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Home News With Ukraine in our Hearts
With Ukraine in our Hearts

 

З Україною в серці

From August 8 to 13 we held the seventh Poltava Christian Youth Festival near the picturesque village of Velikaya Rublevka in the Kotelevskiy district. The name of the festival this year was “With Ukraine in our Hearts”. Once again, for many of the youth, this festival was one of the most anticipated events of the year: camping out in tents under the stars, making new friends, discussing God’s Word together, and most important - proving ourselves in practical ministry.

 

Commenting on the theme the director, Radislav Tsurkan, said, “The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, that is where our hearts will be. We would like to instill a concern for our country into the hearts of our youth. We want this value to be more than simply words; it should be a desire to take action and change things for the better”.

The daily schedule in the camp on the banks of the Merla river left no time for sitting around and twiddling our thumbs. Work alternated with activities and games and in the evenings there were spiritual discussions and times of fellowship around the campfire.

Every day was dedicated to a specific theme. We thought about it individually, discussed it in groups, and talked about it with the whole camp at the end of the day. In songs, skits, and most importantly by reading God’s Word we found help in dealing with the questions of our current Ukrainian reality, as well as those related to our personal lives. Part of the discussion was about the problem of religion and spirituality in Ukraine, the nature of God’s justice and the true character of a Christian and our own responsibility in relation to the changes taking place around us.

Our work in Velikaya Rublevka was focused on showing Christ’s love through a practical helping hand for the neediest families, cleaning up the park in the center of town, removing debris from the site of a church that had been damaged in a fire. It was also interesting to see the relationships that formed between the campers and the residents of the town.

Especially touching were the reactions of the senior citizens in whose yards we worked. For example Alexandra Gavrielovna Fisun on Petrenko Street immediately tried to learn the names of everyone who came to work in her yard, called us all “kids”, and seemed uncomfortable giving instructions. We shared Christ with her as we were cleaning her veranda and then we prayed with her. The secretary of the town council came by to see what type of help she needed from the youth of the festival and Alexandra said, “It’s been a long time since people helped each other without asking for anything in return”.

Our friendship with the local residents became even closer when we had a soccer match on the town playing field with the local team. The residents enjoyed the championship trophy they won, as well as the tasty supper we shared with them - soup prepared in the fresh air. Speaking on the topic of victory after the match, the senior regional pastor for the Poltava region Oleg Ovsiy said that “the purpose of this festival is to remind us that the greatest victory of all is the victory of Jesus Christ. You can accept it or reject it, but it touches absolutely everyone”.

The goal that Christ should rule in every heart has been the cornerstone of every youth festival, but the most recent festival was special. For one thing, this is the first time we chose a little village as the site rather than a county seat. Another difference is that on average the camp participants were younger and came from a greater variety of locations, some from outside the Poltava region and a few even from outside Ukraine. For many, this was also their first time at the festival. Everyone was glad to share their experiences and impressions.

Paulina: “This is my first festival. I came with the attitude that I was here to serve. And we didn’t just work, we also got to talk to people and tell them who we are and why we are here. It was surprising that some of them say they are Christians but know very little about Christ. I particularly remember talking to a retired lady, her daughter and a social worker. They asked me to pray for them… In general people here are very good-hearted - they were always offering something in return for our work - carrots, potatoes or tomatoes…”»

Jasmin: “I came here from Berlin. My aunt invited me to come to the festival and I really like it here. Our team cleaned up the park in the center of town. It was nice that we were able to help out”.

Alyona: “We ran into different reactions from the people in town, but most often they just can’t believe that we came here to work for no pay. People were surprised at our reason for being here, especially when they heard that we actually paid our own way to come and work. I just told everyone that we had come here to serve God by helping in their village”.

Michael: “This was a time of blessing, God worked in my heart! God taught me that when we give time and effort for Him and expect nothing in return, that He will bless us… And God will some closer to you, and you to God”.

Every evening we had a musical program in the center of town. The songs were performed by a group with members from different churches in Poltava. We shared testimonies and prayers, and even had an interesting quiz. The last evening we had the program in the auditorium of the town hall, where things were a lot more formal.

Victor Lesnikov, the missionary who invited us to hold the festival in Velikaya Rublevka, thanked everyone at the conclusion of the festival: “I am sure that our work here has not been in vain - we were doing God’s work. Nothing like this has ever happened here before. It was good to show that there are people who just want to do good. Change will come if we pray for it and invest our effort to make our country better”.

Nadezhda Alexandrovna, a representative on the town council, was at the farewell dinner and also wanted to share her thoughts: “For Velikaya Rublevka this has been an event of great significance and your work has not gone unnoticed. By your actions and positive attitude you have shown that change is possible”.

With the end of the festival come many happy memories: one person recalled his secret friend and another the incredible motor show by the guys from Zinkov, or who won at Ultimate Frisbee or collected more gold in “Gold Fever”. Others remember digging a ditch around their tent and trying to keep dry in the downpour or the morning swims or the conversations with local kids around the campfire… Everyone has his or her unique memories and we hope that in the heart of everyone there is the same desire - to change Ukraine for the better.

The Bible verse that became the slogan of the festival is from Jeremiah 22:30 - God was looking for people who were not indifferent to their surroundings. So we really hope that today’s Christian youth will be those who stand in the gap for their country!

Vlada Ryabukha

Photo album available here

З Україною в серці

З Україною в серці

З Україною в серці

З Україною в серці

 
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