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Team Russia

We know that all good things must come to an end, but we are thankful to God for the sheer abundance of good times we have had these last six weeks. Interacting with and getting to know the Russian kids has impacted each of us in tremendous ways. Having said goodbye to all of our new friends at Camp Iskra, we are now in St. Petersburg. In St. Petey we are spending the remainder of our time in Russia with an organization called the Harbor and seeing the city.

 

Our last session at Camp Iskra was filled with lots of fun and memories. We found it easier initially to interact with the kids in many ways because we were significantly more comfortable with them and the camp. Our knowledge of the Russian language was expanded during this session, which was extremely helpful. All of this has helped us to build relationships with many of the kids in our cabins. These relationships lead to meaningful conversations with the older students and lots of fun with the younger ones.

 

Both camp sessions went by in a blur and are already beginning to merge together in our minds. Though the sessions were similar, there were some distinct differences. During our more recent session we felt that the overall English level of the students was not quite equal to that of the first group. This was a blessing in disguise; we were able to pick up some key Russian phrases early on that became quite useful during the second session. The last three weeks presented us with increased opportunity to interact with other campers outside of the English program. We were all pretty amazed that relationships could be formed despite the lack of a common language. Overall the camp was an incredible experience and an opportunity to share love, happiness, and fun.

 

Not only were able to spend more time with the campers, but we also had the opportunity to bond and make memories with the counselors and staff. Some of our favorite times with them happened at the bonfires which took place after the kids had all gone to sleep (or at least should have been asleep). We introduced them to our American style bonfire traditions (marshmallows and dough boys) and they introduced us to theirs (shashleek, rye bread, kartoshkas, and sausages). Not only was there plenty of food, but also lots of laughter and singing. We feel incredibly blessed for the friendships we have made! A few of our friends, in fact, are meeting us here in St. Petersburg to spend time with us and show us around the city.

 

It has been really neat to see how God has been working in and through these relationships during the camp. We have had the opportunity for some incredible conversations with many of the counselors and staff, and even a few of the students. As we were reading in 1 Corinthians 3 we found a passage about God using each person uniquely: one to plant, one to water, and one to harvest. We know that God has been using us to water and plant, even though we haven’t seen the beginning of his work here and might never see the end. Nevertheless it has been both rewarding and inspiring to be apart of God’s work here in Russia.

 

We are writing to you now in St. Petersburg from the guys apartment at the Harbor. We are staying with the Harbor, which is a Christian organization that helps kids coming out of the orphanage system, preparing them and aiding them for adulthood on their own. The Harbor owns flats on the outskirts of St. Petersburg where they have house groups of people for period of time, teaching them tasks like cooking, cleaning, and budgeting. We have the incredible opportunity of spending time with some of the young women and men while living with them in two of their apartments. We had meals with them last night and today and have already enjoyed getting to know them and testing out our newly learned Russian conversation phrases.

 

We toured the city with a few friends from Iskra today, which of course, was amazing. St. Petersburg is more European in style than Moscow, and we all agreed that the atmosphere in St. Petersburg is friendlier than in Moscow. We are enjoying a little bit of rest after six weeks of camp, but are looking forward to seeing all of you when we get back!

– Team Extreme

Team Russia at our Shashleek barbeque with the camp administration and some of the counselors.

Team Russia at our Shashleek barbeque with the camp administration and some of the counselors.

 

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Da Svidanya America

Privyet (Hello) from Team Russia in Chicago!

Byron, Christa and I (Tera) just landed in O’Hare and met up with Issac who met us from Colorado. We have a six hour layover in the airport before we depart for our second leg of the trip to London! From London we will head to St. Petersberg where we will drive 10 hours to our campsite in Cherepovets. During our layover here in Chicago we are using the time to plan games and events for the kids… and don’t worry, we managed to find a Starbucks as well. 😉

We have been blessed to be in contact with our site host, Kathryn, since we started this process in April. Over the past three months we have learned a lot about Camp Iskra and have had fun planning activities for the camp sessions to come. We are all thrilled to have a chance to serve in a new environment and get to know the Russian campers over the course of the summer! Part of our preparation has included creating a team name for our American group (because what is camp without camp names?!) and we proudly introduce ourselves as Team Extreme!! We have created team shirts for ourselves and our American team members we will be meeting up with in Cherepovets. We are also VERY excited to have brought Team Extreme bracelets for every kid at camp… represent!!!!

