In a typical May our life begins to change dramatically as we are preparing to host volunteer teachers and begin our summer camp ministry in the beginning of June. This May is far from typical, and we are still very uncertain what the future months will hold. We hold out hope and we pray that some of our outreach summer camps will still be held in July and August. Closed borders, quarantine, and government restrictions have cast a cloud of doubt over summer camp ministry plans. We take solace in the fact that the plans of man are not the plans of God and He is sovereign. In the past years God has continued to open doors and bless our summer English/outreach camps. As part of our long-term goal of building relationships and reaching out to the youth of Eastern and Central Europe, we partner with local schools and churches to organize summer English and Outreach camps. The objective is not only to teach conversational English, but more importantly to share the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to connect young people to local churches.
Our English camps have three goals: First, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and set a Christ-like example, encouraging young people in their faith while building relationships with them. Second, to introduce young people to the local churches, schools, and pastors in their community who we partner with. Third, to teach the English language helping to provide these young people with language knowledge that they can tangibly use in their lives, education, and future careers.
During the busy past year, we did a poor job of keeping up this website. During this time of quarantine, we are working on updating the website. It also seems a good time to reflect on the past summer and highlight summer camps, some we still hope, God willing, to conduct in the latter half of the summer. It is hard to believe that we began over a decade ago partnering with one school (The Peterfalva Reformed High School) and one church community in Hungary (Vachartyan/Erdokertes) to organize summer English/outreach weeks. God has continued to open new doors and given new opportunities for additional summer programs. Through word of mouth and from invitations from pastors and teachers, some of whom a decade ago were students participating in our summer camp programs, we have seen significant growth. The summer of 2019 was our busiest summer to date. Over ten weeks, we had the opportunity to have nine summer camps in Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia, and Romania. Our volunteers over the years have come from a variety of settings including college students, retirees, husband-wife teams, and church groups. Our volunteer teams often become international teams as we have had Christian volunteers from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Ukraine, South Korea and Nigeria. The summer of 2020 was poised to add two additional camps. We had plans to split our long standing Vachartyan/Erdokertes camp into two separate camps with a week camp at each location. Additionally, we had plans for a late summer opportunity to work with university students of the Rákóczi Ferenc College. Bellow is a brief look at the different locations of summer programs.
Peterfalva, Ukraine is our home while living in Ukraine. This is our longest running English/outreach camp. We have partnered with the Peterfalva Reformed Lyceum since 2007 in conducting a summer camp for the students of this Hungarian Reformed High School. The Tisza River, originating in the Carpathian Mountains flows behind the village. Often appearing a shade of blue in the evening shadows, the Carpathian Mountain chain, one of the most majestic ranges of Europe, appears in the distance over the wheat fields surrounding Peterfalva.
Nagydobrony, Ukraine is a rural village of beautiful Transcarpathia, Ukraine. This ethnic Hungarian speaking village is a center of Hungarian folk art, traditions, and customs. One highlight of the camp is a night of traditional Hungarian dance and music.
Both the Nagydobrony and Peterfalva camps are done in partnership with Hungarian Reformed Christian High School boarding schools. These camps are a mandatory part of the English curriculum. Between 90-100 students attend the camps ranging in age from 13-16 years old. Students live on campus and eat all meals in the school’s cafeteria. Volunteers live in guest rooms at the school and enjoy authentic Ukrainian and Hungarian cuisine dinning with students of the school.
Daily devotions and singing are held with the students twice a day. Mornings are spent in English lessons. Afternoons are spent doing sports/recreation/service projects. Each student spends one afternoon completing a service project in their local community. These include visiting elderly in the village and partaking in a Roma (Gypsy) outreach. Evenings are social times, spent playing games and interacting with students.
Tiszaujvaros, Hungary is a fascinating modern city built in the 1950’s as a model communist industrial town. We have done this camp for the past five years, and how it came to be was truly providential. Following our car breaking down one cold and wintery night, the pastors of the Hungarian Reformed Church came to our aid and rescued us on the side of the highway. Unbeknownst to us, they had been praying for a way to begin English outreach camps. We can truly see it was the hand of God that caused our car to break down at just the right exit on the highway. We have enjoyed partnering with them ever since in witnessing to the young people of the local community.
