Church Partnered Summer Camps

Summer Camps are partnered with either Christian schools in Ukraine or in partnership with Church congregations in Ukraine, Hungary, and Croatia.  We looked forward to hopefully adding a church partnered camp in Romania this coming summer as well.  These week long camps that are partnered with churches are an outreach to the people of the local community which the church serves.  We praise God for this opportunity and we thank God for these weeks spending time with hundreds of young people teaching English to them, but more importantly having an opportunity to share our faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many young people.  Here is a look back at last summer’s four camps that took place in cooperation with churches.

I. Beregszasz – Over the last four years, a university student named Nikolett has attended our university English classes.  We have enjoyed getting to know her over the past years and have been encouraged by her strong faith and devotion to Christ.  She has attended or helped us in some of our summer English camps and has been an active participant in some of our Bible Retreat weekends.  This past year she invited us to visit her church a couple of times and after hearing about our summer English/Outreach camps, the church invited us to partner with their small Presbyterian church in Beregszasz, Ukraine for a week-long camp.  This was not a school camp, but a church camp.  Children as young as seven years old and as old as high school age from the church and local community attended from 9am-3pm for devotions, singing, English classes, and games.  God blessed this week. The church was happy and excited to have such a week of Gospel outreach and relationship building, and it was a pleasure for us to be of service to them and their local church. Follow the link below for more photos of this camp.

II. Vachartyan is an old village, near the storied Danube Bend region of Hungary.  Vachartyan and the neighboring town of Erdokertes, sister congregations led by the same pastor, Barnabas Gergely, are both bedroom communities of Budapest due to their proximity of being within 45 miles of the capital city. In Vachartyan we have been working with pastor Barnabas and his wife Livia for 10 years conducting an English outreach camp for local middle school and high school students of their church and community during the first week of July.

Water Balloon Volleyball

We are always welcomed with generous hospitality and we have enjoyed over the last decade getting to know many people in these communities.  We and our volunteers stay with host families from the both the Vachartyan and Erdokertes congregations helping us get to know many families over the past years.

We also enjoy working with David and Grace McBrier, American missionaries living in the nearby city of Vac.  They have many interesting outreach programs including a softball/baseball ministry, women’s retreats, and as Grace is an excellent cook and baker they are often hosting people at their home.  David is also a carpenter and every year David and Grace lead the students at the Vachartyan camp in a week long building/craft project with a Gospel theme.  At the end of the week all of the students have built a souvenir to take home with them.

Building Project

Another interesting side note to our Vachartyan camp is that it is the home town of our volunteer David Guba’s grandparents.  He first heard about us and the camp through a google search while researching his ancestors home village. This past year during the camp he lived with cousins who still live in Vachartyan.

We are also excited every year to work along side Orsi Gelle, a dear friend and English teacher from Vac.  Orsi’s experience teaching children and her genuine faith and friendship are such a blessing to the camp.  We are thankful each and every year to be a part of this camp in Vachartyan. Follow the link below for more pictures from the camp.

III. Tiszaujvaros is also a small city on the Eastern end of Hungary.  Tiszaujvaros has a very different history and very different settings today than Vachartyan.  Tiszaujvaros is a very new city, having been created in farm fields along the Tisza river in the 1950’s as a model communist industrial city.  Due to its history and recent creation, the city never had a church until the late 1990’s.  We have been working with the Tiszaujvaros congregation in a similar fashion for only the past three years.

We can see the LORD’s providence at work in how we came know the Church and Congregation in Tiszaujvaros.  Four years ago, on a dark February night, while traveling with a group of students, our Volkswagen van broke down near their church and their subsequent kindness, care, and aid met our unfortunate predicament.  They welcomed us that evening with such hospitality.  They had been praying for a way to start an English camp ministry and we were an answer to that prayer, stranded on the side of the highway that cold dark snowy night.

We have enjoyed partnering with Aranka and Laci and their ministry in Tiszaujvaros and like many other places, we have enjoyed meeting many people in the church community.  We are blessed to be serving these churches and their ministry to their communities through helping them organize these summer Gospel outreach/English camps.

