The phrase “summer camp” often evokes lighthearted memories of silly songs, outdoor games, unique foods, and new friends. The JMI camps in Moldova share these similarities, along with some crucial differences. Our summer camps are often the only place that a child has the opportunity to receive unconditional love, a full meal, and the good news of the Gospel. Boys and girls tell us time and again that they had “the best day ever.”
JMI camps are a yearly tradition. Normally, we would have many teams traveling from the U.S. to help run them throughout the summer. This year, the crisis in Ukraine thwarted our travel plans. But while it prevented us from taking teams, it did not keep JMI from hosting these vital camps for the kids. In fact, our staff on the ground in Moldova doubled down on their efforts to make sure that no child would miss out on their best day.
Nearly 800 kids in 21 locations around the country attended camp this summer. Along with our incredible team in Moldova, this was made possible by our Transitional Living teens. JMI’s Transitional Living program meets the needs of vulnerable young people when they age out of orphanages. Many of the teens grew up coming to JMI camp and continue to give back by volunteering every summer. But this year they were called upon to lead in a bigger way. They rose to the occasion.These teens understand the hardships that children at camp are facing in a way that no one else can. They’ve also had the opportunity to move into a safe place, further their education, gain life skills, and learn that there is hope for their future because of Christ. This makes them powerful mentors and role models for kids like 10-year-old Lilian.
Lilian’s family lives very poorly in Puhoi, a village known for struggling with alcoholism. They rent a small old house, draw water from the well, and heat using wood. Lilian’s father died this year, and his mother is having a hard time taking care of him and his four siblings.
All five of them are in JMI’s child sponsorship program. At camp this year, Lilian got to join other children in the freedom of being kids as they sang songs, played games, and learned new things. Breakout sessions focused on crafts, sports, English, and life skills. Every day also included a time of worship and Bible stories. It was a truly comprehensive experience with Jesus at the center.
Kids like Lilian will never forget having an older youth at camp giving them thoughtful attention, letting them know God loves them, and setting an example for their future. Because of everyone who has given to the Transitional Living program, the teens were equipped to take on more responsibility this year and be there for the kids when they needed them most. We are so thankful for what God is doing in their lives through JMI.
We’re also grateful for the staff in Moldova who worked tirelessly to put on camp this year without in-person support from all of our teams. God continues to bless JMI Moldova in the midst of these uncertain times.
Whatever camp may look like next summer, we trust that God will show us how to care for these children again. If you’re not already involved, won’t you be a part of it? You can help provide eternal hope to the next generation in Moldova.