A team of Americans from two churches in Iowa and Wisconsin had arrived into Russia a few days before me to help put on an English camp for young Russian students who want to practice the English they have learned in school or university. The camp happens around the same time every year
and lasts a week long. It is a great alternative for financially strained students since the local Mission here charges very little for it and because they keep the costs extremely, EXTREMELY low. Not only is the price right for these students but the “roughing it” mentality creates a perfect atmosphere for fun and personal growth. The camp has no cell reception, no internet, no vending machines, no hot water, and no air conditioning. The cold well water shower was rarely used and the outhouses had no mirrors. All the houses were log buildings and a beautiful river called the Сакмара (Sakmara) ran alongside the entire camp.
I jumped into the program with little to no trouble at all. I joined an English small group and quickly built rapport with the students and staff. The funny thing about it all is I never had jet lag…at all! What a blessing, what a praise! The only thing I can figure is that I had destroyed any sleep cycles I had previously during the two weeks before my departure. I know I can go without sleep for some time but this was unreal. I was still sleeping about4-5 a night during the camp and although that was better than before, I should have been tired. It was the opposite. My energy exploded as it tends to do at times and I just kept going all week. I played sports, I swam, I made coherent sentences (which is important when teaching English), and I felt great. I immediately recognized that this was my opportunity to fellowship and network with students. I could use the time to invest in them and later I would be able to continue the friendship in the city. Some of the students attending the camp were Christian believers who went to the Mission and many students had little to no connection to the Mission at all but they either lived in Orenburg or went to a University there.
I am reminded of the passage of Philippians 4:11-13:
“for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. >>>I can do all things through Him (Jesus) who strengthens me.” <<<
I love the times when I feel like I can truly identify with Paul, even if it’s not the same (…he was beaten and left to rot in jail). God calls us to live with much at times and to use our resources for His Kingdom; He also calls us to live with very little at times and to be satisfied, allowing Him to be our STRENGTH, allowing Him to replace any temporary coping device that man can devise. The good and eternal in place of the temporary and ultimately unsatisfying. As God strengthens me I will continue to “do all things.” Such a great reminder.
Here is a basic pattern of what each day was like at English camp: 7am: Sun-up/ Prayer and Reading 8:30am: Leaders Devotionals and Prayer and Leaders Meeting 9:30am: Morning Exercises to stereotypical old American songs 10:00am: BREAKFAST! (the food is amazing, of course) 10:30am: Singing in English and Morning Instructions 11:00am: Small Group English Lesson and Discussion 12:00pm: Organized Games/ Competition (Split into 4 Teams Designated by Color…we were the Bumble Bees and YES! we had a group chant!) 1pm: LUNCH (The biggest meal of the day and therefore my favorite!!!) 2pm: Small Group English Lesson 3pm: Free Time to swim, nap, play sports (I taught them frisbee and they played it all week), read, talk, or prepare for the evening for staff. 6pm: DINNER (also delicious for me even though apparently all the meals were cheap versions for Russian standards) 7pm: Large Group Time with Singing and Announcements 8pm: TRIBAL GROUPS meet to work on skits for end of the week (The theme for this year was “Survivor” like the “reality” TV show) 9pm: Free Game Time for sports, UNO, or “Баня” (Banya) >>>Russian Banya is a cultural practice which consists of girls and guys going into separate sauna-like buildings to fellowship and sweat! There is a warm room for snacks and discussion. Then there is a very hot room used for communal bathing and discussion. And THEN there is the banya room which is a sauna on crack cocaine! We got the banya up to 110 celsius the other day which equals 230F. THAT’S TOASTY! When you get too hot, you jump into the river or hose yourself off with ice cold water. It’s quite the experience you can imagine…
May each of you have a strengthened day. Do all things through Him! I will continue to attempt to trick out my page to make it more interactive. -Ryan