Author Archives: Serbia Team

Days 11 & 12 – Serbia

We had a nice breakfast, then went to the train station. We were surprised and happy to see many of our students there to see us off. Pulling out of the station and waving goodbye was harder than any of us had anticipated but we resolved we would return next year and reconnect with these new friends. The train ride was an adventure and Steve Brown met us at the hostel. The hostel is very nice and in a quaint area of the older part of Belgrade. Belgrade is a large city with traffic, lots of restaurants, stores, and people. We have enjoyed our time in Backa Topola so the big city was a little overwhelming.

The highlights of Belgrade were gelato, sightseeing, buying souvenirs, and dinners. Our most memorable experience was our debriefing as each of us shared about the week and about each other. It was an encouraging time. Each day there were more goodbyes as individuals either left to go home, of moved on to their next ministry assignment. We enjoyed our last night in Belgrade and realized this time we had anticipated for so long had come and gone. Tomorrow we fly back to the U.S. We will be glad to be home, but we are leaving a large part of our hearts here in Serbia. See you next year!

Day 10 – Serbia

Another full Sunday. We attended church in the morning where we had camp all week. Several of the campers came to church. Makayla and Verica did a class with the students during the sermon. The songs were all in Serbian and Hungarian, but we worshipped with our brothers and sisters as the Holy Spirit filled the church. With camp over, we went to the lake with the pastors for a picnic and back to Taiwo and Zuza’s house for dessert. In the evening we returned to Pacchia. The ladies shared tonight – Dianne, Teresa, and Makayla connected with the congregation and there were tears and hugs all around. Again, after the service, we had a time of fellowship and playing with kids in the yard. Two of the girls in our camp live in this small village. They came and brought their mother and brother. We returned to town, had a late meal and of course ice cream. We packed so we can leave for Belgrade in the morning.

Days 4 – 9 – Serbia

Our six days of English Camp followed an intense schedule. Our small team realized quickly that we have to constantly be thinking ahead and be prepared for the day before the campers arrived. We rise early for breakfast and our team meetings. The campers arrive at 9 a.m. and usually leave between 8:45 and 9 p.m. We then have a team debrief, make sure everything iss in order for the next day, shower, and go to bed usually by midnight.

Our schedule includes a morning program, English class, lunch, crafts, sports, team building, evening program, dinner, and evening activity. One day we have a water day that takes the place of the English class, another two days we have activity days that replace the crafts, sports, and team building. Our schedule is posted and we follow it as closely as possible.

Theme – Our theme this week is Upside/Down and each day we explore in the morning and evening programs a topic that is different in our lives viewed from an upside/down perspective. These topics include happiness, love, forgiveness, and trust. Each morning a team member shares a personal story about the day’s theme leading to discussion questions in our classes. Each evening, the topic is linked to our spiritual lives and a more intense discussion time.

English Class – The camp is advertised to provide conversational English practice for the campers. Josiah Venture stresses that we must provide high quality English classes so we spend a lot of preparation time to make sure that happens. The campers are a mix of Serbian and Hungarian speaking students. On the first day each student is evaluated and placed in a class based upon his/her English speaking ability. Each class has at least two native English speakers, two to four translators, and 5-8 students.

The Josiah Venture lesson plans provide a framework we can use to initiate speaking practice. Each teacher adjusts the plans based upon his/her students. These classes essentially become our small groups and help us organize activities. More importantly they promote connections between the campers, the English speakers, and the local team. The importance of connecting the campers to the local team is so important for the long-term discipleship of these students.

Evening Activities – These are themed nights for fun and learning.
Monday night was Irish night with Andy and Ross telling us about their country, sharing some of their food, and teaching us some Irish dances.

Tuesday night we had a campfire and made s’mores. The kids from Serbia have not had s’mores before so we set up a station with graham crackers and Hershey bars, put marshmallows on their sticks, and showed them how to roast the marshmallows. We brought a large supply of chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers so the campers could have “seconds.” I saw one of our campers asked him if he wanted seconds, he replied “I have five.” Awesome!

Wednesday night was Hawaiian night. We had leis, grass skirts, the limbo, and taught the kids to hula.

Saturday, our last night, was Country Western night. We had cowboy hats, bandanas, and line dancing.

Day 3 – Serbia

Today was Sunday and it was busy. We attended church at the location of our camp in the morning. There was a group of 40 young people staying at the church from the U.S. and Europe. We worshipped together, they gave testimonies, and Steve Brown preached. The experience of hearing songs you recognize but words you don’t understand challenged us, yet we could feel God’s Spirit close. We spent some time in the afternoon working on lesson plans and activity planning. At 5:00 we left for a church plant in a small village about 20 minutes from Backa Topola. Ross, Andy, and I shared our testimonies with the help of a translator. After the service, we had a time of fellowship including strong coffee, snacks, and playing with kids in the yard. On the way back to town, a thunderstorm reminded us of Indiana again. We stopped at a local restaurant for a sandwich and returned to the hostel. Camp begins tomorrow!

Day 2 – Serbia

Today was a day of training. We met for breakfast and then went to the church for training led by Steve Brown. We officially met the rest of our English speaking team – Andy and Ross from N. Ireland and Heather and Chris from Indiana. All four are experienced at English camps. Ross, Heather, and Chris have been in Serbia this summer for several weeks already. The first order of business, learn the camp dance. We have seen the video, gone over the choreography, and listened to the music – but we never actually have done it as a group. Fortunately we were fast learners and after a few tries we had it. During the day there were ups and downs, moments of panic and relief – but by the end of the day we were trained and “ready for camp.”

Day 1 – Serbia

We arrived in Serbia! We progressed easily through immigration and we were happy to see all of the luggage and supply tubs on the baggage carousel. As we walked through customs, Dianne and I were stopped. I discretely motioned the rest of our team to continue on so they would not be stopped as well. Our luggage cart had most of the camp supplies. The custom’s official cut the ties and opened the tubs. He began taking everything out. The tub I was standing by was full of craft supplies. He asked me what the plastic containers held and I said “beads.” He then saw the string and asked me what I was going to do with the beads and string, I replied “make bracelets.” The look on his face said it all.  As they took everything out of the tubs I wondered what we would do if they confiscated all of our supplies. They looked it over and told us we could take our things and go.

Bojan met us at the airport, we also met Andy Pedlow from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Rosie Bertles a team leader from Indiana. We loaded all of our supplies and ourselves into the van and drove to Backa Topola. Our first impression was a surprise, Serbia is like Indiana. It is flat, there were fields of corn, and it was hot and humid. Steve Brown, Josiah Venture, met us at the church. For the weekend we are staying in a hostel so we dropped our bags there and went out to eat. We realized quickly that we are going to eat well. We had a large platter of meat and fries, salad, and bread. We returned to the hostel, showered, and went to bed.

Serbia 2014

Those are the details of camp, but they are not the heart of what we did. The faces of our campers live on in our memories. They are hungry for love, for encouragement, and for Jesus. We were advised that the students would probably be reserved and it would take a while to warm up to us. By the second day, many of those walls were coming down and we were overwhelmed by the number of campers who rode their bikes and walked to the train station to see us off.

The most important reason for our trip was to introduce these young people to Jesus. The seeds have been planted. Some of the campers began a relationship with Jesus during camp. Others are continuing to learn about Him. Josiah Venture does an excellent job of creating connections between the campers and the local believers and leaders. So while we were sad to leave, we know the work will continue.