The team of «School of Life» Kiev project is conducting christian camps for children and teenagers in the frontline towns of Donbass for the second year.  Andrey Luginin shares his experience of participating as a leader in a summer camp in the front-line town of Kirovo, Donetsk region.

“I had a privilege of participating in a 5-day summer camp for the children and teenagers of the frontline town of Pivnichne (previously called Kirovo) of Donetsk region as a part of Orphan’s Promise «School of Life» team (Kyiv, Ukraine).  Pivnichne is a small mining town which has fully experienced all terrible consequences of war. To my surprise, there were still many people and children living in the town. My impression of the town could hardly be called «positive» – old dusty buildings, broken streets were accompanied with a terribly hot weather. Local children have become another unpleasant surprise for me. Many of them looked dirty and unattended, wearing ragged clothes. I was a witness of an accident when a disabled child asked a question to his Dad and I could hear that the father used some swear words to answer angrily. It felt like most of the local children were unwanted and uncared for. My next thought was, “Aren’t we here exactly for that reason?”

The start of the camp was very exciting. Over 50 children came to the registration station. Their eyes were sparkling with expectation of something fun. Each song and each game was readily accepted with a choir of happy children’s voices. We had prepared bright and fun activities and sports games and you could see that laughter and joy was very rare in some children’s lives. At the lunch time, children were happy to eat 2-3 hot meals. One girl said, «The camp is so cool! They are giving us a second serving! I have already eaten three portions!” At the after-lunch meeting, all children gathered to watch “Superbook” cartoon and participate in the adventures of Kris and Joy in the garden of Eden.

The first day went by very fast. However, when we got to know the kids better, it appeared that nothing is so easy and nice. Many of them had problems with discipline and behavior. Some of them wouldn’t want to listen to their leaders and only tried to do what they wanted. Older kids would have quarrels and could even hit each other. In all that, you could really see the lack of love and attention in their lives.

The fourth day of the camp was especially difficult. At one of the activities called “Race of mercy”, the children had to help an “injured” person, but instead of helping they started humiliating and bullying each other. I had to stop the game and ask, “Isn’t this war, violence and hatred not enough for you? Do you really like living like that?” The guys were silent holding their heads low. The day was over and I had a really aftertaste in my heart. I felt like giving up and going home to Kiev. 

But when it seemed that all of our work was in vain, there came the last of the camp – the Day of Salvation. At that day we were sharing about the person of Jesus Christ, telling them that Jesus is the Main Savior and Rescuer for each person. The atmosphere suddenly changed and the children listened about Jesus with open hearts. They prayed out loud to invite Him to come into their hearts and become their Lord and Savior. It was an incredible moment!

Soon, it was a time for us to leave. The children wouldn’t let us go asking whether we would come again. Some of them were not leaving until the moment we left. They were giving us hugs and wiping tears. 

The camp was over and I realized again that the most difficult children need our love the most. They need our acceptance and reconciliation with God. We have sown something important and divine in the hearts of these children. I am 100% sure that these small seeds will bring much fruit. These children who have heard about the love of our Savior, can become the adults who will bring good changes into their town of Pivnichne and to their country of Ukraine!”

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