It seems like we talk a lot these days about how different our lives have become. Phrases like “unprecedented times” and “physical distancing” have probably become a permanent part of our vocabulary. We all know that life will not go back to “normal” for some time yet. So, how are you feeling after months of lockdown? Maybe, like me, you no longer feel like you’re in a persistent state of shock, but you still lament what we’ve lost. Maybe you just desperately want to return to work. Maybe you long to connect with people outside your home, go to church in person again, or see someone’s face without it being on FaceTime or Zoom.
In normal circumstances here in Canada, June would be the month where children of all ages look forward to the end of school and the beginning of summer. Children eagerly anticipate hot summer days at the beach, pool parties, and summer camps. Sadly, we know that many typical summer activities won’t happen this year.
One of our priorities as a ministry is to always invest in the lives of children. One of the ways we normally do that is to send children to Christian camps in summer. A couple of years ago, Together Camping Ministry, our ministry partner in Belarus, mobilized their camping ministry and sent teams of volunteers to some of the most poverty stricken villages in Belarus. Each team ran a 3 day VBS-style evangelistic day camp. We were excited to watch this ministry grow into a year round outreach in these villages where they helped the most vulnerable families with physical needs, continued to teach the children about Jesus, and witnessed to their parents.
In any other year, we would be celebrating the opportunity to continue to grow this incredible outreach opportunity. However we know that we are facing a summer like no other, both here in Canada and in Belarus. This year, Together Camping Ministry can’t operate their evangelistic camps in the normal way. Yet this group of men and women are still dedicated to meeting the needs of vulnerable children. COVID-19 has not changed that. In fact, nothing could change that!
This year, we have been brainstorming new ways for them to safely meet the physical and spiritual needs of these vulnerable children. We know the need is great because the Together Camping team has been receiving requests from families in these villages who have lost their jobs and have no food. So, the brave team of volunteers have committed to a revised outreach that I’m calling “Mini-Camp”. Mini-Camp will look and feel a little different than the normal evangelistic camp, but the goal is the same: to bring joy and hope in Christ! I don’t ever want children’s smiles to be masked or socially distant.
Part of the plan is to help these vulnerable children, and their families, be safe and protected. This means providing protective gear like face masks and sanitizers for the kids and their parents. We are also supplying food to families in desperate need. Fun day camp activities will still happen, but it will kept to small groups with appropriate safety measures in place. The message of the Gospel will be heard through the stories told, through the food given, and through the witness of the volunteers.
These volunteers have dedicated their own summer to making a difference for these children while taking every reasonable precaution. I believe that this is because they understand a deeper truth. As the church of Christ, we are the ones that can point people to the eternal hope that they desperately need.
Providing the outreach tools, the protective equipment and the food costs approximately $400 per village, $60 per family, $25 per child. Will you help these dedicated volunteers bring the joy and hope of Christ to a child today?