Russia (MNN) – There still might be snow on the ground in some areas, but Slavic Gospel Association is already thinking about summer. And not because the ministry workers are cold, but because they’re prepping for summer camp ministries in Russia, Far East Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.
Summer Camp Season
“Those summer camps are developed by the churches we support. These are national churches in the countries we serve who are working with, not only the members of their own church, but specifically often with the youth in their church to conduct a series of summer camps throughout the summer,” SGA’s Eric Mock explains.
Dating back to the days of the Soviet Union, it was common for people to take a break and send their kids to summer camps. In fact, those camps provided an outlet for families to get away from the daily grind of life for a little while.
There have been many secular camps made available for this, but lately, those camps have come across problems and aren’t nearly as available as they once were.
Thanks to supply and demand, people who still want to send their kids to a summer camp have been choosing to send them to SGA’s church’s summer camps because of their quality. With that said, this has been opening doors for children who’ve never heard the Gospel, or even the concept of Christ, to be exposed to Jesus’ love and truth for the first time.
What Are These Camps?
Mock shares how these camps put on by national churches are actually similar to the ones put on in the United States, but without all the bells and whistles to accompany them. However, national churches offer a variety of camps and themes can range from tent camps to adventure camps to even tourist/travel camps.
“You will see a culmination of day camps…much like vacation Bible schools, where for an entire week kids are gathering together either at a church or I have seen in a complex of an apartment building where they meet in the square in the middle near a playground and they have an outdoor camp,” Mock explains.
“And then there are stand-alone camps where either facilities are rented or they establish a tent camp out in the forest where they will be there for an entire week and can either camp out or stay at a facility. A lot of the situations are different.”
Sometimes these differences come as a result of the security in certain regions. For example, in a predominantly Muslim area, camps need to be cautiously conducted. It’s not uncommon for such camps to be held outside of cities or for them to be occasionally raided by local authorities.
“The summer camp ministry, in all of its different forms—which changes by geography and economic situation—these have become one of the primary tools, along with mercy ministry, in reaching people that you couldn’t reach any other way,” Mock shares.
However, the purpose of these camps isn’t just evangelism, but also to open the door for year-round discipleship in the form of Sunday school at a local church. SGA helps these churches put on summer camps to achieve this through the form of scholarships.
Just $41 sends at least one child to a summer camp while covering the cost of the camp ministry supplies. But sometimes, that $41 can be stretched to send even more kids, depending on the location. Yet, even with stretching the funds, there never seems to be enough for all the kids who want to go.
“We desire to help all these kids go, but what we’ve been providing is far short of the requests that come [every year]. And it breaks my heart as a pastor and as a missionary to think that there’s a child in one of these villages who has never heard the Gospel,” Mock says.
“And there’s a way to get that child to a camp to hear the Gospel, to make them a part of outreach, and they aren’t going because of the amount of money it would take to order a couple large pizzas. And do we feel comfortable that these children aren’t hearing the Gospel? Personally I don’t, which is why I’m excited to tell [MNN] listeners about summer camps and why we’re trying to equip the Church to reach to the ends of the earth.”
Last year SGA saw and helped more kids attend partner churches’ summer camps than in any of its previous years. Will you help SGA break that recent record and send even more kids to camps this year?
And please, always be praying for these camps. Pray for open doors, open hearts, protection from raids and shutdowns. Ask God to guide the national churches as they make plans to bring these camps to life. Finally, pray that these kids would respond to Christ, that their parents would respond, and for the necessary resources to be provided to send all kids requesting to attend these camps.