Baltic Family Camp 2016

August 5, 2016

BFC 2016

The Baltic Family Camp (BFC) takes place each year in an old Soviet Pioneer Camp now called, Camp Ruta, near Moletai, Lithuania. It grew out of the youth camps held annually at the same site since 1998.

It began in 2012 with two main purposes–to provide rest and renewal for missionaries and their families along with other Christians in the Baltic region and to help foster a connection and network among the small scattered churches in those countries. Those goals have been wonderfully realized, but as with most of our plans, God has gone well beyond what we could “ask or imagine” to create a truly special week of learning, fellowship, reunion, renewal, joy and family.

Since its beginning people from fourteen different countries have attended the BFC. This year twelve nationalities were represented among the 118 participants. The BFC brings us all together, works through our language and cultural barriers to form one body worshipping God with one spirit, heart and voice. It is an incredible God-defined, Spirit-led experience.

The BFC really is about the people who attend. This year I was reunited with Ugne. Ugne now lives in the Netherlands with her husband and son. Back in the late 1990s she was one of my students in Vilnius, Lithuania and attended some of the youth camps at Ruta. She has never forgotten the time she spent in study and at camp. Through social media we were able to reconnect and as a result she attended the BFC for the first time this year with her son. She is not a part of a church of our fellowship since none exist where she lives. She expressed how meaningful the Bible classes at the BFC were to her and her son and how she yearned for such study opportunities in her area.

Ugne is representative of how God has used the BFC to reconnect with friends, former students and campers, who now return to Camp Ruta with their families to enjoy the week of study, praise, and fellowship.

Then there are wonderful people like Sansom and Monica Karumanchi from India. India is not quite in the original geographical footprint imagined with the BFC. Sansom, through friends in Tallinn, Estonia first attended the BFC a few years ago and is now an integral part of our week. This summer he brought his new, beautiful and courageous bride, Monica. The Karumanchis along with a new participant this year, Seth Amofah of Ghana, demonstrate just one way God has expanded the BFC more than we could have ever dreamed.

Our teachers are a huge part of our camp. Dr. Alan and Sherry Pogue, who have a Christian counseling center and ministry in North Little Rock, AR are a regular part of our sessions. They provide Christ-based teaching and counseling during the week on family, marriage and parenting. While most of us in the states take these kinds of opportunities for granted, they do not exist in the Baltics.

This year Dr. Earl Lavender of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN and Dr. Joy Rousseau, a retired educator from Tyler, TX served as our primary class teachers for our men and women. Both brought a wealth of mission experience along with their rich teaching expertise to the camp. Digging deeply into God’s Word is at the core of the BFC. We work to provide a richer and fuller learning experience to assist in renewal.

Kids also are a large part of the session. This year we had more babies and toddlers than ever and as someone noted, our own youth group–kids who have grown up attending the camp. We have a great team who lead the kid’s day camp.

The BFC was just a dream for several years, but through God working in hearts and through the generosity of my home church, Levy, along with the commitment of an incredible American and Lithuanian team, this dream has been realized in amazing ways.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

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10,000 Reasons– 2014 BFC

August 5, 2014

BFC 2014

Every year as we begin planning for the next Baltic Family Camp (BFC), I always have a moment or two of doubts. These doubts are not God-centered; they are self-centered. Is it worth all of the effort? Can we bring it all together again? Will families and individuals in the Baltic region of Europe still want to attend and participate? These moments are fleeting, but still real. Then we arrive at Camp Ruta in Molatai, Lithuania and enjoy a grand reunion with old friends and welcome new ones. I just silently say to myself–O ye of little faith!

The 2014 edition of the BFC gave me 10,000 reasons why this ministry effort is indeed worth every investment into it. It was a pure joy to be there together with brothers and sisters in Christ from the countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Germany, Sweden, England, and yes, this year–India (for a total of 96 people). The BFC truly illustrates that God’s kingdom knows no boundaries and that our bond in Christ Jesus is stronger than any nationality.

