This week would have been our Kids’ Camp at Kompas Park. The happy sounds of laughter, gleeful shouts, and worshipful singing should be reverberating loudly through the camp today. Instead, it is silent. All 68 campers who would have been within the safe compounds of the park are now at their guardians’ homes in various states of hunger and disrepair.
While those of us who have been to Kompas Park Kids’ Camp can picture what this week would have looked like without COVID-19, we realize that to many of you, a day at Kompas Park is unfamiliar. So, we’d like to share what a typical day at Kompas Park Kids’ Camp looks like through the eyes of a camper.
Note: The camper, Viktoria, and some volunteers in this story are fictional, but they are based on real stories and people.
Viktoria opens her eyes to see two of her teammates already milling around the bunk room, getting ready for the day. The rest of the girls are still sound asleep in their beds. She looks out the window and sees the sun shining over the soccer field and the cornfields beyond. Another beautiful day at camp!
Yesterday, Viktoria and 67 of her friends from her orphanage arrived at Kompas Park on huge buses. The bus ride was hot and bumpy and many children got car sick along the way, but Viktoria didn’t really notice. She was too busy wondering about the exciting week ahead. Who would her Ukrainian and American camp counselors be? What girls would be in her team? She hoped her best friend, Alina, would be with her. This would be Viktoria’s second year at Kompas Park Kids’ Camp, and she couldn’t wait to be back at the place where she first jumped on a trampoline, went tubing, and tasted S’mores.
Viktoria quickly jumps out of bed and changes into her shorts and t-shirt. She rushes out of the bunkhouse into the brick courtyard. Her counselors Inna, Natalia and Sarah are standing together with their morning coffee. When they see her, they turn to her with big smiles and open arms. When was the last time she was greeted with this much affection in the morning? She loves this about Kompas Park - the seemingly endless attention and hugs. Little does Viktoria know, her counselors and all the other volunteers have already been up for an hour praying for her by name.
Viktoria stands around the courtyard with the girls on her team, eagerly waiting for the day to start. Soon, she hears the Camp Leader Ksenya shout, “Дівчата! Настав час для ранкових вправ!” It’s time for morning exercises! "Uptown Funk" starts playing on the loudspeakers as Viktoria and the rest of the children rush to the front lawn. Danik and Ben have already started leading the silly stretches and warm-ups. Viktoria and her friends giggle as they do exercises like arm circles, jumping jacks, and high knees.
Clang, clang, clang! The breakfast bell rings. Children and their counselors run to line up in front of the dining room. Viktoria knows that her team could get points for being the first in line, so she encourages her friends to hurry. What will we have for breakfast today? She hopes it is yummy breakfast pizza!
After the meal, Viktoria and the girls on her team rush back to their bunk room to start “cleaning.” Every morning, Inspector Cyndee and Sasha the nurse come by for “Room Inspections”. Their room has to be perfectly clean and tidy in order to get points! Since this is Viktoria’s second year at camp, she knows the tricky places Cyndee likes to look for dirt and dust - under the rug and on the top of the cubbies. And no dead mosquitoes should be on the windowsill! She makes sure these places are clean before she hears the room inspectors knock at the door.
After inspections, Viktoria and her friends walk over to the air conditioned assembly hall. They sit in the row saved for Team 6, and wait for the rally to start. Viktoria’s heart races as Cyndee and Sasha dramatically read off the points earned from the morning. Each team can get points for lining up at breakfast, cleaning their table in the dining room, and cleaning their room. Viktoria cheers with her team as they hear that they are in second place!
Next comes the Bible drama, acted out by the American volunteers and translated by her own counselor, Inna. Last year, Viktoria learned a lot of new stories she had never heard before. Today, she watches as the story of David and Goliath is colorfully acted out in front of her. Did David really defeat the huge giant with only one small stone? She reminds herself to ask Inna more about this during Team Time later. After the skit, the whole camp sings happy songs together. Viktoria’s favorites are “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” and “Peace like a River”.
Once the singing ends, Ksenya steps on stage to announce the Clubs for the day. Each day, Viktoria and the other campers have the opportunity to sign up for two Clubs. They are usually different every day. The Club Leaders each do a little commercial to advertise the 6 Clubs offered today. She decides to sign up for Dance Club and Slime Club. She remembers how much fun Dance Club was last year - learning different line dances! She has never heard of Slime Club, but it looked gooey and she wants to try something new.
The two hours of Clubs go by so quickly, Viktoria doesn’t even notice when the lunch bell begins to ring. Suddenly, she feels her friend Alina pulling on her arm. “Let’s go, Viktoria! I think it’s roasted chicken legs for lunch today! And we each get our own!” Viktoria loves meal time at Kompas Park. When she is at home with her frail granny, she rarely has three meals a day, let alone meat at every meal!