Váchartyán, Hungary is a small village outside of Budapest near the beautiful Danube River. It is located near the picturesque river town of Vac and near the famed Danube Bend. We have been working in the village for many years and have enjoyed getting to know the local community through children and families who have been involved with the camp.
Erdőkertes, Hungary is a new camp. Hosted by Pastor Ferenc Barnabás Gergely and his wife, Lívia, who serve a Hungarian Reformed church located in Erdokertes, Hungary. We have been partnering with the Gergely family since 2009 in organizing a summer camp as prior to this year we had one camp for both Erdokertes and Vachartyan. They have a strong emphasis on evangelism and outreach. Our camp is one of many faith-based camps they conduct every summer as they serve their community and reach out to the local youth. Erdokertes, in English means “forest garden”, and is located about 30 miles outside of Budapest. It is a growing community with many families escaping the big city life of Budapest.
Veresegyház, Hungary is located about 30 minutes outside of Budapest and, as strange as it may sound, is known for its retirement home for circus bears. By God’s grace we have seen our summer ministry continue to grow nearly every year. By word of mouth and from invitation from former students who are now pastors and teachers we continue to get invitations to new locations to share the Gospel through English/outreach camps. This past year we were invited to come to Veresegyhaz and we enjoyed parting with the Hungarian Reformed Church for the first time in 2019 and we are excited to continue this ministry here.
Rácalmás, Hungary is beautiful in July as much of the central part of Hungary is covered in rolling hills of sunflowers at their peak. We are excited to partner again with Istvan Fodor, pastor of two villages in the region. Istvan was once a professional Ultimate Frisbee player and played on the national Ultimate Frisbee team of Hungary. Volunteers have the opportunity to be part of community outreach playing Ultimate Frisbee.
Zmajevac, Croatia is in a beautiful wine region along the Danube River in northeast Croatia. Known as Vörösmart in Hungarian, the town is a mixed Croatian-Hungarian village on the Croatian-Serbian border. In the early 1990’s as the former Yugoslavia fell apart, this area was decimated by war. Today it is very peaceful but still recovering from consequences of the war and the exodus of people. We have enjoyed working with the Vörösmart Hungarian Reformed Church for the past five years.
Camăr (Kémer in Hungarian), Romania is quiet rural ethnic Hungarian town surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills or Romania. The town is on the border of the famed Transylvania region of Romania. This week is combined with a weekend of exploring Transylvania. We are excited for this third summer to partner with the Hungarian Baptist congregation of Kemer in a week long English/outreach camp in this warm and hospitable community.
Beregszász, Ukraine located in Transcarpathia is home to a Hungarian Presbyterian church. This Presbyterian church has ties to the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). We have enjoyed for the past three years working with this church congregation to organize an English/outreach camp for students in their church and community. Days are filled with Bible study, singing, English lessons, crafts and games. The camp occurs in a small hilltop village in just outside of Beregszasz, with the beauty of God’s creation all around.
What does a day in the life of an English/outreach camp look like?
Camps have anywhere from 20-100 students attending them. Some students attend the local church and youth group; other students come from the local community and surrounding villages. At the school camps all participants are enrolled students at the schools. The day is broken down into different types of events: Devotions & Singing, English Lessons, and Games & Activities. Volunteers take turns 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 them. The devotions are translated into Hungarian by an English teacher or a local university student who is helping with the camp.
Volunteers prepare and conduct conversational English lessons for the students. Most students learn grammar in school. English lessons are focused on conversation, songs, games and interactive activities. The lessons are an opportunity to help the students advance in their English language abilities, which with a greater knowledge of English will help them find better jobs and opportunities later in life. English classes may be also centered around topics of faith and the Bible.
Games and activities are an important part of every camp allowing students to burn off energy and enjoy time spend in sports and extra curricular actitivies.
All of the camps are a wonderful opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and connect to students of these communities. We enjoy these occasions to partner with local pastors, churches and schools. It is always a pleasure to host volunteers, working with them and sharing the life and culture of Eastern and Central Europe.