(Written by Doug Sandy)

The love of God is a strange and wonderful thing. It softens hearts, it heals wounds, it changes lives forever.  I have been contemplating the depth of God’s love for all of us this morning as we prepare for our first full day of teaching.  Around me, the camp is still. Rain falls gently, but steadily outside, and through the window in front of me, a slender tree drips and shimmers gently in the morning breeze.  The manicured lawns have burst forth in renewed greenness, refreshed by the life-giving water.

Yesterday we met our students for the first time. As campers checked in, the sports students were greeted by their leaders (Aidan and Shane) and quickly began bonding over games.  Other campers were met by Betsy, Carson, David and me for a quick assessment of English language skills.  Afterward, they gathered in small clusters, anticipating and apprehensive, not quite knowing what to expect for the rest of the camp.

The evening program ran much like you might expect from a youth camp in the United States – there was fun and games.  There was laughter and silliness, but there was also a serious side.  After singing, videos, dancing and a skit, it was my time to introduce the gospel of Jesus. Together, my translator and I introduced how Jesus brought good news for everyone. Afterward students split up into discussion groups based on the English/sports class to which they were assigned.  The purpose: to talk about what we heard.

Sarah and I are teaching English for the most basic of English skills.  Our class is very diverse: consisting of Christians and not-yet Christians, students and camp helpers, young men and young women. Although conversing is challenging right now due to language barriers, I know one thing for certain: God loves each of them.  As we sat over a bowl of chips, struggling over words, I could feel this love growing inside of me too.  A deeper understanding of this love is what I pray for each of them this trip.

One student in particular (I am not using names to protect my student’s privacy) is on my heart. She has been in the Czech Republic only three months and found herself here after being displaced due to the war in Ukraine. I remember how difficult the first days of camp were for me – trying to meet people and form friendships while dealing with homesickness at the same time. Sarah has a real knack for embracing those that are struggling. I praise God for how she has begun to connect with this student and others. It looks like I may be learning some Ukrainian this week as an expression of Christ’s love.

My prayer this morning is that the love of God will wash over these students and bring refreshment, renewal healing, and new life that only He can.  Thank you for your partnership in this ministry.  Keep on praying that we can express Christ’s love as we should.