Healing the Terror of War at Summer Camp
By Pete Wooding, Mercy Projects UK
The bomb shelter saved her life but the bombs left an imprint on her soul.
Little Zaryana was five years old when her parents divorced and she moved with her mother to Donetsk. Her grandmother welcomed them to her small apartment to start a new life. Three years later, however, Russian supplied rebels shelled the region and invaded with tanks and troops.
Under siege from Russian separatists, Zaryana experienced the terror of war. Bombs, explosions, sirens, and fear became a daily ritual of living in Donetsk. Running to the bomb shelter literally saved their lives.
Fearing for her daughter’s life, Zaryana’s mother moved together with the grandmother back to Kiev. Due to her extreme anxiety, Zaryana struggled to adapt. She withdrew from others and couldn’t make new friends at school. All that changed, however, when she arrived at her first Mercy Projects summer camp in 2016.
“At first she was scared of any loud noises and wouldn’t speak to any of the other children at the camp,” explained MP camp coordinator, Yana Glushko.
“The turning point came, however, when she made a special friendship with ten-year-old American Gabby,” Yana said. “Gabby came to the camp with her grandfather Jim from Texas.”
“Despite the fact that they couldn’t speak the same language, they managed to communicate. Zaryana really needed acceptance and attention, and she received it from Gabby. They were the same age, and the camp helped her become a child again—to forget the war and to enjoy the atmosphere of love and peace. We were amazed at her change,” Yana exclaimed.
Last summer Zaryana returned to the camp. When she returned home, she told her mother she wanted to get baptized. Now she regularly prays and reads her Bible and attends New Life Church with her family. Yana continues, “Now she is very communicative, creatively developed, and always eagerly waits for our camps. Watching her, I often notice her interest in everything new: master classes, English clubs, and Bible teaching. It is evident how her life has changed so much and she is so excited to be joining our camp again this summer.”
I am so encouraged by the many stories of broken lives that the Lord has restored like Zaryana’s. These young people find healing and salvation in a summer camp, they grow into strong believers, and many of them return to become camp counselors.
Masha Yakovleva, who receives a scholarship in the MP Student Sponsorship Program, is a great example of someone who wanted to give back the love of Christ. She is a third-year student at the University of Art with a dream to someday become an actress or film producer.
“When I first came to the camp,” Masha said, “I was only seven years old. I felt great love and attention, which I so missed at home as I grew up in a broken family. But coming to camp each year, it seemed like the counselors and staff became my second family.”
“The camps helped me grow spiritually. I was so inspired by the way the MP counselors worked with us children. This is why I wanted to come back and serve the Lord in this way. I want to share love with the kids that they might miss in their own families. They need more attention and warmth and I know it from my own experience,” Masha said.
Yana Glushko went on to share, “We are enormously grateful to our dear friends in the West who help children like Zaryana and Masha. During my time in our mission, I see how the Lord uses the summer and winter camps to change children’s destinies. I am always amazed at how God changes lives. I love to see the children gain confidence and faith.”
“I am so happy to see grown-up teenagers make their choice to follow Christ,” Yana said. Their lives change and their new faith helps them to see their lives and the world with new and different eyes.”
Yana closed by saying, “I get to organize the camps every year, thus I get to see how children grow in their faith. From insecure and devastated children, they grow up to be full of vitality, purpose and love. They know they are special and loved by God.”
Send a Child to Camp
This month Mercy Projects will provide a Christian discipleship camp experience for 500 children. Our camp budget is approximately $20,000 short of our goal. A gift of $150 will send one child to camp for 10 days. $1500 will send 10 kids to camp.
These camps build up the next generation of Christian leaders. Thank you for training and supporting them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.