Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Team Volontyor: First Steps

On June 10 Team Volontyor is taking first steps in a couple of ways. They will be flying out to Kyiv on Friday to serve as teachers for Camp Mayak in the Poltavah region. The UT Knoxville and Tyler, Texas group is a new team so this will be their first step as a team on to Ukrainian soil. Corey Moss (a 2009 member of Team Mayak) and Tammy Belcher will lead this team.

Team Volontyor will also be our first team on the ground for 2011! We are eager to hear about their adventures and the impact they will have made on the campers, translators, and staff. Please keep them in your prayers. Pray for safe journey, effective ministry, open doors and open hearts!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Translator Training 2011

Translators from across Ukraine joined us at the UBI facility to participate in this year's Translator Training Seminar. I told this exciting group of people they have made an incredible difference not only in the lives of children, but in the lives of their American counterparts.

I wish you could watch this entire group together. It is like a huge family so eager to get going! As Kat Shkarlat, team leader for Team Imagine's translators, told me in her effervescent way: "We are such a big happy family! This is a great team and I am looking forward to this year at camp!"

It is always a joy to visit with so many camp veterans who bring with them a wealth of experience and eagerness to serve. It was also a pleasure to meet the new, fresh faces who aren't certain what to expect, but are looking forward to working with children in the camps and with American teams.

We have a great team of translators working with us this year! If you are a team member, you are in for a real treat!

Huge "thank yous" go to my assistant, Inna Kuzmenko who made the arrangements for the training and assisted me in leading the sessions, to Dima Shemanyuk who helped with grocery shopping and physical set up/tear down, to Jay Don and the staff at Ukraine Bible Institute who so graciously allowed us to utilize both their facility and their equipment--and to all of the team leaders and translators who bring such joy to this entire experience!

Here is to what looks to be a great year for Summer Camp! Remember: "Love wins!"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Teams Part 2

Well, you've read about Mayak, Imagine, and Freedom! Now it's time to hear from Agape,Inspire, and Volontyor.

Team Agape is an experienced team, as most team members have been to Camp Smerichka at least once, and several have been multiple times.  However, every year there are new challenges, and more importantly, new opportunities!  Although we see a few “repeat campers” each year, the vast majority are new to us, and present us with the opportunity to introduce God, and His holy word, to them.  As we strive to inspire the campers to seek out the one true and living God, we are reminded that this is His work, and we are merely His instruments.   We pray all that we do will glorify God, and that the beauty of Jesus may be seen in and through us.
(Note: the two pictures include different team members).
-Terry Montgomery
 Team Inspire.
This year will be the fourth year for Team Inspire.  We have been blessed to return to the same area every time although the camps we have gone into have always been different.  For whatever reason it seems like our team has had the opportunity to grow through unique challenges every year.  As many team leaders will agree some of the challenges a team can face are Ukraine specific but there are also plenty that begin state-side.  For our team our first challenge has come in numbers.  We are a small team this year with seven people including myself going.  However, I really do see this as yet another opportunity.  I feel like we have a strong group and I am eager to see how God uses us to partner in the work he is already doing. 
Gabe Fisher, Team Leader

Team Volontyor. This isn't particularly a clear picture of the team--a couple of team members were hiding somewhere--however, it expresses the energy, agility, and incredible talent (?) of Team Volontyor! Volontyor is lead by Corey Moss, Todd Tarbett, and Tammy Belcher of the (drum roll please) University of Tennessee Knoxville! Any guesses where the team name came from? However, as is often the case Tennessee and Texas do a lot of sharing (same initials, same school colors, even 37 Tennesseans were present in the Alamo!). Team Volontyor also has team members from the Glenwood Church of Christ in Tyler, Texas. Volontyor is a brand new team although some of the members have experienced Ukraine before. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation building in this team!