After lunch, it is Quiet Time. Viktoria is too excited from her morning activities to sleep, so she plays board games quietly with her friends in her bunk room. Soon, it is time for afternoon rotations. Inna informs the girls that today, it is their turn to go to the river first; so anyone who doesn’t have a swimsuit should go with Inna to get one. (Every year, lots of Cyndee’s friends send beautiful new swimsuits for the kids that don’t have one, so the kids don’t have to swim in their underwear.) After the river time, Inna says they will quickly have an outdoor shower and change clothes; then they will have outdoor games, crafts, and team time. We’re going to the river first! Viktoria says to herself excitedly. What river activity will they have today? Boat day with tubing? Water slide? Canoes?
Viktoria races with her teammates to change into their bathing suits, and they run toward the gate of the park, across the dirt road, and over the small hill to see the river. As she runs over the hill, she sees the motor boat floating idly by the shore. “It’s boat day!” she screams. She and the rest of her team sprint to the lifeguard to get fitted for a life jacket. She hopes to be in the first group to go out on the tube! Big Andrey, who drives the boat, makes each tube ride exhilarating. He knows how to make the tube fly across the water just fast enough to make the girls squeal but not fall out.
Viktoria loves river time because of the boat, but she also loves sitting on the sandy shore with her friends and counselors. Today, she sits in the shade with Natalia and Sarah, two of her counselors. Although she can’t really talk to Sarah besides a few words in broken English, she loves braiding her hair and just sitting in silence next to her.
Soon, she hears the bell from the camp. It is time to switch rotations - outdoor games next! Ksenya always has creative, fun relay games planned, and today is no different. Viktoria is tired after river time and outdoor games, so after this she is glad to have a chance to sit during craft time. Today’s craft is creating bracelets with five different color beads. She listens as her counselors explain the meaning of the beads, and she learns these bracelets are called “Salvation Bracelets”. She listens closely to what each color represents. Viktoria wants to remember, so she can tell her little brother, Roma, when she goes home.
After craft time, Viktoria and her team gather together for Team Time. After some pleading from Viktoria and her friends, Inna agrees to let them have Team Time in Hammock Village. As they swing in the hammocks under the big oak tree, Inna, Natalia and Sarah explain more about the story of David and Goliath. Viktoria learns that David trusted God’s power so much that he didn’t even take a sword or armor with him when he went to fight the giant. Viktoria doesn’t think she has ever trusted anyone that much. Most people in her life have let her down over and over, so she has learned to only trust herself. But if David trusted God this much, maybe she could too? She listens carefully as Inna explains that God is not like any human. He is a Father, but not like any earthly father. He is powerful, always good, and loving. Inna says God will never leave his children. Is that true? Viktoria wants to believe this.
Team time leads up to dinner time, and soon Viktoria is back in the dining hall with the rest of the camp. She loves hearing the chatter and laughter around her as fellow campers tell stories of the day. Inna says that after dinner, they will go back to the soccer field for the “Rodeo”. This is one of Viktoria’s favorite evening activities at Kompas Park. The camp is split into two teams, and campers and counselors compete in silly activities. She loves the energy of the Rodeo - the whole camp cheering their teammates on as they crawl, spin, or sprint to the finish line.
After the Rodeo, Viktoria feels sweat on her forehead and her voice is hoarse from cheering, but she is happy. Her team meets back in the assembly hall for the final rally of the night. She joyfully sings more praise songs and hears more about God and his love for her. There is no other place where she sings in a group like this and hears so much about a God of love.
When the assembly is over, her team walks slowly back to their rooms. It is their turn to shower first, and then they will have final Team Time and prayer in their rooms. Viktoria thinks that tonight, she is ready to join in prayer with the rest of her team. Each night, Inna gives the girls an opportunity to pray out loud, but so far Viktoria hasn’t felt comfortable enough to join. Tonight, though, she thinks she is ready. Inna, Natalia and Sarah all pray like they are talking to a real friend. If it is true that Viktoria’s prayers will go straight to a God who loves her, then what harm could voicing a little prayer do?
Viktoria lies in her bed after the lights are turned off in her room. She is thankful that she prayed during Team Time tonight. There is a peace that comes over her as she thinks about the day and all that she has learned. She can’t remember another night in the last year when she has had so much peace when going to sleep.
Viktoria closes her eyes with a calm smile on her face. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow, she thinks as she falls soundly asleep.
___________________________Kompas Park is in the midst of a Summer Sabbatical due to COVID-19. With the cancellation of camps, most of the financial support which upholds the camp throughout the year has now been lost. To help Kompas Park’s staff and facilities survive this tough time, we have started a “Carrying Kompas Park” campaign. Leading up to Father’s Day, our goal is to raise $10,000. Would you consider giving to this campaign to keep Kompas Park alive and allow more children like Viktoria to attend camp next year? You can donate here. Thank you!