In February 2011 at the annual OMS conference in Newcastle, little did I know but God was about to take me on a journey that would have a huge impact on my life. During the weekend an OMS missionary by the name of Randy Marshal introduced me to the work that he and his fellow workers have been involved in for nearly 6 years now within the country of Ukraine, working amongst the students of Kiev. As I had always enjoyed working with young people I knew that this was a perfect opportunity for me. Therefore after much prayer, similar to the prophet Isaiah in chapter 6 verse 8 I responded to the voice of the Lord by saying “ Here am I; send me”. I decided to step out in faith and completely trust him to meet all my needs.
What was God calling me to do in Ukraine? As mentioned above the main focus of OMS’s work in Ukraine is to try and reach out to students from the local universities in Kiev. One of the main ways in which this is carried out is through the teaching and practising of the English language. However, unlike at home where this is often boring and completed within in a classroom, in Ukraine the process of learning a new language becomes much more fun. Each summer during the months of July and August a carefully selected number of students are given the opportunity to practise their English 24 hours a day during a 10 day camp.
Whilst at camp they are given the opportunity to take part in a range of different activities both indoor and outdoor, all geared towards helping them improve their English and to help them build strong relationships with the other students and their native English speaking teachers. These activities are not only used to help break down those initial barriers but also to gain the trust and respect of the students. As a direct result of this the students begin to open up, which is vital if we as teachers are to fulfil our ultimate goal which is to make the students think about the true meaning of life and to expose them to the reality of the Gospel.
Before heading to Ukraine last summer I had previously served with CEF at their summer camps in Co. Donegal for six years and had seen on numerous occasions how God could change the lives of boys and girls, mostly between the ages of 8 and 12. However, this time I wanted God to take me a little deeper. I wanted him to take me outside of my comfort zone and use me in whatever way he saw fit to bring glory to his name. Having experienced English Camp I can definitely say that he challenged me in ways that I never imagined and has also brought me much closer to him as a result. It was definitely one of the best experiences I have ever had and one that I will never forget.
However, as both Randy and his co-workers will tell you camp is only the beginning. They are simply the foundation for an exciting and challenging journey between the students, the missionaries and God. It is after camp that those initial seeds that were sown are watered and God really begins to work by breaking down those physical, emotional and intellectual barriers standing between Him and the students. One of the ways in which this is carried out is by means of a ministry called Life Groups. At these groups students are given the opportunity to discuss some of the key questions in life and also to seek ways in which they can encourage each other in their daily lives, hence the term ‘Life Group’. A huge part of this process of encouraging and helping each other to grow is the individual discipleship of students which the missionaries have placed largely into the hands of those Christian students who have been saved for a number of years.
In March this year I had the opportunity to return to Ukraine to witness first-hand this follow up ministry and see how God had been working since camp. During the visit I was privileged to be involved in an Irish themed outreach event held at one of the local universities where a door had recently been opened. This was not only a fantastic opportunity to share a little bit about my own country and culture, but also to meet some of the students who could potentially be at camp this summer if they are successful in the interview process.
Similar to camp, this visit has only strengthened my burden for the country of Ukraine and has given me the desire to return to Kiev this summer to reach out to the students whom God has placed within my heart. If you want to be challenged by God and see him work in the most amazing ways, this is definitely an experience and a team that you will want to be involved in. Thank God that He is still in the business of saving souls and changing lives which is evident in this short story of one student who had her life changed at camp two years ago.
“God called me to camp three years ago. Before camp I had never experienced such love, joy, happiness, and care. I was thinking: “There should be some secret which makes the whole atmosphere so special and friendly and all the campers so happy”. This secret was Jesus whom I got to know at camp and who saved me.
But I didn’t want to lose what I gained, I wanted this love and joy never to end. I was thirsty for God’s word and His love to me. I definitely wanted to keep this “campfire” going, i wanted to extend this “after-camp-effect”. I became a part of the Life Group and started an amazing journey following Jesus. The result is – lifestyle changed, attitudes changed, life became complete. I’ve learned to delight in the Lord and trust in Him in all things. That’s why the English camp for me is not about English anymore. It’s all about the Life. So I would rather call it “the Life camp”.
You should not try to find the reason to come – it is evident. It can be seen on students’ faces. They are so open; they are thirsty for the true love and joy. Come and help them experience the Life.
Come and experience the unity that happens when fifty people of different countries, nations, backgrounds, and ages in God’s will become one family. Taste and see that the Lord is good”!
- Pray for the forthcoming camps this summer in both July and August and the preparations which are now taking place. Pray for the recruitment of both teachers and students for both camps, especially for the recruitment of boy campers as each year this presents the missionary team with a huge challenge as the interest just isn’t there.
- Pray for Randy and Shelly Marshal and their family as they prepare to return to the states for a 10 month deputation. Pray especially for the rest of the team in their absence as they continue to reach out to the students of Kiev and advance the growth of god’s kingdom.
- Pray for the on-going ministry of OMS in Kiev throughout the year, for life groups, English clubs, and student discipleship. Pray that God will give wisdom and strength to the team as they seek to further the ministry and see many more doors open.
………David Cathcart – N. Ireland……..