One of the main purposes of the BFC is to offer missionary families in that part of Europe the chance for rest and refreshment. We welcomed Mark and Karen Abercrombie (Liepzig, Germany); Ilia and Daiva Amosov and Juozas and Zivile Puodziukatis and family (Vilnius, Lithuania); Kestutis Puodziunas (Klaipeda, Lithuania); Joel and Yana Petty and family and Oleg and Natasha Yakimenko and family (St. Petersburg, Russia); George and Gabreille Opoku and family (Stockholm, Sweden); Jerry and Trina Ross and family (Tartu, Estonia); and Victor Barviks (Riga, Latvia) to the camp this session.

Bap AtileIn addition we welcomed Christian families and individuals from across this region as we studied, fellowshipped, played, and worshipped together. Thirteen year old, Atile, who is one of the daughters of a faithful family from Kaunas, Lithuania was baptized into Christ by her dad. The church in this city–the second largest in Lithuania–meets in the home of her parents, Gediminus and Indre Ileviciene.

Did I mention we had a brother from India this year? His name is Chorlian Samsom Karumanchi. He came via the church in Tallinn, Estonia. Sansom’s father is a preacher in India and his family operates the Sathupally Children’s Home. The small church in Tallinn has partnered with them and made this orphanage a mission point for their church.

We had an incredible American team (most being from the Levy church in North Little Rock, AR but also this year from Clinton, MS, Plano, TX, Gueydan, LA and Leoma, TN) who served in various ways throughout the week including Richard and Jeanna Lynn May. They took their What God Has Joined marriage ministry on the road to Camp Ruta. This type of Christian-based ministry to married couples is greatly needed in the Baltics.

Our theme this year was inspired by the song, 10,000 Reasons. We did discover  through our time together many reasons to bless the Lord and many more reasons why God is doing an amazing work with the Baltic Family Camp.

No doubt about it.


2013 Baltic Family Camp

July 24, 2013

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Next week (July 29-August 3), Christians from the countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Germany and the USA will gather at Camp Ruta in Moletai, Lithuania for a week of worship, fellowship, study, strengthening, prayer, fun and games. Including kids there is a total of about 90 scheduled to participate in our second such camp.

What a blessing it is to be involved in this ministry which brings together folks from the scattered churches of Christ in this region. This year’s theme is “Here I Am to Worship.”

Join me in praying for a week of God’s blessings!

P.S. For pics from this camp click here.


Baltic Family Camp: “We Are One”

August 8, 2012

July 29 through August 4 was an amazing week to be at Camp Ruta in Moletai, Lithuania. God brought together 71 people ages one to seventy-one from the countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, USA, Canada, Holland, and England for the first Baltic Family Camp. We were there to celebrate being one in Christ Jesus and to become better aware of the ministries of the Churches of Christ in this region.

To say that God worked through this camp ministry to exceed all expectations is an understatement. It was such a joy to witness wonderful fellowship break out among the participants– all coming from different areas but sharing a common bond in Jesus. This camp which had been a dream among a few of us for years helped the Christians in the small churches in this part of Europe realize that they were not alone.

One of the strengths of the camp was the incredible and in-depth teaching done by folks like Mark Abercrombie, a missionary from Leipzig, Germany who taught a class focused on the challenges of mission work; or Alan and Sherry Pogue of North Little Rock who as licensed professional Christian counselors shared with couples what God desires in their family; or from Joey and Melanie Griffin of Dallas who work for Eastern European Missions and taught the younger people at camp about how they could make a difference in their churches and communities.  Other teachers in the daily men’s and women’s class equally challenged their students.

The kid’s day camp led by Scott Jordan of Pensacola, FL and Andy and Lisa Gibson of North Little Rock also offered the children attending a delightful mixture of Bible instruction; fun and games; arts and crafts; and learning activities. What a joy it was for me to have my family there and to see other families enjoying this week together.

Another blessing was our evening worship. Someone from each country had the chance to lead our worship thought each night. Hearing the songs sung in the different languages simultaneously was incredibly powerful and moving.

The churches in this region are all small and scattered. The purpose of this camp ministry was to offer them a place to come together as one; become better acquainted with each other; learn from one another; and find encouragement in that fellowship. By God’s grace, I think this was accomplished.

Please keep your brothers and sisters in the Baltic area in your prayers. They are faithfully serving the Lord and striving to share his message to their cities.

For more info and many photos of the week visit the BFC Facebook page.


