Greetings from St. Petersburg! Krista here reporting that we have safely returned to the city this afternoon and can proudly say that we have survived the Russian Wilderness, or as Kalie would say “Russian Wild”. Apart from countless mosquito and horse fly bites, the team is all doing physically well. We all experienced some form of illness while at camp, but we were eagerly mended to by the amazing doctor on staff and have all recovered.
The disabilities camp was an amazing experience that stretched all of us in ways and to limits that we never even knew we had. We learned so many things about ourselves, people with disabilities, and God while there on the beautiful Gulf of Finland, and I believe that we have all left more determined than ever to continue serving others here in Russia as well as back in the states.
The past ten days have been very eventful, to say the least, and I am going to try my best to consolidate our many challenging, rewarding, and unique experiences. We began the camp all a little wary of what exactly we were expected to do with the teens, but we were comforted by the support of the other staff, Tanya, and each other. Kalie and I were partnered together to act as caretakers for a 27-year-old female named Natasha, and Mckenzie and Thaddaeus were partnered together for a 21-year-old male named Kirill. Our job was to work and care for our teens from when they woke up in the morning at 9 am until they went to bed around 10 pm. This included getting them dressed, feeding them, helping them use the restroom, ect. It was very overwhelming, at least for me, at first. Kalie said “I don’t know how comfortable I am caring for someone else’s child,” and this was a feeling shared amongst the four of us. We were worried that, apart from Thaddaeus, we were all inexperienced in working with people with disabilities, and we did not want to do something wrong. After the first few days, it became a lot easier, however, and it grew to be more rewarding than anything to be able to care for and learn from our partners. We faced many new experiences such as working with disabled people in wheelchairs like Kirill, with people who do not speak at all like Natasha, and learning how to fully care for other people who cannot do it for themselves.
The thing that stuck out to me most about the camp was the presence of God all around. Mckenzie said that she could see God through our team, through the smiles of the teens, and through the relationships formed amongst us all. We could also see Him working in our own hearts as we gradually became stronger and more confident in the work that we were doing. What we found brutal in the beginning, we accepted to be completely normal and appreciated in the end. For me, that would be changing diapers and being covered in sand and bug bites. We all would agree that the bugs there were awful. I don’t know if you have any experience with horse flies, but let me tell you: they are mean little creatures. I could feel God working in us and strengthening us throughout our time at camp, and I believe that is what made the experience so much more rewarding. We all grew to love the teens we worked with as well as the staff we worked alongside, and I think it is safe to say that we all feel so blessed to have been able to serve God through working with such amazing people.
It’s impossible to write all of the amazing, and not so amazing, things that happened at camp, but I hope that this is sufficient enough to keep you informed until you have the ability to ask us personally about our time with the teens. There were many highs and lows, as to be expected, but the highs far outweighed the lows at the end of the day, and we all left in positive spirits towards the way God worked through us and in us while there.
The camp was beautiful. The sunsets were breathtaking, and the laughter and joy from the teens was unforgettable. We are all sad that we only have one more week left in Russia, but we are ready to experience all of the new adventures that await us this next week. Tomorrow, we are off to visit the Hermitage in the afternoon and to attend Swan Lake in the evening. I am so excited to see how amazing a Russian Ballet is going to be.
Thank you again for all of your love, support, and prayers for our team – we all feel very blessed.
Pakah Pakah Pakah!