Most of us have grown up going to camps, whether it’s a school camp or church camp. First-time campers, especially if they are young, are filled with both excitement and nervousness. Older and more experienced kids might come up with ideas of pulling pranks and tricks to make an impression. Camps create lasting memories that stretch into adulthood. This happy memory is exactly what one camp hoped to do for a group of Ukrainian children who fled their country due to war.
Many of these Ukrainian children left everything that was familiar a year ago. They left their fathers, friends, school and many things they used to enjoy in their hometowns. Now, these children live in an unfamiliar land with a different language and culture.
Ukrainian Christians, who are also refugees in Poland, reached out to children living in a building that was turned into apartments to house 200 people. More than 500,000 refugees passed through this region, and a Ukrainian church planter estimates 125,000 currently live in this city.
There are no known Christians living in this building. This camp is what believers pray will be the beginning of many lives committed to Jesus and the start of many outreaches to come.
Ukrainian Christians provided a Christian day camp filled with games, songs, activities and time where children can just be children. Ukrainian refugee children learned who Jesus is and how He forgave our sins on the cross.
Many heard the gospel for the first time.
Fleeing their home country was traumatic, and a message of hope and truth brought encouragement. They’re praying for the safety of their dads, for the war to come to an end and for healing and restoration in their country.
In a different city, Polish Christians also hosted a camp for both Ukrainian refugees and Polish children. This overnight camp was at a Christian ministry facility.
Churches in Poland mobilized quickly at the beginning of the war to serve the 4 million refugees who sought refuge within their borders.
Poland’s 500 evangelical churches rose to Jesus’ call to love their neighbor as themselves — selflessly giving money, food, clothes, employment and shelter, often hosting families in their own homes. Caring for children is another way Polish Christians love their neighbor.
There was no campfire nor marshmallows for s’mores, but during the weekend, children took part in plenty of fun activities. Due to the cold winter weather in Poland, the camp was held indoors. The Ukrainian and Polish children’s enthusiasm showed as they delved into camp life with new friends. The children interacted well across cultures.
Along with fun and games, children were taught Christian songs in both Polish and Ukrainian. Some of the songs included “10,000 Reasons” and “Lighthouse,” as well as Ukrainian worship songs.
Children also listened to Polish and Ukrainian Christians share messages from the Bible about who Jesus is and who they are in Christ.
IMB missionary Dan Upchurch spoke to the children about using their skills to glorify God. Time is our present from the Lord, Dan told the kids, and we won’t always have it and should spend the time on what’s eternally meaningful. Dan and his wife, Lori, served in Ukraine before evacuating due to the war. They are now working with Polish and Ukrainian Christians to serve refugees.
Ways to pray
Please pray more Ukrainian children will have the opportunity to hear the gospel and come to have a personal faith in Jesus. Please join the children in their prayers for Ukraine. Pray for peace, forgiveness and for the Light to shine in the darkness.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Luke In and originally published the International Mission Board.