Denise Lewis demonstrates the craft for day one of an English Bible Camp in Słupsk, Poland, in July 2022. The camp focused on Jesus’ statement “I am the light of the world.” (Photo by Ben Helge)
Denise Lewis served in Słupsk, Poland, with a team from her congregation, Resurrection Lutheran Church and School, in Newport News, Va., in July 2022. She shared the following reflection on her volunteer service with LCMS International Mission.
By Denise Lewis
Our English Bible Camp team leader told us “newbies” that every camp was different and had a life of its own; there would be times of joy, insight and laughter and times where unexpected things happened. Our Polish hosts were very much dealing with that truth — remodeling construction on the parsonage building where they housed past visiting teams was running months behind schedule due to post-COVID supply chain delays. They secured a lovely “beach house” rental for us, but it was a 30-minute drive from the campsite, in a different town from the host church.
Isn’t that just what God does with us? He invites us to trust Him to turn apparent obstacles into opportunities.
Children at the English Bible Camp in Słupsk, Poland, sing during the Opening in July 2022. (Photo by Denise Lewis)
God’s Opportunities for Us
We used the 30-minute time of our daily commute to become better acquainted with our gracious host pastor, who was adding 2 hours of driving time to his busy day, shuttling all of us to and from the campsite. We also used the time of “car captivity” to hold our team devotions, which put us in a great frame of mind just before getting to camp and greeting the kids. Ebenezer was the devotion’s theme of the day — the Lord has brought us thus far.
When our computers were unable to send a signal to the school’s projector, Pastor’s wife offered her laptop which saved the Opening/Closing/Music assemblies. When some of the children seemed shy or overwhelmed with so much English being spoken and sung, we used that opportunity to invite them to teach us to speak their Polish words — laughter erupted as we struggled to pronounce so many consecutive consonants! Using songs that had dance moves, sign language or fun actions (I just wanna be a sheep…) paved a positive way through the language barrier.
When a miscommunication about who was to lead the Games portion of the day (host church volunteers or American English Bible Camp team members?) occurred, we were challenged to share favorite games of our respective cultures with each other. The children were thrilled to teach us their favorite game called “Colores,” and we taught them hopscotch, “Electricity” and “Ninja.”
Aaron Lewis plays games with English Bible Camp participants in Słupsk, Poland, in July 2022. (Photo by Denise Lewis)
When we worried that perhaps the Gospel lessons might not be clearly stated by our volunteer teen translators, God brought to mind His promises — that His Word would accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:11), that the Holy Spirit would do the heavy lifting of changing hearts and drawing people to Christ (1 Cor. 1:22), that our job is to provide a safe, welcoming, winsome, loving environment and attitude (Heb. 13:1–3).
Ebenezer — the Lord has brought us thus far. God wasn’t about to waste this precious time of faith, fun and cultural exchange! He would plant those “faith seeds” these children and families might recall in months or years to come. Our fourth day’s lesson was on John 15:1, 4–5: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Abide in me, and I in you. … I am the vine, you are the branches.” God will care for you, abide in you, lavish you with His love.
After a long day of being on our feet, singing, dancing and playing games at camp for 5–6 hours, Pastor and his wife invited us to a walking tour of their lovely city. Despite our fatigue, we marveled at the sweeping architecture of the churches, and the beautiful details and stained glass of their local government building.
On the street we ran into one of his parishioners, a recent Ukrainian immigrant, who first hugged Pastor and then every team member as she blessed us for our involvement, relating with great gratitude the hospitality and care our host church, and Polish people in general, have lavished on her and other refugees. She marveled that Americans would travel so far to share the Gospel and run the camps. Listening to her was a wonderful revelation and reminder of God’s perfect provision, even in what can seem to be the worst of times.
Children play with a parachute during English Bible Camp that was held in Słupsk, Poland, in July 2022. (Photo by Denise Lewis)
Opening Doors for the Gospel
When the landlady at our lodgings heard about the Games dilemma, she delightedly mended her colorful parachute (she was a Special Ed and art teacher) and brought rhythm instruments and bean bags for us to borrow and use. Friendships grew through mutual need and finding ways to work through challenges. She came upstairs to our rooms regularly in the evening, helping us prep the crafts for the next day, sharing her artwork with us, and talking about her life raising their 16-year-old autistic daughter — the isolation, the limiting of social outings, the great love, patience, and faith of herself and her husband.
She called her daughter’s classmate and invited him and his mother to Bible Camp — would we accept him, even though he was 16 and had Down’s Syndrome? Of course! This young man and his mother never missed a day and threw themselves fully into the experience, loving every minute of it and feeling accepted and appreciated by staff and campers alike.
One evening, back at our lodging place, our landlady invited us to a pottery lesson at her wheel, and in return we invited her and her family to our team’s closing devotions with lots of singing and praises. Her daughter loved it! It was so evident that God was placing these precious individuals into our path.
Indeed, the Lord has brought us thus far (1 Sam. 7:12) — from Newport News, Virginia, or Kyiv, Ukraine, to Słupsk, Poland.
If you are interested in serving at an English Bible Camp during the summer, please visit servenow.lcms.org to find current opportunities.