Six teams in 2011! We are so thrilled to have so many quality people working with us this year. Please pray for all of our teams and team members that they will make a lasting impact on the children of Ukraine--as Ukraine will make a lasting impact upon them!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Our 2011 Teams Part 1

We are sending six teams to Ukraine this year! I've asked our team leaders to write thoughts about their teams. In this blog we are focusing on three teams: Imagine, Freedom, and Mayak. Enjoy! -DBW

Team Imagine: Texas & North Carolina  
Team Imagine – God is so much the God that is more than we can ask or imagine.  After last year’s last minute changes, constant challenges, team-cementing love, and meetings with wonderful kids at three camps instead of just one, we are so excited to see what he does with us this year.  It will once again be more than we can ask or imagine.  Our team is so way excited to be going to Camp [insert name of camp here – because we don’t really know where he’s sending us and that is just the way we like it].  May God bless us and use us. -Terry Kile, Team Leader

Team Freedom: Huntsville, Texas
Team Freedom can best be described as a small band of the Lord’s army, mature in years but young at heart.  Our team is comprised of nine members from the Hwy 30 Church of Christ in Huntsville, Texas.  Working in the children’s summer camp program with EEM will be a new experience for everyone.  We contemplate our time at Camp Smerichka with eager anticipation…and moments of high anxiety.  Confident of God’s faithfulness, we know that our efforts to share His story of love will be used to make a difference in the future of Ukraine.  Our prayer is to plant the SEED that will bring many souls to Jesus one day.  -Frank Farr, Team Leader

Team Mayak - As a remote team, we always look forward to the weekend of Team Training. This is the first and only time our entire team will be together until the day before leaving for the camp this summer.

"Distance Team" Mayak: from everywhere!
With anticipation and a little trepidation, I see the weekend approach. I think to myself, "What will the new team members be like? Will they like me? Will our personalities clash or mesh? Should I bring my tennis shoes or just my flip flops?" I walk into the hotel with bated breath. Looking to my right and to my left, I scan the hotel guests looking for anyone that looks like a Felton, Dale or Lloyd. I am thankful this year that my husband, Todd, and my daughter, Madison, are there to support me as I voice my fears. I see Inna and Darryl and let out a deep breath. It is good to see old friends. After a great visit with these two amazing leaders of the training, I look at the hotel desk and see two regal looking guests. I approach them and say, "You wouldn't happen to be Betty and Felton would you?" Thankfully they say yes. After this, the new members of Team Mayak keep streaming in. It is soon time to meet in my room for dinner and the getting-to-know-you session. "Will our members be open? Will they be patient and understanding with each other?" BBQ, cokes and potato salad are consumed with vigor. I am excited my team knows how to eat well! We begin our session. It starts off with a bang! Tears are shed by the buckets....mostly the men....chuckles and giggles follow. Wow!!! I LOVE this team. Less than 3 hours after we meet, we are all a team and a family. The rest of the weekend is a blur of activity, bonding and love. Everyone on the team takes a role. Everyone is helpful and willing to jump in where needed. They like me! They really like me!

I have great expectations for this team. I see the children at camp surrounding Dale as he struggles to make the hemp bracelet. I see kids hugging Betty as she shows them pictures of her grandchildren. I picture Melodye sitting and listening as a child tells her his story. I look forward to introducing our translators to this amazing group of people I grew to love in 3 days. I think it is safe to say that Camp Mayak will never be the same after 2 weeks with Team Mayak! -Virginia Stubbs, Assistant Team Leader

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Team Training 2011: A great time

Team Training 2011 was a wonderful time of reunion and meeting new friends! Approximately 60 team members converged upon the Hyatt Place in Grapevine to learn about the camps, the Ukrainian culture, and to prepare for their respective trips this summer.
The sessions focused upon Ukrainian culture and religion, the 2011 curriculum, how to prepare for the trip, what to expect, connecting with the children, and how to work with translators/co-teachers.

This year there were some changes. Teams were given more time to meet together as teams for their own specific planning, communication, and prayer. Since many teams have team members scattered across the US, this change was enthusiastically welcomed.
Team Training also has gone digital. In order to streamline costs (and save some trees), team members were encouraged to bring laptops and were provided flash drives with the Team Member Handbook, required documents, and curriculum uploaded.

