Monday, August 7, 2017

"Butterfly"

This year's camp for children with disabilities and their families had the theme of "Butterfly." We had a butterfly lead our music times and a caterpillar who spent the week transforming into a beautiful butterfly. Twenty-eight families attended as well as a large number of volunteers. God richly blessed our week together!


No matter what we do at children's camp, we are sure to have an abundance of SMILES and JOY!

















As volunteers, we are privileged to be paired with one child for the week, to take them to all of the activities, play with them, help care for them, encourage their parents and give their parents opportunities for rest and relaxation. I was blessed to be with Svitlana and her daughter Angelina this year.


Angelina is 6 years old and has cerebral palsy. She cannot talk, her understanding is very limited and she has almost no voluntary control over her body. But she has the most beautiful blue eyes and curly hair and when she smiles or laughs it is absolutely contagious!!!






We had a great time participating in all of the camp activitiesmp! Angelina's mom, Svitlana, is 6 months pregnant but was equally active in all of the activities for parents, such as spa time, Zumba, and Bible studies.


She was particularly encouraged by the testimony of a family from America who also have a son with cerebral palsy. She excitedly told me some of the the things they shared from their experience. She was encouraged to hear that other parents let their children with disabilities "cry it out" alone in their rooms after assuring that their basic needs have been met. Angelina and her family actually live very close to us so I look forward to staying in contact, taking her for walks, and maybe even having some rehabilitation sessions with her. I am praying for this family to come to know the hope and salvation that can be found in God alone.

At camp, every child get an opportunity to try everything. From getting a manicure, to participating in the talent show, to slinging water balloons with a huge slingshot at a crazily dressed volunteer, to crafts, to rides in the boats, to blowing huge bubbles, to getting up on stage for their group presentation, to swimming...if it is a camp activity, everyone has a chance to try it. And it is wonderful to observe it and participate in it!










These children are precious image bearers of God. The same God Who created the beautiful sunsets we witnessed and the forest and lake near the campground fashioned each of these children with their unique physical appearance, abilities and character. I was so privileged to spend these days with them, to love on them and be loved by them, to share joy with them and be infused with their joy.


In closing, I will share a quick story about Katya: 



This young lady first came to our camp 3-4 years ago. She has a younger sister who also has cerebral palsy and is much more outgoing. That first year, Katya was stoic and reserved, rarely lifting her head or showing any interest in what was going on around her. She seemed to take no pleasure in any of the activities of the camp and I honestly was not sure how much she was able participate and interact. After camp, her mother continued to come to church and other activities with the girls and a few years ago she repented and was baptized. But God has also made a transformation in Katya! It takes effort for her to talk and her speech is not always clear, but she is now eager to pray and answer questions in her Bible study groups. She smiles, responds to others and her desire to know and share about God is evident. She loves to listen to Christian music and this year she participated in the talent show, singing "Jesus, You are the Best Friend." As I listened to her sing, I remembered that young girl from the first camp with her head always bowed and not interacting with others and I rejoiced over the transformation God has made in her life! 

Please join me in praying for similar transformations in the lives of the children and adults who came to the camp this year.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Timeline"

We just returned from the week long camp for adults with disabilities at the Fimiam Retreat Center!


Our theme was "Timeline" so when the participants arrived they were welcomed with a walk through a few historical events, including Noah building the ark...


the tower of Babel, where we tried unsuccessfully to build while speaking four different languages...


Moses with the Ten Commandments...


Martin Luther and his 95 theses...


and a few others stations.  It was a fun way to welcome everyone to camp!

 

The study material which was written to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which we have been celebrating in Ukraine all year. The morning small group lessons and the evening large group preaching followed the theme of the day, leading us from creation to the present day.





God answered many prayers as several recent patients at Agape were able to attend.  We had a few stormy evenings/nights, but otherwise the weather was great for being outside. We were able to take two trips to the nearby lake and each person, regardless of disability, had the opportunity to be in and/or on the water (on a mattress or a boat).  As usual, we had "Spa Salon" one afternoon, as well as table games and all-camp games. And there was plenty of time for fellowship, relaxation and walks through the nearby forest.













My responsibility for the week including living in a room with these ladies and assisting with their needs. I did not know any of them before the camp, but we quickly became friends and had a blessed week together. 


Larisa, on the far right, is pretty independent anyway and she became almost totally independent in the camp once she received the electric wheelchair, so I spent most of my time with Ira and her mom. Ira is 32 years old and has cerebral palsy. She cannot talk, but it's clear she understands what is happening around her and desires to be part of it. She had not been out of her 2nd floor apartment in the past 3 years until coming to camp. So understandably she wanted to be outside every time it was possible. And we wanted her mom to have as much rest as possible, so I and another volunteer on our team spent as much time as we could with Ira. It was a joy to be with her as she was so excited to do anything we suggested!  She had not had the opportunity to swim since she was a child, so we took her in the lake both days, much to her delight.  And on the last day, with Sveta as our captain, we cruised around the pond at the retreat center in the boat. 




We truly had a wonderful week and continue to pray for fruit in the lives of those who heard the truth taught this week. We are headed out any minute for camp for families of children with disabilities (hence the brief blog about adult camp) and we look forward to another good week. Thank you to all who pray for the camps! We are so blessed to be here and be part of serving people with disabilities during these two weeks.