Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, generations of young people were indoctrinated with the communist ideology. This was done partly through the pioneer youth camps. Nearly a million children each year still go to these summer camps but of course, communism is no longer taught. In fact, the leadership of the Ukrainian national youth camp organization has asked Eastern European Mission to bring teams of Christians into all of their 500 youth camps. They have also asked us to bring and teach the Bible. In 2006 as a response to the invitation, EEM developed a program to form teams to go into the youth camps in Ukraine and to take and teach the Bible to the children and staff. EEM works with officials in Ukraine to select which camps to attend and then provides training and translators for the teams that will go to those camps, as well as other needed services. The same camps that taught communism now want the Bible.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
The above passage from Isaiah sums up the philosophy behind the EEM Youth Camp Program. We believe that when the seed of God’s word is planted, he will cause a harvest to take place.
The “Word of God” takes on three forms in the Bible: the Scripture (writings), the spoken word (teaching), and the embodied Word (Jesus and his people). When our teams enter a youth camp they are allowed to use all three of these forms of God’s word. Teams are able to distribute Bibles and biblical literature, they are allowed to teach biblical character traits, and they embody what the word means by living among and interacting personally with children, counselors, and other adult staff in the camps. They show through their lives what the love of God means.
This approach to demonstrating God’s love is much like a three-legged stool. According to some, the three-legged stool is one of the most stable chairs a person could sit in! We believe our approach to serving these camps employs one of the most effective ways to bring God’s word into the lives of children and adults in Ukraine.