So I said ‘yes’. And then I panicked. What had I got myself in for? Running a summer camp in a village? I didn’t even speak Romanian! What was I thinking? I was no dance, music or art expert and I had never ventured into village life since moving to Romania.
Still, the FFR team reassured me, and they were too supportive to let down. Joshua 1:5 also told me that I would not go alone.
So there I was, on the first day, shaking in my boots with the three FFR teachers, one American helper, three American children, my own three kids and sixteen village children all staring at me expectantly. How was this meant to work exactly? I was soon to discover that children are children no matter where they grow up or what language they speak. And love and laughter transcends culture and language. It was going to be just fine.
So with the help of the FFR teachers translating for me, we launched onto our journey. We divided up the children into groups and set up four stations of activities for every day. We also allocated time to practice memory verses, snack time and a spot for outside games with the whole group. Each day there would be a colouring competition with the national animal of the country we were visiting. The days were planned out to the minute. Would it work? Only time would tell.
On Monday we explored Romania and got excited about the idea of travel. We played a city game and ran around the room, following directions to learn about Romanian places, north, south, east and west of Budila. We made passports, raced to pack suitcases and got ready to set off. The suitcase relay was an absolute favourite. Taking turns, they hurtled down the hallway to ‘pack’ random items in their team’s suitcase. They played over and over until they could run no more! The hysterical laughter and cheers echoed through the building and reassured me that we were on the right track. They were having so much fun!
On Tuesday we flew to India. 45 village children turned up that day! We created henna hand designs or tiger masks, played hopscotch and football and got very hot and lethargic in the Romanian sun! Realising my mistake, I changed all outside activities for future days to ones we could do in the shade.
On Wednesday 55 village children appeared! Every day we would have to start by making new coloured name tags and grouping the newcomers. The FFR teachers were wonderful. They organised the children, sorted out the snacks and took the group activities so that we didn’t waste time doing English translations for everything. My American friend was also invaluable, running an activity and helping out wherever needed. A young teen also helped for 4 out of five days. Having twice as many children as we expected was manageable with the teamwork of all involved and the help of a great printer!
So we took 61 kids (55 from the village and 6 belonging to the helpers) to Japan that Wednesday! They all crowded close to see pictures of Japan and oohed and aahed at the lights of Tokyo. They were fascinated with the shape of the Japanese buildings and surprised to learn that the national animal of Japan was a fish! In groups they created origami puppies and swans, ran relays with marshmallows and chopsticks and made funny faces with a Japanese party game called Fukuwarai. The whole day seemed filled with laughter and smiles.
On Thursday we went to Hawaii. We limboed, set up a ‘beach’ obstacle course, and made colourful leis with coloured flowers, beads and straws. With more than 50 children again, brightly beset with their homemade leis, it was a wonderful colourful day. So many happy smiles!
On Friday we went to Australia with 60 kids!. For our activities we had a Thong Throw competition (also known as sandals or flip flops, depending on where you come from) and created aboriginal dot paintings. The highlight of Friday, and the week, was being able to cut and serve huge chunks of fresh watermelon to wide eyed children at our playground break. There was enough for two pieces for everyone. No one went without. (Thanks Caty!)
It was on Friday I showed the children a picture of me as a little girl in Australia, not long after we had moved there, and shared how I felt when I was lonely and afraid. I was able to share how God was always with us as we faced poisonous spiders and snakes and times of fear and loneliness. This led into a Bible story time later where I had a chance to share about the story of Moses and Joshua and how God promised to be with them always. We learned Joshua 1:5 together. Wherever you go, whether it is to India, Japan, Hawaii, Australia, or to school, to the shops, He promises to never leave you nor forsake you.
I had certainly seen that. Twice my car was taken out, and it looked like I wouldn’t be able to go. Both times, it was fixed just in time. When things didn’t go as planned, God always turned up with something better. Minutes before Thursday started, I realized that my plan for the lei wasn’t going to work. I didn’t have an alternative activity and yet God provided an idea that turned out to be much better than the original plan, with resources I didn’t even know we had.
He cared enough about these kids to come through every time. From the ideas, to the plan and structure of the day, to the resources needed to pull it together, even to the transport we needed and a delicious treat to top off the week. He provided it all! He wanted to see their smiles, to hear their laughter, to see their joy.
What a week.
I’m so glad I said ‘yes’.
~ Catherine Vos
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. ~ Joshua 1:5