A Postcard From Russia — Summer’s End, New Beginnings

Baptism at Elama

In August, at Elama we hosted more church groups and camps, and the last of our summer teams have returned home after a very successful season of ministry. Above at Elama, Sergei Tovstapet and Olga Barzhura baptize Leanna, one of the young ladies from Street Cry’s rehab center. Sergei and the girls from the rehab center have done quite a bit of work at Elama; they’ve grown to love it there and have become good friends.

We also hosted a church from Vyborg — a group of 30 young people who were very helpful and had a great time. The families Uliathat lived there have come to think of Elama as home. Last week we packed up everything at Elama (kitchen, water system, beddings, tools, etc) and put it into storage. Unfortunately, if we leave anything there over the winter there’s a high probability of it getting stolen. So, next year we’ll unpack it all and have another good summer. Already a few teams have expressed interest in helping build and repair Elama next year.

Now we turn our eyes to the fall: Continue reading

A Postcard from Russia — Elama, Camp Life

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In previous postcards we’ve mentioned the camp we have use of: we’ve named it Elama, the Finnish word for Life (pronounced EH-lah-mah). Belama_camp_life_2.jpgefore 1939 it was a Finnish health resort, after the war it was a Russian children’s camp before closing about 25 years ago. We’re slowly bringing it back to life, and this is the first of several years of rebuilding that are needed. Still, the fruit of this summer has already surpassed our hopes.

In addition to a few Christian families that are living there all summer, in July we hosted two camps run by a local church. First was a children’s camp with 80 participants and then a youth camp with 100 participants. Since we don’t have much decent housing, the campers stayed in tents. Even the kitchen was under a tent, and the picture at left is of the ‘dining hall’. The church did a great job of improving the land — clearing the swimming area, building outhouses, clearing trash, they even built a dock in the lake.Liza

Later this month, we’ll host a week-long church camp for thirty children and other groups will have picnics. Elama is available free of charge to all. This summer we’ve installed the beginnings of a water system (we now have one sink with running water), we’ve begun repairs to several buildings, obtained a couple of small refrigerators (donations), purchased tools, cleared away a lot of trash and scrub brush, and swatted a lot of mosquitoes! We ran out of money for this summer, so some tasks (painting, roof repair, heating, a new well, etc.) will have to wait until later. There is still very much to be done. Groups from the US and the Netherlands have expressed interest in sending work teams. An architect in the US has agreed to help design a pavilion/summer kitchen that we hope to build next May. There is a lot of activity and many opportunities. Elama is coming to life, just as we had hoped.

Please pray that we’ll have God’s wisdom as we make decisions about the future of Elama — may it always bring glory to Him and peace to the people who are there.

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A Postcard from Russia — Elama

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This is some exciting news — we have been given use of an old children’s camp! It was a Finnish estate before WWII, and after the war it was a children’s camp. It’s located in a beautiful lake, about an hour and a half north of St. Petersburg. We have use of about 15 acres with multiple buildings.

The camp has been closed for about 25 years so it is in need of serious repair. We’ve been re-wiring for electricity, picking up trash (30 large bags from one small area alone) and clearing out trees and brush. We’ll start replacing broken windows this week and are installing a summer water system. There’s a lot of rotten wood to replace, tools to buy, porches to re-build, elama_2.jpgstoves to install, walls to paint, and roofs to repair. I was working on the toilets (outhouses) yesterday, trying to make them a bit better. Pictured above is a recent MIR work day — of course we had a cookout. In the picture are believers from Russia, America, Northern Ireland and Finland.

Elama is the Finnish word for Life. We’ve named the camp Elama because we feel that the Lord wants us to bring this place back to life so that it will hold His life as His people are there, living together and ministering in His name. The basic rule for all who visit is, ‘leave it nicer than you found it’. It is available to churches and ministries free of charge; God is giving us free use of it, so we’ll pass along the blessing to others.

elama_3.jpgThings are moving quickly — just a few weeks ago we found out for sure that we’d have use of it; we’ve had several work days already, several families are hoping to live there this summer, in July we’ll host a children’s camp (using tents) for about 60 children, then we’ll host a youth camp for young people with about 100 people. In August we hope to host the Royal Rangers, a scouting ministry. This weekend we’ll have two Russian churches come out for work days — clearing brush, repairing buildings, making the place nicer.

We’ll have use of it for about 10 years (the owners are friends and are very happy to have us use it for ministry), so we’re working hard this summer to prepare it for moreelama_4.jpg ministry next summer. We hope to host orphans there as soon as possible, depending on when the facilities are in good enough shape. Perhaps next summer we’ll have a camp for orphans in addition to all the other ministries we’ll establish there this summer. Already a team from Florida is considering coming next Spring to do some work there, and a Finn has also suggested bringing Finnish teams to help. If you’re interested in helping, please send me a note. It’s exciting