So now that I’ve been here for 4 weeks, I thought I’d tell you all what I’ve actually been doing here! :)
So far, basically all of my time has been devoted to two camps: first Family Camp, and then Youth Camp.
I’ll tell you a little bit about the schedule because there have got to be some other nerds out there who are interested in the logistical details…and it just gives me a more organized way to explain how the camps work.
It all begins on Sunday around lunch time when the campers arrive! One of the first things the campers do upon arriving at Camp Canaan is take an English placement test. I was able to help administer and grade the tests at both camps which really excited the nerdy future-teacher in me! This was also a great way to meet and get to know campers from the start. Campers were tested on vocabulary knowledge, oral skills, writing skills, and grammar skills.
On Monday, we settled into a regular daily schedule…
English Reading Time
After a staff meeting and prayer time, breakfast, and a short all-camp meeting, is the first group activity of the day: English Reading Time. Small groups are made up of two members of the English team, five to eight campers of varying English levels, as well as a translator. This time is spent reading and studying the Bible and is a great way to start of the morning. Each camper received two Bibles: one in English and one in Russian, and for many campers, these were the first Bibles they had ever owned.
Next is one of my favorite parts of the day: English Class!! For classes, campers are split into groups based on their English levels. During Family Camp, I got to help with an intermediate group, and during Youth Camp, I helped teach an advanced group. English class is a fun time of vocabulary learning and competitive-activity playing! IM has created a great curriculum, vocab lists, and activity files that give us all the tools we need to plan classes.
After English class is lunch time! Meal times were a great time to connect with campers–nothing brings people together like food! :)
In addition, each small group took a turn serving the meal to the rest of the campers/staff which was another great bonding and serving experience.
Afternoon Free Time
After lunch was free time (2-5pm), but don’t be deceived–this was still a very busy time of the day. For those of us on the English team, some of this time would be spent planning English lessons for the following day and conversation time for the evening. During Family Camp, some of the kids decided to lead Russian lessons at 2:00 (what a blast!); they were prepared with whiteboards and candy prizes for games–just like in the English classes they attended! In addition, at 3:00 almost every day there were various activities such as crafts, a Ladies’ Tea, and on Friday: WATER GAMES! Then at 4:00, various members of the English team gave optional talks or discussions on topics such as first aid, marriage, an overview of the Bible, good vs. evil, etc. Free time was also a great time to connect with campers and meet up one on one to get ice cream or take a walk to the village.
At 5:00, scheduled events resumed with Conversation Time. We met in the same groups as we did for English Reading Time, and this was an hour to talk about anything. Sometimes we continued conversations from that morning’s Bible lesson, other times we talked about a specific topic or concept (such as love or family), and other times we would listen to a song or talk about a story. This was another great opportunity to get to know our small groups at a deeper level.
Evening Program and Activities
After dinner, we’d all meet in the large hall for the evening activities.
Each night there was a special activity (usually competitive!) that we would participate in in our small groups (Bible study and conversation groups). Some of these activities involved
-South African Variety Games: which involved eating worms–yuck! :)
-A photo scavenger hunt: Each small group was given a list of idioms (such as “thumb a ride,” “stop to smell the roses,” “hands down,” etc.) and had to take a picture that represented each
-Skit night: each group performed a short skit–it could be funny or serious, a Bible story, a classic fable, or something new! At family camp, the ladies in my group wrote a song (in a mix of English and Russian) about their experiences at camp to the tune of a classic Odessan song, and for youth camp, my group wrote a short skit about the challenges an American tourist would face in Odessa. This was one of my favorite nights–so much creativity and laughter!
-Molecule: this challenge was led by us interns, and each team had to create a “molecule” out of candies. In order to get these candies, they had to find us at various places in the camp and practice their English skills!
Evening Program– Each evening also included a time of praise & worship as well as a talk and a testimony from a team member. Each talk challenged campers (and offered topics for later discussion), and the testimonies provided an example of the way God works in people’s lives. These meetings built to a climax on Friday when we had “Gospel Night.” For many campers, this was the first time they ever truly heard the Gospel or heard about God’s love for them. It was amazing to see campers challenged by these talks and to see lives changed as the week went on.
After the evening program was free time until lights out! This time involved lots of ice cream and games of Uno, Apples to Apples, and Pit. It also was a great time of conversation. Especially during Youth Camp, I was able to have really deep conversations with various campers; it was so eye-opening to hear about their personal experiences, discuss their questions, and share about how God has worked in my life.Saturday (the last day AT the campground) was a bit different. Instead of the regular evening activity and program, we had a special banquet. We got a little dressed up, ate a special meal, and then had a short program to recognize each English class and to present each camper with a certificate. This night was pretty bittersweet: it was tons of fun, but everyone was also sad that camp was coming to an end.
Though Saturday was the last day at Camp Canaan and the last day of English classes and small group meetings, there were still technically three more days of camp! These last three days were spent in Odessa and about 80% (?) of the campers returned for these fun days!
-Sunday began with the church service at Living Hope Church. Later we had a picnic and some fun time at the beach!
-Monday started off with a tour of downtown Odessa followed by some souvenir shopping time. In the evening, we met back at the church for a pizza and movie party!
-Tuesday began with a tour of the 411 Battery Park. Then we met at the church for a final party: ice cream, a slideshow of camp pictures, and final goodbyes. What an amazing week and a half of camp we had!
The People That Make All of This Happen
There were so many amazing people I had the opportunity to get to know that made many aspects of the camps possible.
The English Team–
I’ve heard it said by some missionaries that short-termers can sometimes be more of a burden than a help, but with something like English language camps, the camps just won’t work unless you have English speakers! We were so blessed to have two AMAZING teams for both camps! We had volunteers from America, Canada, and South Africa, and it was amazing to see the unity that emerged so quickly as we served together. Also, when we were exhausted after the first camp, a fresh team brought so much new energy and excitement with them. I was so blessed to meet so many wonderful people of all ages.
We were also SO blessed to have an AMAZING group of translators for both camps! Wow! These are incredible people who volunteer to spend tons of time and effort making communication between English speakers and Russian speakers possible. They were all wonderful people inside and out–so encouraging to talk to, a blast to have in some of our English classes, and so fun to get to know.
This is English camp! Such a blast. So impacting. Definitely the highlight of my summer!