It turns out that even 28-year-old aerospace engineers have a lot to learn! We asked one of our first time adult Kompas Park volunteers to tell us about his team of orphan boys and what he learned at camp this summer…
I learned that when God says do something, DO IT! Before going to Ukraine, I wondered what kind of difference I could make if I went to Kompas Park camp. I didn’t speak the language, I couldn’t tell them about Jesus, and what difference could I possibly make at a week of summer camp? Maybe I could help run the camp, but what real difference could I make? Why should I go? Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to send me there? I thought I shouldn’t ask people to give me money so that I can simply play games at a summer camp, but God told me to go, so I did.
The campers from the orphanage immediately clung to me and the other leaders. The kids had every reason to be closed off to people due to the trauma they have gone through, yet they were all so open and desperate to be loved. It was incredible how close the kids and I became in just a few days. It was as if we spent the entire summer together. The kids would very often hold my hand, give me a hug, save me a seat to sit next to them (and sometimes fight over me), plead with me to be on their team, jump on my back for a ride, give me their food, clear my dishes, and yell my name to come do stuff with them. It was astonishing how much the kids wanted to be with me. I just met them!
I learned that I didn’t need language to communicate and that play is universal. I thought of play as something you do in your spare time but playing with the kids and giving them my attention meant the world to them. I instantly became a role model for them. When I paid attention to the scripture lesson so did they. When I prayed (with the help of a translator) so did they. At the start of the week during morning prayer only a few kids would pray. By the end of the week almost all of the kids were praying out loud.
I had 9 unique campers in my team. There was one kid there, Stas, who kept to himself and didn’t want to participate in team activities at first. By the end of the week he was very friendly and playful with the leaders.
Another child named Vitia had a long-time smoking problem. He was a trouble maker and a competitive tough guy. Often, he ridiculed the kids and would get angry when he didn’t get his way. Vitia became good friends with Hudson, a teenager from my church who had also come on the trip. One day Vitia found a half-smoked cigarette on the ground that was left by a repairman. Vitia immediately went to Hudson and showed him where the cigarette was although he could have easily gotten away with it. By the end of the week Vitia was hugging the leaders, the other kids and praying.
Ruslan was a shy kid in my group who had a stuttering problem – especially when talking in a group. The first day he did not want to pray. The second day, Ruslan volunteered to pray and stuttered through his words. Vitia and some other kids made fun of Ruslan and mocked his voice. Ruslan didn’t want to pray again after that. However, towards the end of camp when Vitia was little friendlier, Ruslan prayed again, and no one made fun of him this time.
I had 3 boys named Andrei in my group! Andrei Y. was our translator. He was one of the campers as well. Andrei was great! He was an intelligent kid who was friendly and obedient. He was always very kind to the other kids and the leaders as well.
Maxim was a sweetheart. He was the first to smile and be friends with me and the other leaders. Maxim was great.
Dima was another great kid. He would often do as he was told and was fun to be around.
Andrey S. found us Americans to be interesting people. He would often hang out with us and try to learn some English words. He was a lot of fun, too.
Andrei M. was adorable. He is physically a very small child with a child’s voice, but he was always the first to volunteer to pray. He is fluent in Italian and Ukrainian. He is also pretty good at English and helped me learn some Ukrainian. He showed us the book he was using to learn English which helped both of us learn each other’s language.
And then there was Anton, my sponsored child. I couldn’t wait to finally meet him! On the first day, we met the kids at dinner. Anton sat directly across from me. I don’t think he knew who I was. He didn’t seem to notice me or even care. He just dug into his food and so did all the kids at my table. The only noise coming from them was the clanking of their forks hitting their plates. With our translator’s help, I introduced myself to the team. I then asked Andrei Y. to tell Anton that I was his sponsor. When Anton was told, he just looked at me with a blank face and shied away. Anton didn’t say anything to me that day and he seemed to be avoiding me. Other kids were excited to speak with me, but not Anton. I think he just needed a little time to process that information because the next day we became best buds. Anton became my shadow for the week. He was ecstatic to introduce me as his sponsor to everyone he came across. I can only image what that meant to an orphaned child. Anton is a sweet kid who loves to run and play. He always has a smile on his face. Anywhere I went, Anton was right there with me. I love that little guy!
God gave me such a love for those kids in such a short time. Saying goodbye was heart-wrenching, but in that moment the message of how much more God loves us and how much farther out of the way God goes for us was delivered to them in their language without me ever having to say a word.
Even though our trip is over, the mission remains. There is still an entire orphanage of kids who need prayer (and sponsors). Pray they remember what they were taught at camp. Pray that when they feel lonely they remember the people who love them, and that God is always with them. Pray too, for our group of USA volunteers. We can be forgetful. Pray that this joy isn’t short lived. Pray that we remember all that God did for us during the trip. Pray, also, for the staff in Ukraine and for the work God continues to do through them at Hope Now Ministries.
Hope Now is truly making a difference in the lives of orphans, their families and communities in Ukraine! To help Hope Now and Kompas Park continue to make a difference, please consider supporting them in prayer and financially. To sponsor a childlike Anton, click on Orphan Sponsorship on the web page. To support Kompas Park camps, consider giving a gift at kompaspark.org. Or, take some time to really listen to God – who knows, maybe He will tell you to serve orphans in Ukraine at Kompas park next year. Go. You won’t regret it.
By: Jeremy Young