Wednesday, August 12, 2015


"Decision" was the theme at our camp for adults with disabilities this year.  Forty-seven people with disabilities and 20 of their family members joined our team of volunteers for 6 days of rest, fellowship, small and large group Bible studies, and various activities.  We used road signs and rules to name our teams and open the theme of each day's Bible study.  To welcome people to camp, we had stoplights, honest and corrupt police, a car, traffic controllers and road markers.

Kolya - the good cop!

Our live stoplight
Taking pictures in this car was a hit for many people

Historically, the majority of people with disabilities who come to this camp are wheelchair users, and this year was no exception.  We assign a volunteer to every person who requires physical assistance and we are blessed to be able to serve their needs for this week.  Typically, volunteers are side by side with the people they are helping day and night.  But this year, people with disabilities had great freedom to independently move around the campground whenever and wherever they desired!  One HUGE blessing for our ministry in recent years has been the donation of over 40 electric wheelchairs from generous believers in other countries.  Unlike home environments, the campground is fully accessible and anyone unable to propel their own manual wheelchair had an electric one for the week.  For some, it was a freedom to move that they hadn't experienced in years.  For others, like Kolya above, it was a prolonged opportunity to use the electric wheelchair that has been designated as his, but can't be used at home due to architectural barriers.  For both volunteers and people with disabilities it was pure joy to have them zipping around the campground!

My group for the week was given the road sign "SOS."

And I was privileged to help the Novatsky family, who are our friends and fellow participants in the ministry.  Alik organizes all of the transportation to and from the camp and Larisa organizes the craft groups. Since Alik had to work most of the week and Larisa's health prevents her from giving Ira any physical assistance, I got to serve them all by being with Ira.  We had great fun learning to drive her electric wheelchair, singing at the bonfire, and laughing often. 

God blessed us with wonderful weather so we could be outside all day and enjoy all of the camp activities.  Afternoons at this camp are some of my favorite times of the whole year in our ministry.  The schedule lightens and gives us the freedom to sit and fellowship for extended periods of time.  You could look all over the campground and see small groups of new and old friends just enjoying time together.  Sometimes groups were continuing the discussions they began in their morning Bible study groups.  Other groups were just getting to know one another.  All were completely informal, relaxed, and welcoming of new faces. 

Another highlight for everyone this year was having the evening programs around the bonfire.  The last night we even extended our time at the bonfire by cooking and eating dinner there too.  The forest backdrop made a beautiful setting to enjoy the evenings together and everyone stayed until at least 11:00 every night. 

Several of our rehab patients from this past year were able to come and all seemed to enjoy it.  Oksana was in my group and was not able to sit through the small group on the first day, which meant that her husband also did not participate in his group.  Later we figured out what we could do to keep her calm throughout the group time and therefore allow her husband to be a participant  in one of the men's group, so we were grateful.  Oksana was not our safest electric wheelchair driver, but she sure enjoyed trying and she kept her husband on his toes!
This mother and son duo, Marianna and Ilya, repented at separate times during the camp.  Also Pasha, a young man with cerebral palsy, repented after he returned home.  Please join us in praising God for His work of grace in their lives and praying for their spiritual growth.
Our week at camp was such a joyful, God-honoring time that we were able to serve God and people with disabilities. God answered many prayers for financial provision, health, physical stamina, weather, and the teaching of His Word.  Thank you to all who prayed!  I'll finish with more pictures to help tell the story of our camp:

Small group session

Kolya (above) was my patient in 2009 after a massive stroke.  Before his stroke, he was completely against God and the church, refusing to allow his wife to go to church or to go himself.  Now, he consistently comes to church, home church, camps, and clubs.  He still can express very few words, but he understands and remembers many things.  Please pray for God's work in his life. 

Taras and his volunteer during small group Bible study

Nelya enjoying the horseback riding

Team SOS taking a "musical" photo for a game
Morning exercises

Team SOS!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Love is..."

"Love is..." was the theme of our family retreat this year, which we hosted for 31 children with disabilities, their siblings, and one or both parents.  The 6 days we spent together at a campground in the forest were blessed with beautiful weather, a multitude of activities, times of rest, fellowship, and Bible studies. 

On the opening day, we greeted the families with a festive, wedding-like atmosphere.  Many families attend camp year after year and we were definitely excited to see them again.  But for me, it was particularly exciting to have several families come for the first time whose children receive therapy at our rehabilitation center. 

Maxim and his dad participating in morning exercises

Welcoming Mark and his mom to camp

Oksana and her 2 daughters, Tonia and Katya, coming into camp with the help of a volunteer
"LOVE" - my group for the week included families with the youngest kiddos!
Ivanka and her grandma 
Every year we strive to have a volunteer paired with each child with a disability and their family for the week.  The role of volunteers is to serve the needs of their child as much as possible throughout the week and, by extension, to serve the rest of the family.  I was blessed to be paired with Maxim, a 7-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and deafness who has come to camp for several years now with his mother, Marina, and sister, Dasha.  His father was unable to come due to work.  

I had a wonderful time serving this family by spending lots of time with Maxim, which included frequent walks in his stroller, sitting together on the big swing, and playing on a blanket during our small group times.  God blessed me with this precious little boy who breaks into a contagious smile or laugh at the sight of a familiar face, interaction with another child, or the vibration of a percussion instrument in his hand. 

Because Maxim is deaf, he really was a perfect match for me.  I've been in the little kids' group at camp before and my broken Ukrainian is often very difficult, both for them and me.  But with Maxim, my language skills were not a hindrance.  I could use any method I wanted to interact with him and show him love without the concern for whether my words were freeing! 
Please join me in praying for this family.  Marina has heard much truth from God's Word over the years that she has come to camp - please pray for her repentance.  Also, I am excited to start rehab with Maxim in September and see what progress he is able to make.  Again, his deafness is helpful for me because it means I can work with him alone, which is something I haven't been able to do with children since I arrived - so I'm looking forward to that.
We discussed the retreat theme of "Love is..." more specifically each day with topics such as words, time, gifts, and help.  In the mornings, children and parents had separate small group Bible studies.  This is a really special time for the parents to spend only with other adults, knowing that volunteers are caring for their children.  We had a group for the 4 dads and then 4 small groups for moms.  We are grateful that several of the moms are believers now as a direct result hearing God's Word in previous camps.  Please pray for God's work in the lives of the moms and dads who heard the truth this year.

After Bible studies, we had various activities people could get involved in, including crafts, learning to play adapted harps, games, spa salon, and cooking classes.  Smiles were abundant during these times!



After dinner each day, we all gathered around the campfire for the evening program.  It was a beautiful setting in the forest and everyone enjoyed this time of singing, dramas, presentations of the groups, games, and hearing the Word. 
Thank you to all who prayed for this camp.  God met our needs in regards to finances, volunteers, weather, health, and all the daily logistics.  Please continue to pray for God's work in the lives of those who attended.  I hope that this week I will be able to post blogs about adult camp and other summer activities, so stay tuned.
For now though, I leave you with this beautifully created boy enjoying the beauty of God's creation and I trust and pray that you too have eyes to see our Creator's beauty around you.