A huge "thank you" goes to those team leaders and members who made presentations or assisted in the presentations: Terry Kile, Sue Ann Mills, Gabe Fisher, Brian Durgin, Joe Mahaffey, and Viriginia Stubbs. Also a special thanks to Felton & Betty Smith and Todd, Virginia, & Madison Stubbs who came early to help with setting up!

I would like to thank Inna Kuzmenko, my assistant from Ukraine for her energy and tireless work. She flew in several days early to help get everything ready, from shopping for groceries to setting up and making presentations.
There is one other person who deserves recognition and thanks. Denise Baggett served as the founding Director of the EEM Youth Camp Program from 2006 to 2009.  All of this was while she organized and led the WEEM program, worked in the Benefit Dinners across the South, and served as Richard's assistant (just to list a few "hats" she wore). She recruited and trained me to take her place by the Fall of 2009 and I went full time as director in January 2010.

Because of her visionary leadership, tireless effort, love, and dedication the camp program has been successful. People throughout Ukraine and the United States have been influenced for God. Denise has always demonstrated a special love for orphans and children and it is clear the Camp Program would have been nothing without her. Denise would also be the first to give all credit to God and the first to say this was a "God-thing"--that only He deserves credit. 
Even so, she was the willing instrument in God's hands. Denise's last day as an employee for EEM will be March 31. She still plans to work as a volunteer along side her husband, Richard who is VP of Advancement.
We love you, Denise. Please know that you are appreciated and respected. 

2011 is going to be fantastic! I am looking forward to a wonderful year and I cannot wait to hear all of the amazing stories you will be ready to tell when you return. God's blessings upon you.

-Darryl Willis-

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting Ready for 2011 Camp Season?

Thanksgiving is here and Christmas is around the corner! How could anyone be thinking of Summer right now? Considering that is my primary responsibility, please overlook the fact that I am obsessed with Summer and Summer Camps!

We've had a very productive Fall. The Camp Directors' meeting went very well, as has been mentioned elsewhere. The Directors are still on board with our work and are very pleased with the efforts and professional demeanor of our teams. They are looking forward to hosting us again in 2011.

It has been wonderful to visit several of you over the last several weeks. Lubbock Christian University was a great experience as was the annual World Tour Day at Harding University. We were able to visit a couple of new campuses and campus events this year. Lipscomb graciously let us set up a booth at their mission day and Darryl was able to visit with the campus ministries of Tarleton State University, Kilgore College, and the University of Tennessee (Knoxville).

At this point it looks as if we have six good teams with a potential for seven.

The question I have is: Have you signed up for 2011? 

If you are a team member from the last few years, you should have received an email from Darryl with a request for your updated information. If you have not received said email then please email Darryl with your updated information including name as it is on your passport, passport number, expiration date, team preference, address, cell number, and congregation.

If you've never served on one of our teams please go immediately to our website and access the application forms here. It is easy to let time creep away. Please take care of this immediately so you can get to the business of raising your funds and building excitement for 2011!

God bless all of you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thoughts and Memories Never Forgotten

by Faye Whiston

JETLAG has now set in big time. All the fantastic events of Camp Mayak are cluttered up inside my brain. There is so much to convey yet words will not be adequate. The feelings about the camp are more from the heart rather than the mind.

About the generation gap, there was no generation gap! Our mission team was made up of teenagers as well as older senior citizens. However we all blended together as I think God wanted us to. We were united in Christ, all willing to do our part to bring love to these children. We all received their love in return, and that was just a little piece of heaven to me. I want to encourage anyone who feels in their heart that they want to go, just go for it. It is a wonderful thing for young Americans to see and know children in another nation. And for those who are older, like me, I felt no age discrimination. The younger team members were absolutely wonderful, caring, and loving to me as to their own grandmother. I in return felt that I had gained more family granddaughters and sons too. They didn’t make me feel older just honored, because of the love of Jesus, that each member of our team embraced and shared with each other.

It is impossible to pick only one photo to even begin to express all the feelings that flood my heart as they all flash by quickly not even giving me time to blink. Each picture is so special. One event that I remember most is the feeling that I had stepped back in time. It was a kinder, gentler, slower place. Walking to the river was like walking back to the 50’s or beyond. How do I even begin to give others a small idea of how we were touched by each little face, and by the nostalgic feeling of the area?

