Russia (MNN) –The summer camp season is an important way for the Slavic Gospel Association to help churches and pastors introduce the Gospel to kids and their families.
But in July, Putin signed into law the “Anti-Terrorism Act,” which significantly reduced the Russian Evangelical Church’s freedom. It also caused a lot of concern for SGA’s 2016 summer camp ministries.
See, the anti-religion themes throughout the bill make sharing one’s faith illegal if it’s not within an official and registered church building. However, SGA’s Joel Griffith has good news.
“We’re actually very encouraged about how the summer camps season went, despite some of the challenges that had concerned us earlier,” Griffith explains. “The Lord moved in a wonderful way.”
However, there were SGA camps raided in Central Asia, an area with great opposition towards Christianity. And one camp was even shut down in Russia, but it wasn’t shut down as a result of the “Anti-terrorism” law.
Instead, the camp was shut down over safety violations. Griffith said the violations were minor and easily corrected. He also mentioned how there were Christian Orthodox camps shut down in the same area for similar violations. And despite these setbacks, as Griffith already said, the camp season was a success.
Impacting Lives for Christ
SGA doesn’t have the final statistics yet, but it looks like the ministry helped reach out to nearly 17,000 kids with the Gospel in hundreds of camps throughout Russia and Central Asia. Griffith says he’s heard that about 2,400 kids accepted Christ and that 3,000 wanted to be involved with the church.
And when the reports pour in from the summer camps, sometimes there are notes from kids who attended a camp, thanking everyone who helped make the summer camps a reality. The kids will even mention some of the activities they did at the camps and what they learned.
“It’s always interesting to us how much the children like the Bible stories and the Bible studies and being able to just have discussions around the campfire about their lives. [They talk about the] situations that are described in scripture are applied to their own lives,” Griffith shares.
“Sometimes those discussions can get pretty deep and the children are just really warmed by what the scriptural accounts and the power the Word of God has in their hearts.”
The Gospel’s warmth mixed with the personal love and attention the kids get from their camp counselors and camp workers create the perfect for building lasting relationships. That’s part of the reason why these camps don’t only reach the kids, they reach the adults too.
It Doesn’t End at Camp
Kids can be some of the greatest missionaries without really realizing it. For some of these parents, when they saw their kids being loved and cared for by strangers, it did something in their hearts and got them interested in asking about Jesus. As a result, about 650 adults expressed a desire to attend church, opening up for further conversations about the Gospel.
“All in all, we are praising the Lord about the way things went. We could have encountered a lot more difficulties than we did,” Griffith expresses.
But all because the camps end does not mean the relationships die out too.
“Basically how it works is the churches and missionary pastors who are out planting churches will hold these camp events and through the summer camps,” Griffith shares.
“They establish contacts with the children, meet their parents. And after they make the initial contacts, the missionary pastors and children’s workers in the churches will make direct-follow-up.”
Will You Pray
The pastors and church workers continue to build the budding relationships by visiting the families and inviting them to church and Sunday school. Through this ongoing effort, these pastors and workers are declaring to the families that they’re not forgotten. Instead, they are loved.
So please, if you would, pray for these kids and their families as they continue to navigate this path towards Christ. Pray for their protection, their redemption in Christ, and that they’d feel God’s presence in their lives.
But pray also for the ministry workers from these camps and those who are working in these kids’ lives, for their protection, encouragement, and impact.
To learn more about SGA’s summer camps, click here!
To donate to SGA, click here!