Because these are church outreach weeks and not school camps, we follow a model of having students come from 9am until 3-4pm, returning home in the evenings.  Days are filled with alternating hours of devotions & singing, games, and creative English lessons.  Over 50 middle school and high school students attended the Vachartyan camp and around half that number came to the Tiszaujvaros camp.  We praise God for these opportunities.  We are thankful to God for the opportunity to work beside so many godly people in this community who labor intensively for the sake of the Gospel.

IV. Vorosmart – Our week-long camp in Vorosmart is unique to us.  It is not an English camp and it is our only camp to date that happens outside of the borders of Hungary or Ukraine.  Vorosmart is a small ethnic Hungarian town in north eastern Croatia.  The camp is a Bible camp in a Vacation Bible School format.  Middle school and high school students attend from 9am until 3pm for periods of devotions and singing, small group discussions, and games and crafts.

The other unique aspect of this camp for us, is that the camp is mostly led by university students that we take from Ukraine.  We help organize it and provide the logistics and we and other native English volunteers help lead the devotions and help with games, but by in large the camp is run by Hungarian university students from Ukraine.  It is truly amazing to see God at work, using these young people to reach out and share the Gospel with others.  We are always welcomed and hosted by Pastor Gyorgy Varga and the congregation.  This past year we enjoyed delicious dinners every evening made by ladies in the congregation.

God Blessed these camps this past summer and we are excited to once again plan for these camps this coming summer.  Please pray for these camps and outreach opportunities now during the planning process and this summer when they will be underway. To God be the glory!

Peterfalva & Nagydobrony English Camps

Nagydobrony – For the first time this past summer we held an English/outreach camp in the town of Nagydobrony, Ukraine at the Hungarian Reformed Boarding School in the village.  The school is one of three Hungarian Reformed boarding schools in the minority Hungarian population of the western Ukraine, the province of Transcarpathia.  Transcarpathia, part of Hungary for a thousand years, still has an active minority Hungarian population and many Protestant churches.  The English teacher at the school, Magdolna Borovszki, a Peterfalva Reformed High School graduate, is a close friend of ours who was a student and former university Bible Study attendee, dating back to my first years visiting Ukraine.  Nagydobrony is 50 miles, but a grueling nearly two-hour drive from our home village of Peterfalva, and is one of the largest Hungarian settlements in the Transcarpathia region.  We immensely enjoyed traveling there for our week-long camp filled with devotions and singing, English lessons, games and activities, and capped off with a bonfire on a beautiful early summer night.  It was wonderful to meet many new students and teachers.  This was our first camp of the summer, beginning in the end of May, and was a great start for our volunteer teachers.  The town of Nagydobrony is home to a Christian Nursing home.  Nursing homes are uncommon and a Christian nursing home is very unique.  As part of the camp we walked over every afternoon with a group of students to sing and visit the elderly residents.  The residents enjoyed it and hopefully the students did too.

An evening of Hungarian Folk Dancing.One other highlight for us was to have a folk dance evening in Nagydobrony. Some area folk dance instructors came and taught all of us different Hungarian folk dances. We are thankful to the Nagydobrony school, the teachers, and community for welcoming us and partnering with us during this English camp.

Volunteer Sarah Slager from North Carolina leads devotions.

Devotions and singing are an important part of our camps. The students seem to enjoy the singing.  Learning English and vocabulary through song for many seems to be an easier and more enjoyable way to learn English. We especially love the devotional time as it provides time and places to be able to talk to the students about faith.  It is moving to hear the volunteers share with the students, personal testimonies, favorite Bible verses, and devotions that have helped them in their faith. Sometimes volunteers use this time to share with the students about struggles in their own lives and about how they were led to Christ.  It is always our hope and prayer that these words will fall on listening ears and open hearts. Please follow the link below to see more pictures.

