Have you ever had something amazing happen and you attempted to trace back the chain of events to see how it all uniquely fell into place? Here’s an inspiring story from EEM Youth Camps telling how a pre-camp problem unfolded in just the right way to see God at work behind the scenes.
Sherry, co-team leader of Eastern European Mission’s Agape Team for the Youth Camp Program, recalls how using their popular tie-dye craft at camp hinged on finding 90% rubbing alcohol after arriving in Ukraine since it wouldn’t be something allowed on a plane. How could Sherry or the rest of Team Agape have known then how the soul of the small community outside Camp Smerichka awaited them?
Sherry asked a Ukrainian team member to buy some rubbing alcohol and bring it to camp. The Ukrainian team member misunderstood, and thought they would look for the rubbing alcohol upon arriving to camp. So look – and hope – they did… at a local pharmacy just up the road. Sherry narrated what followed:
Inna (my interpreter) asked the pharmacist if he stocked this type of alcohol. He nodded and set a very small (100 ml) bottle on the counter. It appeared to be the correct strength, but we would need many more bottles. I tell him via Inna that we will buy this one now and do some experiments. If it works, we will buy enough for the whole camp. As Inna related my intentions, [his] facial expression grew increasingly uneasy. Apparently, a doctor’s prescription is usually required, and though he was willing to sell us a single bottle, 24 bottles would raise warning flags. Inna asked, “Can I just tell him what we want to do with it?” Yes – certainly. I handed her the completed example from my pocket as a woman emerged from the back room.
She addressed me in Ukrainian, and I recognized the words “Americans,” “camp,” “Bibles,” and “children.” Yes – we are the Americans who come to camp and give Bibles to the children. She asked another question, and I was compelled to interrupt Inna for the translation: “Do you ever have extra Bibles?” Yes, frequently.
The translated response came back, “I have four grandchildren. I would love to have a Bible that I could read to them.”
When the pharmacist’s wife of the small Carpathian community of Mykulychyn, Ukraine asked for a Bible to read to her grandchildren, Sherry had no idea how far-reaching the promise to give one would be. Though the pharmacist’s wife had asked for only one, Sherry talked with the rest of the team and decided to gift her a full book set for each of her four grandchildren.
“[The pharmacist] and his wife were overjoyed (overwhelmed, really… since we’d promised them only ‘a Bible’), and watched in amazement as I took each book from the bag and explained what it was.”
Then a curve ball came.
Each book set typically includes a children’s Bible, a teen Bible, an old translation of the full Bible, Mike Armour’s Newcomer’s Guide and a couple workbooks. But as Sherry introduced each book to the pharmacists, she realized that a teen Bible was missing from one of the bags. Pointing this out, she promised to return with the missing Bible.
Two busy days of camp activities passed. When Sherry and Arseniy (another Ukrainian team member) returned with an extra teen Bible, the pharmacists she had met before were nowhere to be found… a different lady, Olesya, was working behind the counter.
Sherry learned from Olesya that the man and his wife weren’t working that day, so she asked if she could deliver the Bible to the couple.
Olesya said yes and took the Bible, cradling it like a baby. “Are you selling these books?” came her translated question.
“No, we’re giving them away,” Sherry replied.
“I have three grandchildren. I would love to have a Bible I could read to them.”
You might be in a spirit-directed chain of events if one person’s expression of openness in some way leads to another’s. Perhaps needless to say, Sherry and Arseniy went back to camp and returned bringing three more book bags, and the new lady, as well, was overjoyed.
“She began laughing and crying all at once, and hugging us and dancing around the room,” Sherry said. “The translation comes in dribs and drabs: She would never be able to afford even one Bible on her own… it would cost a month’s wages… and now she has not a single Bible, but three bags of Bibles at different reading levels.”
Before Team Agape left camp that year, a few members offered a couple book bags also to the lady at a small canteen store a short walk from the camp entrance. This lady also expressed a desire to be able to read a Bible to her two children.
The team drove away that year with a new outlook on the purpose of its work. Some had been attending the camp every summer since 2005. But now – in addition to teaching campers Biblical character values and giving sets of Bibles to all the campers (and camp staff) – the team’s purpose had grown to include those in the surrounding community.
Two summers later, inspired by the chain of events at the pharmacy, Team Agape added to its work by giving out Bibles to the community at the Wednesday morning market. And seeing community members receiving the Bibles just as eagerly, the team repeated the activity the following summer.
Whether we trace it back to a need for rubbing alcohol or something else, the clearest perspective shows God’s spirit working in it from the beginning.
Special Thanks to author, Daniel Casella for article content.