As the Soviet Union fell, Christians rushed into the nations of Eastern Europe, Bibles in hand.
From the Baltic Sea to Siberia, Churches of Christ hosted summer camps — at campgrounds where young people once were indoctrinated with communist ideology. Now, a generation of Eastern European Christians that grew up attending the camps is taking the reins.
In Estonia, a small Baltic nation of 1.3 million souls, 180 youths participated in Camp Balchyoca, an annual event founded by U.S. churches in 1995.
This year, church members in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, and the city of Tartu were responsible for planning, theme choice and preparation, said Royce Sartain, a U.S. church member and longtime supporter of the work in Estonia.
The camp’s directors were Anna Vasjutina and Asea Lezina. Both were among the first campers in 1995.
South of Estonia, in the Baltic nation of Lithuania, Christians hosted Camp Ruta, an annual gathering in the woods near Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.
For its 14th year, organizers changed the name to Baltic Family Camp and invited Eastern Europeans young and old from across the region. Attendees came from Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Canada and the U.S.
The Vilnius Church of Christ organized the event with assistance from the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Ark.
The camp “brought together 70 people who couldn’t have been more different in heritage, language and personality and showed them that they are truly one in Christ,” said Krista Cannon, a missions intern in Chemnitz, Germany, who attended.
Just east of Lithuania, in Belarus, YouthReach International launched a new initiative to help Christians mentor orphans.
Church members from the Russia and U.S. offices of the ministry, once known as World Wide Youth Camps, conducted a History Makers Journey seminar for young Belorussian leaders. The Christians worked in partnership with Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation and the International Leadership Institute.
Read more about Camp Balchyoca in Estonia on our blog post, New generation of Christians takes reins of Bible camp in Eastern Europe