I didn’t want to come to the camp

July 2022 – From June 7-15, Mercy Projects USA in cooperation with Eastern European Mission Hungary, hosted Ukrainian refugee kids in two summer camps.  The first three-day camp had 32 pre-teen kids, and the second camp, four days long, included 35 Ukrainian teens.  Your support made these camps possible.  Despite the lack of media coverage in the USA, the war in Ukraine rages on.

Paula Thompson, Jeff’s wife, shares her story: Our Kyiv staff asked back in April, “If we can’t hold our summer camps in Ukraine, why not offer camps to Ukrainian kids here in Hungary?”  Their desire was to provide a safe place where kids could have fun and receive encouragement.  The response of parents was overwhelming and it was “game on” for planning the two camps.

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Each evening we had a time of sharing called “candle time” where a candle is passed around and each person shared their thoughts.  That first evening in the teen camp I sat in the candle time with my group of 12-15-year-old kids.

“I didn’t want to come to this camp…my mother made me,” Masha stated.  “I don’t know anyone here and I don’t know what it will be like.”

As we went around the circle, many of the kids expressed similar thoughts…it wasn’t their choice to be here.  It became clear that their moms made them come.

The kids came from all over Ukraine and from different walks of life.  They didn’t know each other and most of them knew very little about God and Christianity.  But they all had one thing in common:  the war had forced them from their homes, their schools, fathers, brothers, and everything familiar to them.  And their families found safety in the area of Budapest, Hungary.

That night we discussed this problem at the counselors’ meeting and together we prayed for a miracle.  Our prayer was that God would open their hearts and help us show them His great love.  The next day we were amazed at the change we observed in each of the kids.  They made friends, had fun, and loved the food.  God softened their hearts right before our eyes!  One of the boys later told our director Yulia, “I’m so glad I can be in this camp instead of sitting in a bomb shelter.”

By the end of the four days, several kids asked, “Why is this camp so short?  Will you have another one?  Can we come back?”

One boy repeatedly thanked me for spending so much time with him and teaching him the paracord craft.  Another one said, “You are like an American grandma who bakes apple pies!”  I took that as a compliment because it is true! 

The kids were encouraged and open.  They had many conversations with their counselors about God.  On the flight home, as we talked about the change in the kids, I thought about how true Romans 2:4 is:  “…it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.” 

The Storm

Our counselor Zhenya shared, “In the first camp for younger kids there was an awful storm with loud thunder and lightning.  Some of the kids had flashbacks to the bombing in Ukraine.  We prayed together and asked God to calm the storm and the stormy weather forecasted for the coming days.  When we prayed one small boy, 8-year old Danya, told me: “It doesn’t work, the prayer never works.” 

“Well, I believe God answered that prayer just for Danya.  It’s our job to plant seeds of faith in these kids.”

“The main value of the camp ministry is developing relationships,” our camp director, Yana said.  “There was lots of activity, but our emphasis was on spending time together.  We were like a family.”

“One boy,” she said, “had learned a lot about Satan.  I encouraged him to learn about Jesus as well.  On the final day, when getting on the bus, he told me that he prayed to God for the first time.  Thank you so much to everyone who prays and supports us.”