I have to say that I look forward every year to our 'camp season'. I'm not sure why really, as I never liked outdoor camping and tents and all that. Yet each year I become a nut for our camps. This year it began with a camp in the small village of Gorodishi, two hours outside of Moscow.
Our team was a combined effort from Whittier Church in California, our Paradigma Church gang from Moscow and the local Gorodishi Children's Center.
I was there as a translator and craft conisseur - which is quickly becoming my new spiritual gift I believe. Being handy with a lanyard is really something that only the Holy Spirit can gift you with in my personal opinion!
The camp lasted only 5 days, but it seemed that the activities, discussions, sports, crafts and various evening events went on for weeks. The majority of the kids were 10-14 and seemed to love every minute of it. They usually during the summer just lollygag around (don't you love that word?) and do little of nothing but swim and roam the streets. This village has absolutely nothing in it, just houses and a few random roads. Literally there is nothing to do but roam and swim. The camp was for them a huge highlight, breaking up the boredom of living in a remote Russian village.
I would like to say though that for me there is always a special challenge at camp. This time it was the food. It is just that I am not a cutlet eater. You may ask what is a cutlet? And why is that such a big deal at camp? It is the main dish, along with potatoes, for every meal at any conference, seminar and camp in Russia. It is a bit like meatloaf, but without any of the spices or ketchup to cover the taste. Rather strange actually.I guess that most cooks here are judged by their cutlets. There is really no other explanation for the vast servings of such a random meat product. Most of our visiting Americans never thought twice about the cutlets, but when we had an ending Russian traditional picnic - the shashlik- the last night, they tasted the difference. I have to say that I am more of a shashlik fan.
But apart from the growth experience of the food the camp was a huge success. (And depending on how you look at it maybe not eating for a week is a good thing too? Growth and challenge and struggle and all that!)
What surprised me the most about the effects of the camp came the next day. We had stayed in town for another day, and were just walking around the village with some of the kids. They kept breaking into singing our rather silly camp songs. Now I am too inclinded to sing silly camp songs outside of the walls of camp, as I feel just that - silly. But yet there was something really touching about hearing songs about being God's sheep and sowing seeds and such from these kids. And they knew the motions as well!
It seems that camp is a lot of effort and expense and I always wonder if it is worth while. And yet, when I saw the energetic eyes of these abandoned kids I realized that they would never forget this camp. And they would have the truths that were taught to carry with them. Who knows what will come next?
We are planning to visit them often over the next year, and would love to have another camp next summer. Many of the older ones will come to our other camp outside of Moscow, Natisk.
All in all it was a wonderful experience and proved yet again that there is just something special about camp.