Russia (MNN) — Despite violence, ethnic
tensions, and harassment from local officials, student leaders saw changes in
the lives of 1,300 children at Russian Ministries evangelistic summer camps this
year. The camps were held in Ingushetia,
North Ossetia, South Ossetia, and Grozny, Chechnya — where Islamic militants
stormed the Chechen Parliament in late October.
Originally, a team of Next Generation
student leaders had planned to come to Grozny from Vladikavkaz to lead the
summer camp. However, security
concerns and interference from local authorities prevented this; so the
Christians of Grozny stepped up to lead the camp themselves. They faced negative reactions from some
parents who did not like the Bible lessons the children received. Nevertheless, they were able to distribute 60
children's Bibles and some New Testaments in the Chechen language.
In Vladikavkaz, students and graduates
of the School Without Walls program utilized their training in cross-cultural
studies and Muslim ministries to run camps for refugee children in June and
August. In a culture deeply divided by
ethnic tensions, as the children learned more about God, they also learned to
love one another.
"Over the course of [the summer], we saw
changes in every child," said Gennady Terkun, ministry director for the
Northern Caucasus region. "The changes were not always big, but they were
significant in the eyes of God and the camp staff who invested so much love
into the children."
Katya's father is dead and her mother has been disabled. On top of
that suffering, she faced a lot of teasing from the other children at the
beginning of the camp. However, as the
camp went on, staff saw the atmosphere among the children change, and ethnic
barriers begin to come down.
Nine-year-old Zira had a similar experience at a camp in South
Ossetia. She lives with her grandmother
in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia.
"My mom ran away to Tbilisi, Georgia, and lives there with my brother,"
she explained almost matter-of-factly. "No one wanted to be friends with me
because my mom is Georgian."
Since coming to camp, everything has changed: now Zira has friends. "At camp, I learned that Jesus loves
everyone," she said, "and I became friends with Diana and Zhorik from
Vladikavkaz. I have a lot of friends who also love Jesus!"
Local officials also came to "investigate" the South Ossetia camp this
summer, but all they found was Christians generously sharing their faith with
needy children. Thank God for the work
He is doing in this region. Pray for spiritual strength and protection for
the people involved in running the camps, as well as for the children who