Baltic Family Camp

April 2, 2012

God willing, on July 30-August 5 Christians from the countries of Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, and the United States will converge on Camp Ruta in Moletai, Lithuania for the first Baltic Family Camp (BFC).  This ministry has long been a dream of many and thanks to God along with the missional focus of the Levy Church of Christ, the dream is about to be realized.

Recently I had he privilege of traveling in the Baltic region. I was warmly welcomed by Christians in Vilnius, Lithuania; Warsaw, Poland; Riga, Latvia; Tartu and Tallinn, Estonia.  Without fail they expressed joy, excitement, and anticipation about the camp. Our goal is to make BFC an annual gathering for Christians in this region.

The Baltic area churches of Christ- while strong and vibrant in most places- remain small, scattered, and isolated. Their hunger for extended fellowship is evident.  BFC– which is scheduled after the youth camp ministry is completed in each country– will hopefully facilitate deeper fellowship and church strengthening. We envision it as a time of refreshing, rest, and renewal.

We have a tremendous team from the U.S. and Europe who plan to facilitate growth discussions for missionaries, men, women, couples, and singles. Planned is also a separate day camp for the children who accompany their parents.

We solicit your prayers for this effort. We still have much to do in order to be fully prepared. Our appropriate theme is “We Are One.”  If you would like to know more about Churches of Christ in the Baltic region here are some links with information about the congregations and the people in them:

Looks for more news about BFC here in the future.


Marriage Ministry Mission in Vilnius

April 26, 2011

Richard and Jeanna Lynn May recently completed a two-week marriage ministry mission trip to Vilnius, Lithuania through What God Has Joined ministry. From all reports it was an incredible success. Both of the Vilnius evangelists, Ilia Amosov and Juozas Puodziukaitis rave about their work and the lasting positive affects on everyone who attended the seminars and personal coaching sessions. Here is what Richard and Jeanna Lynn said about the trip:

We returned from our two week trip to Vilnius Lithuania on April 17.  The mission was a super success!  We offered 12 hours of seminar and coached between 50-60 hours.  The ministers of VKB and their families were warm and appreciative.  We continue to hear exciting news and positive reports regarding the Marriage Mission.  We have written a full report of our trip and will send it out soon and post it on the website. 

We thank God for Richard and Jeanna Lynn! Their work was an answer to many prayers and hopefully the beginning of a lasting ministry presence in this country for years to come!

* For more pics please click here and for a complete report on their mission trip click here.


“Haste the Day When My Faith Shall Be Sight”

April 8, 2011

Death has visited us at Gateway. Two brothers- both amazing men- have gone to be with the Lord. They are asleep- at rest from the diseases that slowly ravished their bodies. I praise God for that. While they will missed greatly it is better for them that they went home.

Oscar Bell (along with his wife Lucy) was a trailblazer in racial integration among Churches of Christ in Pensacola. If you knew Oscar, you would not be surprised at this. This gracious brother quietly made lasting impacts across two continents in his long military career.

David Jordan was the definition of a servant. He spent his life serving God, his family, the hurting and his country. David survived (and helped dozens of others to do so) an Amtrak train accident in Mobile Bay. Later he served the devastated people of Pascagoula, MS after Hurricane Katrina as a key man “on the ground” for the relief efforts of the Central Church of Christ. (John Dobbs writes about David’s work).

Sunday (April 10th) at Gateway the sermon focus will be on the resurrection followed by a related sermon on Easter Sunday about heaven. Oscar and David are learning more about this right now then I will be able to share. But I can imagine.

MercyMe sings a deeply moving song entitled I Can Only Imagine. (posted below) It lifts me up to God’s throne every time I hear it. As I mature I find myself thinking more frequently about the things Oscar and David are now realizing. Then I think about another song.

It is Well with My Soul is an old standard that has touched generations. There is a phrase in this song that has become much more meaningful to me- Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight. Right now (to paraphrase the apostle Paul) I can only see darkly, but one day I will see God face-to-face. This will be the day when faith becomes sight- when all I’ve hoped and lived for and struggled to know becomes reality.  Lord haste that day!

I think Oscar, David and a whole host of others will be there- waiting and grinning. 

As for now though, I can only just imagine.