Camp: Day 3 – I have a quest(ion) for you

This whole week feels a little like an "English boot camp" and today the emphasis was on "boot camp." First thing in the morning we began a six hour "quest" which was a cross between a team building exercise, scavenger hunt, and an episode of Survivor. We army-crawled through sand, solved puzzles, planked, and did way too many burpees. The Ukrainian staff obviously but a lot of effort into designing the Quest and took great pleasure in subjecting the campers and Americans to their inventions.

We truged to 11 different challenge stations where we were given bags of sand. We then had to decide whether to exchange those bags for a special task or to carry them with us. We exchanged a few, but because the bags had letters from the English alphabet attached to them we assumed that we would need them later in the Quest. By the end, six hours later, the chest we were carrying the sand in became more than a little burdensome! However, keeping the bags proved to be a mistake because we were informed at the end that the bags of sand that we carried all over creation for six hours had no relation to the goal of the quest. At the discussion time our team leader told us that the sand is a sort of parable for all the things we gather and carry with us in life that have no purpose in the end. They are merely burdens.

Our team is growing into our role as English teachers and students are getting more comfortable in using their English in conversation.


There is quite the range among the campers. Some are university students while others are professionals such as doctors and programmers. At lunch one web programmer said he works on a website for "lazy students." It allows you to hire people to write your essays and papers for you. He said that Americans, Australians, and English are the most frequent customers.

The spiritual discussions are starting to get a little more intense as everyone grows more comfortable with each other. Although the country is officially Orthodox, only a few were willing to say with any confidence whether or not there is a higher power. Pastor Max is slowly building a moral argument for a personal God–arguing that a materialistic evolutionary theory cannot account for the innate sense of right and wrong which transcends cultures. We all have an intuitive sense that murder is wrong, but from an evolutionary perspective it is difficult to say why it is wrong.

Prayer Requests:

  • For the students as they think about some of the questions raised during the spiritual discussions.
  • For Gretchen's knee which continues to hurt and hinder her.

Camp: Day 1 – Giving it our best shot

In the morning 30 campers assembled at the church office where we (the Americans) chatted with each of them individually in order to place them in the appropriate English classes according to their skill level.

After we grouped everyone, we bordered a bus for the hour-and-a-half journey to the camp where we will be for the next five days.

Once we settled into our rooms, we got to know the students through some icebreaker activities.

After lunch we had our first English class. David and Aijalon are leading the advanced group, Brandon, Austin, and Brian are working with intermediate student, and Megan, Bryson, and Gretchen are heading up the beginners. The main draw for the students is their desire to practice their English with native speakers. That is us. A special thanks to Courtney Swafford who did an amazing job helping prepare the curriculum for the week, especially the advanced class.

English lessons finished, we all assembled in the field for "sport" which involved a bunch of crazy relay races and contests involving soccer balls, water balloons, slip and slides, water guns and lots of running.

After dinner we had a spiritual component which was led by Pastor Max who is he pastor of Big City church. Max is a very forceful and engaging speaker, even through a translator. He explained that this spiritual part is what sets this camp apart from all other English camps. The theme for the week is "Sandcastles," showing how we must have our lives built on a solid foundation.

After Max was done we had an opening program where the camp and the American and Ukrainian teams were formally introduced.

After some more team bonding time, some retired for the night while other joined in some card games until lights out at midnight.

Please Pray:

  • For physical energy. The daily schedule is grueling with little chance to rest and some of the team did not sleep well last night.
  • For emotional energy. Many of our team are naturally introverts and the constant personal interactions can be draining. Pray that we will stay focused and energized. It has been very see how everyone has embraced their roles with enthusiasm.
  • For presence and work of the Holy Spirit with the team and students.
  • That we would truly help the students improve their English abilities.
  • That people would come to know Christ.

Saturday and Sunday

We made it! On Saturday we arrived in Kiev and settled into our hotel. In the evening we traveled to the center of the city and walked around with some of our new Ukrainian teammates (see below).

Sunday morning we worshipped at Big City church. The church is made up of predominately young adults. The average age is probably close to 24 and most are first generation Christians. Many are now starting to get married and have children. Someone told me there were five weddings last year. There are now enough children now that they are starting to plan a Sunday School program for the first time.

The leadership has a real passion for church planting and they are in the process of starting two other churches in the city.

For the benefit of us Americans, the praise team alternated between singing in English and Russian,

David preached on 1 Samuel 4-5, the story of the Philistines' capture of the Ark of the Covenant.

In the afternoon the Ukrainian and American teams met together to go over all the details for the coming week.

In the evening we went back to our hotel to rest and finish our preparations.

Prayer Requests:

  • Safe travel to the camp tomorrow.
  • The Ukrainian and the American teams as we get to know each other and work together.
  • The beginning of the camp as we meet the students and begin to build relationships.
  • Gretchen's knee. She twisted it a month ago and it continues to give her considerable discomfort so far this week.
  • Energy. We are all very tired and we have a long week ahead of us.

Almost there!

Praise the Lord! We made it to our connection in Warsaw. Now we have a four-hour layover.

Ukraine Teaser

Four members from Emmanuel will be leaving for Ukraine tomorrow. Check back here for updates.

Want a picture of what we will be doing in Ukraine? Watch this video from last year's camp.

Can't get enough? You should also follow Brian's Ukraine blog. Brian is the team leader from Covenant Church and he spent a year in Ukraine working with the local church. He will be writing regular updates as well.

Team Departs Friday 7/21!

Please pray for our team as we prepare for departure on 7/21!  Check back here for updates!