SOAR summer well spent in Russia

Photo by SOAR International

(Photo by SOAR International)

Russia (MNN) — Across the world, school is back in session. Ministries that have a heavy focus on summer camps are reflecting on the summer and how God has moved.

SOAR International is no exception.

Over the summer, SOAR had staff working at three camps and assisting with a fourth.

Greg Mangione of SOAR says, “Our goal is to come alongside churches and to help their ministry. This year we got an extra couple of requests which we were excited about.”

Their first camp was held in the southern far east part of Russia. They had between 65 and 70 kids.

The second camp worked with orphanages in the Moscow area and has been an area of focus for SOAR.

They also helped at a church that had an English camp as a way of reaching the youth in their community.

And the final camp, which SOAR was unable to send staff to, was a camp hosted by churches in Abkhazian.

“We were encouraged with the response, the excitement the kids had being at these different camps. We were encouraged at the requests we had from various churches to assist them in outreach to their own people. And we’re just excited to see God continuing to move despite the challenges,” Mangione says.

Notice, none of these camps were run solely by SOAR. That’s very intentional. Mangione says, “It’s very important that the ministries we do are not simply ministries of SOAR, but rather partnerships with the local church. And if we come alongside the local church, then when we leave, the the ministry is continued on by that church. That is our goal.”

This is how SOAR ensures to the best of their ability that the kids will have follow-up help after they have decided to follow Christ.

“The most difficult group to work with, of course, is the kids that are directly from the orphanages or children’s homes or children’s centers,” Mangione says. These children aren’t easily connected with a church.

SOAR works with the local churches so they can communicate with churches closer to where the kids live.

Meanwhile, the children started school September 1.

Mangione says they pray that “the connection the churches have with the kids, especially with the English camp and the one in the Far East, would remain as strong,…as strong during the winter as it would in the summer. Kids are a lot busier with school as school takes up a bit more time in Russia then it does here.”

Imagine what it’s like to be a child, to hear the message of Jesus Christ and accept it, and then have to go back to normal life where everyone else rejects that message. Many Christians around the world can relate to that experience. It is hard to live out our faith in a world increasingly resistant to the Gospel.

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“Pray that they would remain strong in commitments that were made. For those kids that made commitment or have made commitments in the past, obviously there’s a lot of pressure in school to hold convictions that are very different from the rest of the world.”

Pray for the children to be strong against peer pressure. And pray for those who have not yet decided to follow Christ.

“For the rest of the kids, some incredibly great seeds were planted this summer. They heard the Gospel, over and over, clearly through the Bible lessons, through the time with their counselors, and in other activities throughout the time. And we just pray that these seeds would grow,” Mangione says.

He explains that some servants are meant to plant, some are meant to water, and some are meant to see the fruit.

“We don’t know how all this will happen in a given child’s life, but we pray that those seeds would fall on fertile ground, that the fruit would come ultimately.”

Finally, pray for the kids who are living in difficult situations, whether in a family or an orphanage.