The fear of failure is one of the primary feelings experienced by orphans on a daily basis. All their lives they’ve been told that they are not that smart, not strong enough, and not even capable of achieving their dreams and goals. In fact, unfortunate circumstances and lack of support usually discourages them to pursue their dreams at all.
Although the orphanage is a place where children learn how to battle their inner trauma and process toxic relationships, there is very little mature supervision to teach them healthy ways to deal with conflict or with fear. As a result, orphans start to believe they are, in fact, incapable of overcoming their difficulties, and end up giving up much more often than trying again.
This summer has been challenging for every one of us, whose lives were affected by the pandemic. In addition to a dreadful and long break from school, the children at Shpola orphanage were unable to come to Kompas Park Summer Camp, which happens to be the main highlight of the year. Thankfully, generous donations from many of you helped maintain the Kompas Park facility during our Summer Sabbatical and hopefully the kids and camp volunteers will be back in 2021!
Even though it was sad that this past year Kompas Park camps were cancelled, God provided another amazing opportunity for the older children from the orphanage to have exciting, new adventures with a Christian influence, at Camp Maximum. One of the distinct features of this facility is the extreme part of the camp, with lots of zip lines, ropes courses, high swings, and rock climbing! For some guys and girls, saying “yes” to extreme activities required additional courage and bravery. Actually, climbing a 20’ high column and jumping off to ring a bell is a hard and unusual thing to do, even if you are a teenager! Surprisingly, most girls and boys seemed to be eager to try something new, having supportive camp counselors and professional extreme instructors by their side to encourage them.
On the first day of the ropes course, Vika had been contemplating and hesitating whether making the first step was even worth it. Constantly repeating “I can’t, I am too afraid” up until the last moment, she finally stepped onto the rope, trusting her carabiner and harness. Imagine being so afraid, and still being able to overcome your own fear! After going through each section, individually constructed with different obstacles, she would repeat “My legs are shaking, I can’t,” but still continued forward. In the end, conquering the ropes course, Vika realized that she was much braver and stronger than she thought she was. While this is just one girl’s story, the victory over fear seemed to be one of the most powerful experiences and lessons the orphans learned during Extreme activities. Hopefully, when Vika, or any other boy or girl (whose attempts to try something new were dismissed from early childhood) face difficulties in life such as finding a job, applying to university or passing hard exams, they are going to be able to identify their strengths and not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone.
Margarita tells about her experience in the camp, saying that she found the evening talks from Pastor Yura about God’s creation very deep and emotional. She further shares her thoughts on Camp Maximum: “The Extreme activities taught me to be more serious and responsible for my life. Sometimes we face problems, but we can achieve success if we work through them. Also, Extreme taught me joy! The rush of adrenaline is exciting for both children and adults!”
Sergii, a tough 16-year-old, shared recently that he still catches himself thinking about the camp quite often, remembering all the fun he had this summer. Just like Sergii, everybody enjoyed playing sports and board games together, bonding with Ukrainian leaders, and learning more about God during team time and camp-wide gatherings. Having the conversations about salvation and forgiveness gave campers a wider perspective on the gospel and the love of Christ. Some of the teens confessed that during the last few days of the camp they repented and decided to follow Jesus.
It was also a tender moment when Cyndee was finally able to come to Ukraine and visit the kids at the camp, sharing lots of laughs and tears together! The kids said that they were thankful for the new camp experiences they experienced during in the last week of August; it was a perfect week of joy, rest, and reunion right before the school year started.
Along with spending quality time with new friends and having fun playing games, the girls and boys learned about their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully discovered something new about themselves. During Extreme activities, the kids wore thick helmets and durable equipment that was secured in case their feet slipped. Just like the safety belt that held them in case things got out of control, God’s mighty hands hold us, His children, tightly when we trip and fall, fail and get discouraged. When our faith shakes or we feel devastated and afraid, God says that He will never leave us in the midst of the storm. “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) All of us, including the children from the orphanage, are on a journey of overcoming our fears and trusting that God will always be there to catch us if we fall.