My original plan was to go back to Mississippi 2-weeks ago. Instead, I postponed my flight home and returned to Camp Friendship.
The scene I'm about to describe on the last day of camp- this past Saturday- actually when Camp was officially over and all that was left was for kids to go home- illustrates why I went back. Why I stayed all summer.
Anastasia is a beautiful little 11 year old from nearby Lugansk. She lives with both parents and has an 18-year old brother. She's really bright. Plays Piano, dances, sings, draws, speaks a little English. She's a lot like so many other pre-teen girls. We met the very first day of Camp 1 and we hit it off immediately.
The last night of Camp 2 she got permission from her Dorm Parent to sit with me instead of with the girls from her dorm. She got one of the Interpreters to teach her how to tell me I was her best friend in English. I know I surprised her with I returned for the 3rd Camp.
Anyway, the "scene" I alluded to. This past Saturday morning I was out on the road telling other kids goodbye when I saw Nastya and her mother walking through the center of the Camp. We waved excitedly to one another but I noticed that they kept walking through the center and not up to the road. A few seconds later I thought, "I can't let it go at a wave, I want to hug her goodbye", so I started jogging down the road back toward the center of the camp. When I was about halfway down the road, she came running around the corner towards me, apparently having had the same thought as I. I got to meet her very gracious mother (pretty obvious that Nastya had told her all about me).
Anyway...we never had any terribly deep conversations...with or without interpreters. We threw the frisbee a lot. We played Checkers. During the last week of camp she came to me twice with an interpreter to pray. The last night she prayed one of the sweetest prayers I'ver ever heard for her family to become believers and for her friends to be serious in their faith. It was precious.
And that's why I stayed all summer. My 15-semester hours of RussianLanguage wasn't nearly enough to learn her life-story or explain to her the current tension between the emergent church and the institutional church (like I could, right?). But there was something of value in spending 2-weeks of my life (6 weeks with her and a few others) just loving and caring for her. Just being attentive and available. Hopefully, being Jesus with skin on.
In a quickly fading summer I hope the Nastya's and Natasha's and Dasha's and Tonya's and Lana's, the Dima's and Kolya's and Sasha's and Anton's all felt as much love from me and Jesus as I felt from them and for them.
(Pictured here is Anastasia and Natasha- Natasha was also a 3-camp-kid...at Camp Friendship all summer. She's from one of the local orphanages.)
Oh, and I'd be remiss not to mention the Interpreters. They were a great bunch of mostly 19-25 year olds that Shane (the Camp Director) has discipled and nurtured over the last 4 years. They were all great and I'm proud to call them my Ukrainian Friends.