunteers. They were engaged in cleaning and accommodation of guests, conducted master classes and competitions, they were the real ringleaders in all parts of the program. The sisters complement each other in an amazing way. For each participant, the eldest Katya found the right words and managed to stir everyone up and involve them in this cycle of love. “We are very pleased that you appreciate our work so highly,” Lera said. “But we learn kindness and patience from you…” Seriously matured Daniela performed the duties of the main musician and singer with exceptional conscientiousness. She has always been by her mother’s side in her endless transformations – from pastor and passionate preacher to clown Tyapa and Cardinal Richelieu. The most amazing pastor you can imagine. She is so kind, talented and artistic. But the main talent of Svetlana is, of course, the ability to work with people. How much inner strength, conviction, and faith in this little woman! One feels safe around her. Our difficulties, small joys and victories in the camp we lived through all together. The greatest joy was the camp itself, filled with the spirit of love and care for each other.

Many thanks to the volunteers – Olga Korystina, Nadezhda Buravleva, musician Lyusenka Kudryavtseva, Tatyana Belyaeva.

For the second year, the arrival of pastor Irina Mitina was a gift to all the participants. She got the idea of the project and started it 13 years ago, serving at that time as the pastor of the Voronezh United Methodist Church “Resurrection”. Her presence brought a special musical and spiritual mood to the busy life of the camp. With Irina Nikolaevna one can discuss any spiritual problems that mothers of “special” children are concerned of. She shares her deep understanding of Christianity and great pastoral experience, helping to find peace in heart.

Special words to the chef Alexander Likhachev and his assistants for tasty and plentiful food.

Tatiana Byba

Mother of camp participant, Polina