Thank you all for your tremendous support in our preparation for this amazing trip. We would love to have a solid team of people praying for us and the camp as we are away. Some ways you can be in prayer for us are:

  • Safe travel and of course, health!
  • Smooth transition into camp like and getting to know other camp counselors
  • The hearts of the kids coming to camp; that Jesus would be a shining light through us, producing Spirit-led conversations and interactions

Despite all of our preparation, we are still not positive what would time will look like while we are over in Russia! Keep an eye out for further posts, we will try to keep you all in the loop as much as possible!

Lastly, we want to give a huge shootout to all of the UPC staff and church body who have organized such an outstanding program, shown us love and supported all the teams to get us where we are today! Another special thank you to Ryan Church and Grant Gustafson for meeting us all at the airport at THREE this morning to pray for us and send us off, you guys are awesome!

Team Extreme is OUT!!

 

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to believers in speech, in love, in life, in faith, and in purity.

  • 1 Timothy 4:12

The Beginning of the End at Camp Iskra

Only 5 more days left of camp. I can’t believe it! Camp Iskra has started to feel like our second home. We know the kids and the staff well now, so we are all very comfortable here. None of us even want to start thinking of having to say goodbye on Sunday. This last week at camp will be filled with campfires and teaching everyone how to make s’mores. Everyone is confused by the random ingredients in a s’more, but after they taste it, everyone always loves it and wants some more. Haha. Please pray that we all have the energy to finish this week strong!!
Although we are trying to focus on finishing our work here at camp, we also recently found out what we will be doing in St. Petersburg, which is exciting 🙂 After a 10 hour bus ride from Cherepovets to St. Petersburg, we will begin our next part of the deputation journey. In the city, we will be working with a ministry called Harbor Ministry. This ministry takes in struggling teens and teaches them the essentials of how to live on your own, such as cooking, managing money, and taking care of yourself. Katie and I will be staying at the ministry’s apartment for the girls and Grant and Ian will stay with the guys. I’m not sure if the kids will speak English or not, but I’m sure we will get to know them and form relationships with them since we will be living with them for 10 days 🙂 Throughout the week we will be doing service projects for a church, such as cleaning and painting. I’m sure our experience in St. Petersburg will be very different from our time at Camp Iskra, but I’m excited to see what God has in store for us!
We will have high-speed internet access in the city, so expect to see some more posts! Miss you all 🙂

Love,
Nicole

P.S. Mom, please have the kitchen stocked with vegetables when I get home. My stomach misses them 🙂


Camp “Spark”

So we all had an epiphany just a couple days ago and I wanted to share it with everyone. As you know, we are working at Camp Iskra. “Iskra” is the Russian word for “spark”. Before leaving for deputation, many of us prayed that this summer God would light a little spark under us and bring us closer to Him. As we were all sitting together a couple days ago, we finally made this connection! Its kind of funny how He decided to send us to a place called “Camp Spark”. God is so clever 🙂

Love,
Nicole


Back in the USSR

We are officially halfway through our deputation experience. It is amazing how time has flown by, but it also seems to be crawling by as well. Shift #1 of Camp Iskra ended on Friday and we had to say goodbye to all our new friends. It was incredibly difficult saying bye to them because many of us formed some strong friendships. Thank goodness for facebook and email so we can all stay connected though!
There were 3 days in between the two sessions of camp and so we had the privilege of visiting Moscow for the weekend. We boarded a train Friday night in Cherepovets and woke up Saturday morning in Moscow. We had 2 full days to explore the historical city and see another side of Russia. It was amazing how much different the pace of life was there. We were used to mellow camp life and then were all of a sudden shocked by the speed of the city. We got to ride the Russian metro (and learned the doors will shut in your face) and we also saw a lot of the city by walking. Can you guess what was first on our “list of things to do in Moscow”? Yes, it was visit the Starbucks. Being from Seattle and all, we HAD to taste the Starbucks there and see if it was up to par. Sure enough, our lattes and mochas measured up to our standards and it was nice to have a taste of home. We then got to go inside the Kremlin Armory and learn a lot about the history of Russia—it was an amazing exhibit. After a long day of walking, we got a good night’s rest and got to start off day 2 strongly. We strolled through Red Square in the morning. It wasn’t quite like UW’s red square, but it was similar  Then we went through the Lenin Mausoleum and saw Lenin’s body. We will never know if it was wax or real. The rest of the day, we got to eat Russian blini (famous pancakes), stand in awe of St. Basil’s cathedral, and bargain for some souvenirs. And to finish the day, we went to Starbucks once again for some people watching. Its safe to say that we made the most of our trip, and we headed back to Cherepovets on another overnight train.
What surprised us all is that we all missed camp while we were in Moscow. That was our first experience outside of camp the whole time we had been here. We were getting a bit of cabin fever and it was good to get away for a few days, but we really missed the atmosphere of camp and were thankful that God sent us to Camp Iskra. Now that we are 4 weeks into dep, most of us have hit a wall energy wise. Please pray that we have the energy to finish camp strong and give it our all! Thank you again for prayer and support! We love you and miss you!