The big house we lived in for our stay at Camp Mayak was in my mind a place where we should all say “Good night John Boy!” as we turned off the lights. But of course the names were different here. However we were all as one big happy family, with four
of us in our small room. We were cozy to say the least.

The children are the number one main event. I was so touched by the love of the children. Our translators were wonderful. God bless them everyone. But love is not translated in words. They knew immediately that we loved them, and we felt their love as well. These Ukrainian children were filled with creativity. Every night there was entertainment of some kind.

Our important jobs were during the day. We all met together first in big group, then we had our special children that we met with separately. These are the ones we grew closer too. My desire was to leave them with that spark from God that would stay with them always. I wanted so much for them to know God, and to have His love in their heart. 

Tanya, my sweet interpreter, was such a blessing to me and the children. I thought they said their memory work beautifully, as they stood one by one, and recited to Tanya. I told Bible stories, and Tanya would repeat in Ukrainian. God had given me an angel to repeat His word perfectly. The Children listened so intently, I felt that God must have performed some kind of miracle. I constantly prayed for wisdom to be able to leave them with something to remember so they would always know love and know that God is love. After we gave them Bibles, I would read a page in English and they would read the same page in Ukrainian. They loved their Bibles; I knew they would keep reading them long after I was gone. 

Faye is a member of Team Mayak 2010 and is in her youthful seventh decade! Thank you, Faye for your incredible spirit and love! -Darryl

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Team Mayak: Exposing Kids to the Word of God

This is the third year [a] team from Southeast has visited Camp Mayak. Over the three years we have reached almost 900 children and 300 staff at this camp. This year the children in camp were older than usual. I believe we distributed Bibles to 268 children and 60 adult staff in camp this year. Personally I had twenty-one 18 year old kids in my class (usually 16 is the upper age limit) and it amazed how interested they were in learning about the Bible and the lessons it teaches. They were involved daily in the Bible lessons, crafts and activities. They were not required to be there but chose to do so. We acted out many of the Bible stories and made practical applications to their lives. When school starts in September this group of children will be sent out on their own to find jobs and provide for themselves. Camp will probably be the only time they will be exposed to the Bible. Each child was provided an adult Bible and a Teen Bible with a study guide that they can take with them as they go out in the world. It is our prayer that they will continue to study and choose follow Christ. Although I may not be able to associate all their names and faces; I will always remember each child. They have touched a place in my heart for eternity.

--Jesse Anthony, Team Leader

Thursday, August 5, 2010

2010 Teams A Success!

Team Mayak
When I arrived home on the evening of July 31 I was completely exhausted and drained. However, even the exhaustion could not contain my excitement. My wife and children were subjected to a constant stream of stories and pictures from my July in Ukraine!

Most exciting were the stories of what I observed among all of our teams who were on the ground during July. From the hot and muggy extremes in Poltavah (Camp Mayak) to the unseasonably cool and wet of the Carpathian Mountains (Camp Smerichka)--and while I'd love to say the mild weather in Svyatogorsk (Camps Gaydar and Gagaryn), I have to be honest: it was hot there too!

Texas contingency of Team Imagine
First, let me commend the team with whom I worked for two weeks: Team Mayak. Jesse Anthony, Virginia Stubbs, and Valeriy Kachuk were incredible team leaders! Valeriy is an old pro as a team leader for our Ukrainian team members. It was obvious that he loves the camp program, his team, and the children. The team, filled with a wide diversity of personalities, functioned smoothly and well together. This is a group that truly exercised the love of Christ among each other and to the kids. Nearly 300 campers were touched and served by this amazing group.

Team Inspire
Teams Inspire and Imagine had special challenges and difficulties due to last minute changes. But when I arrived in Svyatogorsk I found two teams that were making a powerful impact for God: one in a camp of orphans and another in a camp of family kids. It was fun watching the directors of both camps get into a good-natured argument over which American team was the best ("My team is better than your team..."). 

