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English camps segue to real conversations

By August 31, 2016

Russia (MNN) — Last week, we recapped SOAR International’s work in a transition home in Russia this summer and the ways you can be praying. Another key branch of their ministry is sharing Jesus through their English camps.

Earlier this summer, a team of three volunteers helped teach a two-week intensive English camp in a suburb of Moscow. For two weeks, they spent eight-hour days teaching kids and adults from the community, aged 12 to 21. SOAR has done this for a number of years in partnership with the local church.

Photo courtesy of SOAR.

(Photo courtesy of SOAR)

Joanna Mangione of SOAR says it was a great opportunity to share the Gospel with the community. Because English skills can help a child in their future, many families encourage their children to attend the English classes, even knowing they are run by Christians.

“[We] had a lot of kids and a lot of adults, some of whom had never stepped into a church. Some who even walked in and said, ‘Where are we? What is this building?’ The teachers had the opportunity to explain this is the church, and introduce the Gospel to these kids who had never been allowed to enter a church.”

Mangione says the classes sometimes took place in the church basement. Two sisters asked many successive questions about the church and what people believed who attended there. What they learned was different from what they grew up believing about the church and Christians.

Seeds were planted even in those basic inquiries.

After the two-week intensive English class, a final English camp took place in another suburb.

This camp is geared more towards beginners and has plenty of summer camp activities to make it fun for the kids. It is another mixture of students who attend the church, and those who don’t.

“English is very wanted in Russia, so it opens the doors for us to present the Gospel in an English setting,” Mangione says.

Each day they have prayer and devotion which often led into discussion about the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity. They were also able to discuss the unique struggles these kids face on a regular basis.

“One girl even admitted, ‘I believe in God, but I’m a little afraid to admit that to anybody else or any of my friends.’”

When the kids opened up, the SOAR volunteers were able to encourage them. “It’s a scary thing for them to admit to being Christian in their world. So even with some of the kids who are moving towards wanting to accept, it’s kind of a scary step for them,” Mangione says.

Photo courtesy of SOAR International.

(Photo courtesy of SOAR International.)

Even so, the seeds planted year-after-year have been watered.

Mangione tells of one girl who, last year, was hostile to the Gospel. She refused to touch the Bible and was enamored with atheist philosophy. But her parents wanted her to go to the camp anyway to learn English. Her critical questions about the Bible brought up many good conversations last year.

This year, the girl has started to read the Bible. It’s a big step.

The church SOAR partners with does a good job of following up with the children who decide to follow Jesus during the camp. They make sure the kids are discipled and connected with a church.

“There are a lot of seeds being planted and it’s been fun over the course of the last two, three years to get to watch some of these kids growing in their faith or growing in their curiosity or the seed being watered.”

It’s encouraging to hear how God has worked this summer. But it’s also a reminder to pray. Pray for the students who have heard the Gospel, that they would accept it. Ask God to provide people in their lives to disciple and love and encourage them in their faith.

In light of recent events in Russia, you can also be praying for SOAR as they plan their next ministry events. Ask God to guide them, protect them, and to provide for them.

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