This story is shared with us by Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) Missionary Melissa Karges. Melissa wrote this wonderful article about the work God is doing through the camps provided by Concordia University, Irvine in Hungary, along with the help of local GEO missionaries.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:3-7 ESV).
During the last week of June, ninety high school students from Aszód, Győr, Orosháza and Sopron, Hungary came to be a part of a five day camp hosted by Concordia University Irvine. The following week over 100 junior high students also attended. The camp theme was “Soaked!” which was taken from the verses in Titus 3:3-7, and throughout the week highlighted stories from the Bible such as creation, Noah’s ark, Namaan, and the baptism of Jesus.
English Bible camps in Central Europe are unique opportunities for sharing the Gospel. The Americans who come offer a different perspective on life and faith that is new to many of the students in attendance. It is an amazing way to create relationships, and by teams and individuals maintaining these relationships, students are further exposed to a life of faith in Christ.
Concordia Irvine first started providing this English Bible camp in Hungary in 2000, and it takes place every two years. Students who have attended past camps eagerly await the return of their American friends and a week of sharing life together. These relationships have allowed us to “grow up with” these youth, as we’ve watched them change from awkward middle schoolers who could barely speak English to students finishing high school and carrying on lengthy conversations.
Through the Bible study topics and faith questions that the American team had prepared, it opened the door for many conversations with the youth in attendance. Through these means, invaluable opportunities are created for currently deployed GEO missionaries to delve further into conversation with the people they serve. Ben (Helge, Czech Republic) and I (Melissa) were able to be extra bodies in the room allowing students more chances to speak and for everyone to share their ideas with one another. These conversations often continued outside of the Bible studies as well.
Not only so, but after the camps are over, it allows the work of GEOs to expand in new ways as they are present to “debrief” with youth about their experiences in greater detail. The kids love this camp, and they can see that there is something special about it. Being able to talk to them about what they experienced and help them see how their experience is connected to the love of Christ is one of the best parts of working as a missionary here and helping with these camps.
It is not only current students who are affected either. The teachers who accompany them also enjoy the experience, as well as a large number of graduated students who return to visit and often times help with various tasks.
Although these may be “short-term trips”, the maintenance of these relationships have very long-term effects. God has used and surely will continue to use these camps as a means of bringing people to Himself. It is our hope and prayer that the 200+ people who were a part of these two camps will come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.