These two camps who were new additions to our program begged for our teams to return next year. Over 700 kids and staff occupied these two camps. Our teams made an unforgettable impact upon them, too. The counselors were especially impressed at how our team members conducted themselves both during camp activities and during their "down" time.

Bible Distribution Day at Camp Gaydar
Gabe Fisher, Brian Durgin, and Katya Berynskay continued to offer great leadership to Team Inspire. Gabe and Brian are veteran leaders from LCU and it shows in the way they smoothly handled every challenge set before them. This was Katya's (Kate's) first year as Inspire's Ukrainian Team Leader--and she did a great job.  

Team Imagine was under the capable leadership of Terry Kile, Bill Allen, and Katya (Kat) Shkarlat. This, too, was a first time for Kat to serve as Ukrainian Team Leader. As Terry says, Kat was a "great political negotiator, great team leader, great translator, and watched over us well." 

Big Group at Camp Smerichka
Team Agape, who has been part of Camp Smerichka in the Ivano-Frankivsk region for years was going great guns when I arrived. I was amazed at how well they held the attention of the kids in their Big Group and Small group times! These kids were enthralled by the team and the team was giving it all they had! Geoff Casella, Terry Montgomery, and EEM's Inna Kuzmenko provided the capable leadership of the camp (veterans that they are).  Camp Director Mikolay was very pleased with both teams who worked in his camp (see the previous post on Team Lubhov) and is eager to see more teams come in the future.

I was especially proud of our translator teams this year! These young men and women give up quite a lot to be a part of our teams. Their hard work is to be commended. Even more, the work many of them do throughout the rest of the year in the good works they perform for others, in the churches where they attend, and in the efforts they are taking to grow spiritually. I wish I could tell you some of their stories, but space will not permit.

Alexander Pechenko & Darryl 

It was a treat to travel with the President of the Association of Youth Camp Directors, Alexander Pechenko. He met me at Camp Mayak where I presented him with a copy of our 2010 workbook. I was amazed at how well he was respected by the camp directors. He is spoken of fondly as "papa" by many of them. 

Alexander is the man who invited EEM to send teams to the Summer Camps in Ukraine. He has been a strong supporter of our program since its inception and has consistently praised the high quality and training of our Team Members. For those who are first time visitors to this blog, it is important to understand these are not "Christian Camps." They are private secular camps that originally were the old Pioneer Youth Camps of the Soviet era.

Darryl & his group of kids at Mayak
I hope each of our team leaders will post some of their team's experiences on the blog so you can catch some of the excitement from each camp. 

If you are a first time visitor of this blog and don't know much about the camps in Ukraine or the camp program, please check us out! See the links on the side bar or contact me at I'd love to talk with you about this powerful service for God to the children of Ukraine!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Team Lubhov/Aggies For Christ Making an Impression!

Wow. Team Lubhov is making a great impression in Ukraine! Way to go, Aggies!

First off, their work with Camp Smerichka ended on a positive note with kids wanting them to stay. Camp Director Nikolai/Mikolai was very impressed with the team. According to EEM Camp Assistant Coordinator, Inna Kuzmenko, Nikolai wants this team to come back next year!

Aggies For Christ tend to do extended mission trips of 4-to-6 weeks, so Team Lubhov stayed longer than most of our teams will. This provided them the opportunity to work with Jeremiah's Hope. Jeremiah's Hope sponsored a "missionary kids" camp and invited the Aggies to work with them. Below is a note from Andrew Kelly to EEM:

Just wanted to let you guys know that the EEM/Aggies team has been a huge blessing. They did an amazing job with the younger Missionary Kids we had at camp last week. A couple of them were responsible for the Bible classes and the rest rotated wtih the kids as group counselors. They are a fantastic team and should be commended!

Thank you for sharing them with us while they were on this trip!

We have been it ok for us to loose their passports or somehow keep them? We love this team and wish they could stick around. We know they can't, but nothing wrong with wishing you could keep them.

Andrew Kelly

Way to go guys! Looking forward to your return this week! Safe journey and God bless!