Peterfalva – Peterfalva, the small agrarian village in Western Ukraine we call home, was the location of our third camp of the summer.  This also marked our second camp with a Hungarian Reformed Boarding School. Around 100 students from the Peterfalva Reformed High School attend the camp.  The camp is a required part of the school curriculum.  The school year runs from September through May and the month of June is designated for language camps.  The students take part in our two-week English camp as well as a two-week Ukrainian language camp.  Despite the setting of a Christian boarding school, the camp is still an excellent opportunity to share the Gospel and the hope that is ours in Christ.  Also, it is a great opportunity to live our lives as a Christian example of what it means to follow Christ.

You may be wondering, what does a day in a boarding school camp look like?  The day is broken down into four different types of events.  Devotions & Singing, English Lessons, Service Projects, and Games & Activities.  Devotions and Singing occur every morning and evening.  We take turns as volunteers leading the devotions by sharing the Gospel, speaking about our faith, sharing a favorite Bible passage or a devotion or something that the LORD has been teaching us.  The devotions are translated into Hungarian by an English teacher or a local university student who is helping with the camp.  Every morning is filled with English Lessons from after breakfast until lunch.  Volunteers from North America prepare and conduct English lessons for the students.  The lessons are an opportunity for the students to advance in their English language abilities, which with a greater knowledge of English will help them find better jobs and opportunities later in life.  Many of the English Lessons are also centered around topics of faith and the Bible.  Afternoons are filled with Games & Activities and Service Projects.

Every student is required to take part in one Service Project throughout the course of the two-week camp.  The service projects involve spending an afternoon visiting elderly and widows in the Peterfalva community; singing, visiting, reading the Bible and praying with them.  The other opportunity is to volunteer for an afternoon at the local Roma kindergarten organizing games, songs, and a Sunday School message for these young Roma children.  One day we went to the Roma kindergarten and organized a lunch for the children.  Pastor Elemer Barta cooked the famed Hungarian goulash over an open fire and students from the Peterfalva Reformed High School, children from the Roma kindergarten and their teaches, and North American volunteers all enjoyed games, lunch, and fellowship together.

Evenings during the English Camp are filled with with many different activities for the students.  During the course of the two week camp we organize the students into activity teams.  The students choose a team name and make a poster representing their team. Throughout the two week camp the teams compete against each other in many games and activities and at the end of the camp an activity team is crowned champions and rewarded for their efforts with chocolate.  The student teams compete in Ultimate Frisbee, water games, a scavenger hunt, a trivia competition, organize skits and do many different other activities.

This camp is a busy two weeks but always richly blessed by God and a rewarding experience we are thankful for.

One exciting thing to happen this past year was one of volunteers David Guba, from Alberta, Canada brought with him an entire suitcase full of blankets, gloves, and winter hats that his mother had knitted.  David gave these items to many teachers and cooks at the school and he was also able to give them as gifts to elderly ladies of the community who the students visited in the afternoons during the camp.  Earlier this week, Stacey and I were able to visit Mariska-neni, a 92 year old woman in our village who the students visited last summer.  The blanket made by David’s mother was on her bed and she proudly retold the story of how she received it during the English camp.  We are thankful to both David who carried an entire extra suitcase and to his mother who must have given countless hours to make the blankets and hats.

We are again thankful to God for all the volunteers from North America this past summer.  We are thankful for their willingness to come and serve and give of themselves and their time.  We are also thankful to Reformed Mission Services for helping us find volunteers.  We were also very thankful to Csilla Kodobocz, David Hidi, Zoltan Toth, Krisztina Bosckor, Eszter Kucsinka, and Kamilla Kelemen (university students) who helped as translators and classroom assistants.  We also were thankful to Irenke Kalincs, and Magdolna Borovszki the respective English teachers we worked with in Peterfalva and Nagydobrony.  We are thankful to the administrators, dorm parents, cooks, cleaning staff, and everyone else at both schools who made these weeks possible.  We appreciated the efforts of so many people to be able to organize and conduct summer camps in both Peterfalva and Nagydobrony at the Hungarian Reformed boarding schools.  Soli Deo Gloria! Follow the link below to see more pictures.

2017 Peterfalva English Camp