Love,
Team Russia


From Russia with Love…

Hello everyone!! First of all, we would like to apologize for not posting to the blog earlier. Internet is not exactly the strongest in the middle of Russia so we do not have a ton of access to it. We are on day 17 and the days are starting to go by faster and faster! Since we haven’t given you any updates so far, I will catch you all up to what we have been doing here in Cherepovets, Russia.

So, we are living and working at Camp Iskra, a children’s summer camp for kids ages 7-17. There’s roughly 300 kids at the camp and 100 of them are English students taking English classes at camp. That being said, there is a huge language barrier, especially with the younger kids who don’t understand that we don’t speak Russian. However, smiling and laughing is a universal language and if we are all having fun together, it doesn’t matter what language we all speak. Our team is the only team of Americans at the camp, and I honestly think the kids believe we are celebrities or something. We can’t get from one side of the camp to the other without at least a dozen “hello’s” from kids. They are all so precious.

About every morning, we begin the day with English classes. All of us were paired up with an English teacher and we help out in the classroom as “native English speakers”. We mainly pronounce words the kids are learning and sometimes get to teach the lessons. We have 3 classes a day and I think it’s safe to say that we are all becoming attached to our students. This first session of camp is over this Friday and it is going to be very hard saying goodbye to all of our new friends. After classes, our team prepares for an “English Club” that we put on every day. In English club, we play crazy games, sing songs in English, and just have fun with the English students. All the kids LOVE it and as exhausting as it is, it is totally worth it because everyone has a great time. After preparing, we have lunch. Russian camp food has definitely taken some time to get used to, but I think we are all adjusting. Didn’t realize how much I’d miss American food though! The rest of our days are filled up with camp activities and spending time with all the campers.

We have already been able to experience some pretty cool things at camp. Some things are:
“discos” with the kids at night
Campfires
Volleyball and basketball with the counselors
Teaching the kids American baseball
Being a part of Camp Iskra’s 40th birthday and being on Russian tv (no joke)
Experiencing a Russian banya (a giant sauna room to relax in and be wacked with tree branches)

Camp Iskra is located right on the Mologa River (not sure if I spelled that correctly). Weather the past week has been absolutely beautiful so we have been swimming many times and have soaked up a lot of sun already. So Russian weather is not always cold and snowy!

This whole time that we have been here, none of us have been able to wrap our heads around the fact that WE ARE IN RUSSIA. Its so weird that we are literally in the middle of nowhere in a country on the opposite side of the world. It is just funny how God picked this specific camp for us to go to. There is obviously a reason why we are here, even though the reason itself may not be obvious, but we are excited to find out what that is. Right now, our job is to love everyone around us as much as we can. God is so good and we are so thankful to have the opportunity to come here and serve for the summer. It is the 4th of July today and most of us are beginning to miss our friends and family back at home. Thank you so much for all your prayers as we have been abroad! Please continue to pray for safety, health, energy (it is needed when surrounded by children all day), and that God will guide conversations we have with others in a way that will hopefully lead towards Him.

As I mentioned before, the first session of camp ends this Friday and then we have one more three-week session after that with all new campers. We will be taking a weekend trip to Moscow this weekend, which we are all very excited about! Hopefully we will post another update after we get back. We miss you all and hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Love,
Nicole
Katie
Grant
Ian