'My father lied to me about Jesus'
Hasan was brought up surrounded by guns, not toys. He did not know what a smile or a caring touch was like from a parent. Hasan’s father lives in Western Europe, while his mother brings up his other siblings in a country in the Middle East.
Sent to an orphanage in Bulgaria, Hasan has been able to make up for some of the lost time of his troubled childhood. Attending one of the Summer Camps run by children’s charity Mission Without Borders, Hasan discovered a carefree place where the only thing he had to think about each day was having fun and knowing peace and joy.
From a war zone and fractured home to the friendship and support of Summer Camp, the changes in Hasan’s life didn’t stop there. Every time he heard about the miracles performed by Jesus, during Bible talks at the MWB camp, he would ask with wide-opened eyes: “Is all that true?”
Day after day, Hasan began to open up. He started talking to the other children more and a smile appeared on his face. He loved singing the songs and learning Bible verses by heart. His favourite “hero” was Bartimaeus who, despite blindness, was finally able to see the truth about who Jesus is and the difference he makes for those who follow him. By the end of the camp, Hasan shared in a low voice with one of MWB’s leaders: “My father has lied to me about Jesus. I know that He is alive. I am a Christian.”
For thousands, it is the only opportunity to take a break from their lives of extreme poverty…
Every year between May and July during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, camps are organised and held in each of the six countries MWB serves in – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.
These valuable camps are primarily for children living in orphanages or who come from poor families. For thousands, it is the only opportunity to take a break from their lives of extreme poverty, to eat well, play and learn about the abundant love of God.
No wonder so many of the children that MWB reaches, such as Hasan, look forward each year to the return of Summer Camp. Although the children come from all sorts of painful backgrounds, Hasan’s experience is common.
Igor has been to MWB Summer Camp in Moldova, a site where the sound of children bursting with laughter and joy hits you as soon as you arrive. Looking around at all the activities at the camp, you would not suspect that 35 per cent of the children are orphans and 24 per cent come from single-parent families. Signs of worry, anxiety or tragedy are hardly sighted, even from children such as Igor whose father died two years ago after contracting HIV. Igor’s mother sadly leads a destructive lifestyle based on alcohol and drug addiction, and he has three other siblings younger than him: Daniel, 8, Maxim, 7, and Dasha, 5. His younger sister was initially found by local services and the local church wandering alone near the village garbage dump.
Each child in Igor’s family now lives in an orphanage because their mother is not fit to have custody of them.
“I’ve learned here that Jesus is God’s Son and my Saviour.” – Igor
When you ask Igor at Summer Camp how often his mum visits him, he says, “Every other day”. But the reality is he has only seen her once in the last year.
“Children like Igor often base reality on their hopes, especially when they are young”, Serghei Covalenco, MWB Coordinator said. “If their parents have said that they will visit them, they tend to believe it regardless of what happens, which is very sad.”
Summer Camp has provided an escape for Igor and his siblings from the heartache of his home life. For ten days, they were able to experience the joy of new things such as throwing a frisbee, roller- blading, skateboarding, climbing, volleyball and football. During the camp they also received great encouragement and support from counsellors which aims at helping them to become more resilient and to equip them to overcome setbacks in the years ahead. However, as is most important to MWB and its supporters, children learn about the love and reality of Jesus Christ – often for the first time in their lives.
“I’ve learned here that Jesus is God’s Son and my Saviour,” said Igor at the camp.
“I liked very much the games we played and the counsellors were very nice and kind. Thank you for this beautiful time.”
“The camp is very beautiful. It was called ‘Joy’, and that was the reality…” – Vlada
Another child who has been powerfully affected by Summer Camps is 13-year-old Vlada. Also from Moldova, Vlada’s childhood has been shaped by poverty, but somehow she remains positive about life. She has four younger siblings and struggles with the burden of being the eldest and not being able to provide for them.
“At the very first counselling session on camp, I asked the children if any of them had prayed before – Vlada did not raise her hand,” explains Ira Casu, Vlada’s counsellor. “After several more lessons, she started to ask such questions like ‘what is true love’, ‘how can we befriend people around us’, ‘what does it mean to believe’ and ‘how can we become closer to God?’
On the last day of camp when children were asked if they wanted to give their hearts to Jesus, Vlada was one of the brave children who came to the front.
Vlada said: “The camp is very beautiful. It was called ‘Joy’, and that was the reality as we were laughing all the time. I have enjoyed so many games, but the most important thing is that I met a true friend in Jesus and I found out about His love for all people.”
About 27 per cent of children who have been to a Summer Camp have never been to a church and 13 per cent have never read the Bible. Poverty and insecurity at home, without the knowledge of God’s love can deepen the despair for children in the countries MWB serves. That is why our Summer Camp team, during the ten days at camp, placed great emphasis on biblical morals and God’s transformative love.More