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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Family Camp

On July 9 to 11 we were the featured speakers for “Light of Christ” church at their summer weekend family camp. This was a real honor for us. Several of our friends are members of the church and, last spring for the first time, Michael preached in this church. It was at that time the children’s ministry director asked us if we would be available to attend and speak at the camp.

On Friday we picked up our co-worker, Sveta Kuzmetzeva, and her two teenaged daughters and left Nizhny Novgorod at 2:00PM. The drive to camp was a pleasant trip of about two hours which included getting lost for a while as we drove down an endless dirt road.

Finally coming to a remote village we were able to stop and ask directions only to learn that we had passed our destination and needed to turn around.

The camp was held in what used to be a Soviet era pioneer camp. ‘Pioneers’ was a communist youth organization that most children belonged to during the years of the Soviet government. Today many of these camps have been abandoned and are very run down. Ours was a perfect example. The buildings were in poor repair with lots of rot and decay, but situated in a wonderful forest location. The church was able to rent the camp from a businessman who had purchased the place and doesn’t yet have money for renovations.

Soon after our arrival we went for a swim in the river, which is just a 5-minute walk from the camp. The temperature was in the high 90’s so the water was cool and refreshing.

After a great traditional Russian supper we gathered for our first session of teaching. Michael gave a brief message on The Foundations of a Christian Marriage. Afterward people commented that they enjoyed and were challenged by the message.

After tea and conversation we headed off to bed. Our room was a small counselor’s room with two very old beds, thin mattresses and sagging springs, but the biggest difficulty was the heat and the fact that we were sleeping in a very hot room with windows that had been nailed shut. It was sweltering!

We, of course, survived the night. Saturday after breakfast we had another teaching session. Karen taught on the theme How to Raise Children Who Will Follow Christ. Once again the teaching was well received. The pastor of the church commented that the teachings were both interesting and causing people to look at marriage in a new way.

Lunch followed, and then a time for swimming. Michael ended up spending the entire free time counseling someone so he missed the chance to swim. After lunch we had a separate time for men and women to gather and to ask questions concerning marriage issues, family life and Christian sexuality. Most of the adults attended. This was the first time we have done something like this, and overall we were pleased with the results.

There was more free time and once again Michael spent it counseling one of the men. He had to keep reminding himself, “You’re here to minister, not to swim.” That evening there was a time of praise and worship and some fun and games, then off to bed for another night in the “sweatbox.”

After breakfast on Sunday morning Michael taught the last session of the camp. The theme was “8 Keys to for Better Marriage”.

After the message we were honored with a gift of a beautiful teapot and teacups from the congregation, and a signed “blessing certificate” from everyone who attended.

Before our final lunch there was another free time, but once again it was spent in counseling. This time we both spent time with a younger couple that was going through some difficult times. They thanked us for the time; telling us that just being able to talk with us helped them see their problems from a different perspective. They also thanked us for the weekend’s teachings, saying that what they had learned would be helpful in their marriage.

Finally after lunch we packed up our stuff, loaded the car, and drove back to Nizhny Novgorod in the afternoon heat.

This camp was a lot of fun for us. We felt stretched, but were pleased to hear that everyone enjoyed the teaching and felt that it was helpful. We have been invited back again to their next camp, sometime after January in the cold and the snow.

Oh, one of the fun things that happened in camp was that many of the youngest children were convinced that Michael, with his long white beard and hair, was “Father Frost” the Russian version of Santa Claus. They were all chattering among themselves saying “see, there he is.” One cute little boy, about 5 years old was really confused and asked why was it that Father frost spoke English!

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