On the 8th of July I set off very early to Edinburgh airport to meet with a group of people I had only met a couple of times before, who were to become some of my closest friends.
Our group was joining the two-week 2011 SU International Leadership training event in the Ukraine. Arriving in Vorzel, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension as I seemed to know very little about what we were going to do! However, these fears were unfounded as the first week was filled with the formation of new friendships, amazing Bible study, answered prayer, bilingual worship, many laughs and an ever growing relationship with God. During the first week I really felt God talking to me, demonstrating His love and reminding me that with Him I would have the strength to persevere.
This was a great preparation for the second week where I knew I was going to be doing something I had never done before: helping to run a holiday club. Never mind the additional complication of the language barrier! So, armed with my few phrases in Russian, I set off to Mokrets with 6 others from the international camp; Scots, Siberians and a Ukrainian. The first thing that struck me when we arrived at the Baptist church was that it was more a house than a church and that it wasn't fully built. Appearances are deceptive though and I soon learnt that this was the home of the pastor and his family, and which was to become our home for the next week, as well as the main resource for the holiday club.
With the week of preparation we had a basic idea of how we were going to carry out the program, but we still had to work out the details - this took place in evening sessions. I think our team was particularly lucky as we were in relatively luxurious surroundings compared to others, with flushing toilets and hot indoor showers! On average we had about 22 children, all about primary school aged, and a team of 12. This meant we were able to interact with the children on a more personal level, although this is hard when you don't understand what they are saying. That's one of the things I found most difficult; not being to understand what they were being taught in Russian/Ukrainian about God and not being able to chat with them. Through this I learnt that communication can occur without words and, most importantly, that God's love can be communicated just as clearly through your actions.