Since Orphan’s Promise began its work in Ukraine, reaching orphans through camp settings has been a major part of our ministry focus each summer.
Across Ukraine, Russia, Moldova and Armenia, Orphan’s Promise is sponsoring thousands of orphaned and vulnerable youth to attend Christian summer camps. Camps where they get a break from routine orphanage life, hear about the love of Jesus, and meet caring Christian adults who have an interest in their lives.
Throughout my time working with Orphan’s Promise in Ukraine I’ve been privileged to be involved in over a dozen such camps. Each summer brings with it new challenges and new faces. Faces that then become names and names that become stories of individuals who have already lived through an immense amount of pain and loss in their short lives.
On the first day of the camp, as the teens unloaded off the bus, they were instructed to divide into groups of 3 so that we could then form their teams. As this was taking place, my eyes immediately settled on one girl - the girl who looked lost among the mass of teens, the girl who clearly didn’t have friends to partner with. There she stood, all alone, wondering who would pick her and where she would end up. My heart broke for her.
Later that day I would learn her name was Oksana and she was 16-years-old. Throughout the week I learned pieces of her story. Orphaned at 12, abandoned by relatives, placed in a foster family and eventually in the orphanage. It was clear that Oksana was a survivor.
As the days of the camp went by I saw Oksana come out of her shell and truly take in all she was learning. After a few days she was already on stage, helping lead the worship sessions and in a prayer time with her leader, Oksana prayed to receive Jesus as her savior. A real transformation was taking place before our very eyes.
On the last day I asked Oksana if she’d mind sharing some of the things that were the most meaningful to her while at the camp and she would want others to know about her time.
“I can’t even express in words everything I want to say,” she said. “It felt like I was home here. Thanks to this camp I’ve gotten closer to God and I’ve gained information I know I’ll need for the future. I think everyone has taken something away from this camp. I’ve learned about gratitude and forgiveness here. In some ways I feel like God restored me to who I was before.”
We are so grateful for the opportunity to reach teens in Ukraine through these camps every summer- teens like Oksana. Thanks to your partnership this is made possible.