What an amazing summer we had!
The past three months, since my last update, were so rich in activities, work, planning, scheduling, some more work, mission teams, visits on the field, even more work, Camps, COP’s, and a lot more on top of it all!
It feels like a whole year was compressed into these three months, but surprisingly, it is not the case. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share some thoughts about the overall activities in Smiles Outreach Project, given it has been quite a major interest during these past weeks.
A good way to start would be COP’s. You’ll all know by know what in Smiles, these are – Children Outreach Programmes. We are very keen to provide a great experience for the children attending our programmes, so we’ve prepared, as always before, with great Bible stories, songs, crafts, competitions, games, and much more. And just like in past years, the COP’s went to many areas where virtually no one else goes making this type of presentation for kids. And truth is, our model of VBS/HBC is quite unique and entertaining for children and quite often, for their parents and grand-parents too!
We have visited several villages like Sanicolau, Incesti, Virciorog, Cordau – for two consecutive days, and also some schools within Oradea city, just before they closed for their summer vacation.
For this year, we had the story of the Prodigal Son as the main theme. Starting from the emotional telling of Jesus, we have conveyed to children what means to love and forgive, what it is to do wrong and then feel sorry and ask forgiveness, what effects can a messy life bring and what are the pigs good for – except the obvious… Not unlike many times in the past, children understood the lessons very well and they were ready to promise they will indeed do the right thing next time when they upset their mum and dad. It is so refreshing to be able to present the Bible in a completely relaxed way, without the ‘stuffy attitude’ that church too many times imposes on everyone.
The Mission-Trip teams we had in Smiles through the summer were again of great help to augment our own team of workers.
Actually, because of the very busy season at the new Dezna Camp, the COP’s team was even smaller than we normally have. Ioana could not participate at all, as she was responsible for overseeing the Camp activities. So, it was me, Dan and occasionally other colleagues who could help. But we did have great support from the visiting guests who were ready to use their artistic skills in playing a role with a sketch or helping children with their crafts. Really, a team effort, with great results!
Again, we did not manage to go to all the locations requested for the programme. For next year we are already deep into a ‘waiting list’ from many churches that would love to have such programmes for their children and their friends. We pray that our team will grow and so we will be able to go in more villages, why not with two teams instead of only one! We shall see. But so far, we can confidently say it was another wonderful season of sharing the Gospel to the younger generation, in a way they understand and love! All thanks to God!
Then of course, we had the first Camp Season at Dezna Outreach Centre which had both a tremendous expectation and a great accomplishment!
There were so many details to be checked and put in place that we felt like, come the first group we will not be quite ready for it! But, in an almost miraculous way, the place was ready indeed and we could provide for the kids not only a great service with accommodation and food, but also a wonderful programme of games, activities, Bible study and mountain trips, trails and exploration!
Ioana took the role of overseeing all activities in Dezna – quite a role to take! She was faithfully supported by Stefan, one of the teenagers from our Gepiu Centre. With an exemplary dedication and commitment, they served for all the seven weeks while over 250 children and youth enjoyed the camp and for sure they had some serious challenges to overcome, but they did great!
Some of the groups that came were rather large, as in numbers, getting pretty close to our maximum capacity of 60 guests. Also, for some of the participants, the camp was an opportunity to assume more liberty and actions, so there was a permanent need for keeping an eye on what was going on. So, hard work, but with great results!
The activities at camp were diverse and participants had little time to get bored. Either following our own programme for every day, or by having their own. Each group combined the entertaining activities, be they competitions, games or sports outside with proper Bible study in a format that involved everybody to maintain their interest for the whole session.
Like I mentioned, some of the largest groups that came to our camp were coordinated by their own experienced leaders and we were very pleased to see a perfect collaboration between them and our own staff. Quite remarkable, all the participants declared they want to be back one day, maybe as soon as next year, and actually one group already decided to come back in October this year! I would call that a wonderfully satisfied group of customers!
So, the first camp season was an incredible success. It required a lot of hard work in preparation and running it, but we all now have the satisfaction of providing a tremendous opportunity for many kids to enjoy a week away from their everyday routine. Some of the children coming experienced camps for the very first time and it was amazing to see how much joy and smiles it created for them!
Some participants were very experienced and have been in camps for many years, but they still enjoyed it a lot. Of course, there were things less than perfect and we’ve had the occasion to learn how to do even better next time, but overall, the whole summer camp experience at Smiles’ Dezna Outreach Centre was nothing short of amazing.
I could go on and on about it, but I guess it is a matter of time and space… So, I will just want to add that we are very happy this summer was used, in one project or another, to share Jesus with so many young souls, children and teenagers that have a deep-deep need inside for finding a meaning to life, quite often in the midst of some very serious personal challenges, troubled families, poor health conditions and so on. We are grateful to God for providing us with resources, people, money and opportunities!
For us, and for me personally, being able to tell children how much God loves them is absolutely essential! They all need to understand their lives can and must have a purpose and an aim. Once they decide to follow Jesus and start enjoying every single day as a blessing from God! I am confident that through Dezna Camps, this is possible and dare I say… probable.
Thank you very much for reading my report, but especially for being a supporter of our work here in Romania. Thank you for helping through your donations, but also through your prayers and encouraging words! Please continue to do so and feel free to get in contact with us, we are only one email away!
With best wishes to you and I hope to see many of you in September, for the Official Opening of Dezna Outreach Centre! That will be quite a weekend! See you then!
Director of Ministry
The Smiles Foundation – Romania