Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Young Life camp in Russia


It's always impossible to properly recap an experience but I have been journaling a lot of the last couple of days so I'll do my best to share.


Anyway, we flew in and then hopped on a bus with 10 or so other YL = Young Life leaders from all over Russia and drove 4 hours out to the Black Sea where this conference was being held. There we met up with 70 other leaders who devote their life to the youth of Russia...and they do this while not even being able to meet their own needs. Did I mention yet that Russia is expensive! Especially Moscow. The three bedroom apt we were staying in would cost between $15k - $20k (US) per month. - rent! Most people live in very beat down apartments outside of the city.

One sweet couple was pregnant and living in an apt with nothing. literally. nothing. Nothing for them and nothing for their new baby but they were plugging away. I've learned that Russia is a very hard place and when their isn't money people keep working without pay for months and months just to keep their jobs for when their is money.

So we got to camp in these little cabins and I was assigned to "Penthouse #2" which is what the sign on the key says which was this room. :) It was great and I can handle just about any living condition as long as it's on the extreme. To steal a line from Bono I'll say that I can live the highlife and the lowlife but not the middle. One of my roomates was "John Blond" who is a stud. He started a YL sports club and to help fund it he and some others started a dance club, a tagging school, and a break dancing club....and all their clubs have become known as the best of the best! They win awards all over Russia for their break dancing and 3000 people visit their club to dance and party without the drugs and sex that is commonplace at these raves. I was really impressed by him.





Each day they would have multiple training sessions. Some led by the Russians and some led by us. They ranged from building committees - fundraising - humor - yearly planning - etc... Gary asked me to share a little bit and I wasn't sure what I would talk on but one of the US leaders said to talk about creativity so I tried to encourage them to use their own unique abilities to find solutions to the problems they were facing. Most of the people who were there are part of the first generation of Russians who haven't had a communist childhood so they are looking at the world around them in new ways but probably don't feel the permission or the freedom to step out and try something new.


...and later that night they showed me just how creative they could be when they put the tightest nylon over my face and made me suck sweetened condensed milk through it!


Also, before each session they'd lead us in worship and wow are they ever talented. I recorded some of the music and I'll put up more videos when I get back to the states.

We got to play soccer while at the camp and it was so fun...but I played really bad. I think I made one good pass but luckily it was caught on video so I figured I'd post it up. :) .... it's a nice outside of the foot ball threading a couple defenders. Unfortunately didn't result in much but we still snuck out a 2-0 win vs. the Russians! Go USA! ;) I had one goal and an assist so I guess it wasn't that bad of a of day.



One afternoon I got to take some of them out for a little photoshoot at the black sea! 7 or 8 of us went and then we nominated a few models. Russia reminds me of the college I went to - Westmont - for every average looking guy there are 9 or 10 beautiful girls. :) Really .... it's phenomenal. It's not a lie what they say about Russian women. They are gorgeous.


So this morning camp ended and everyone said their goodbyes. Here are some more pictures...

Gary has an incredible way with these leaders and they absolutely cherish every second with him. When we were in St. Petersburg we went on a boat right with all of them right before we were leaving town. When we got off the boat we said our sad goodbyes and prayed with them and then hopped in the car to the train station. Seconds before our train pulled away up ran all the leaders to wave and say goodbye a second time! They had run a mile just to let us know how loved we were.


15 comments:

Splendid! Photography said...

this is simply amazing! I have been praying that your mission trip would be blessed and fruitful... God has truly blessed you with an experience of a lifetime! Can't wait to hear more about it when you get back :)

Brian McGuckin said...

What a blessing to experience that! Looking forward to hearing more.

Deyl said...

stoked you're having a great experience. we're keeping the pool & jacuzzi well tended to while you're gone :)

janelle stephanie said...

haha yes-- they have been tending to it while u've been away! in fact they scared the living daylights out of me the other afternoon ;)

anyways-- sounds like u are having an AMAZING time!!! can't wait to hear more!! just know that we're all praying for you!!!

Ginger Murray said...

Absolutely stunning head shots!!

HA... I am so confused. They put nylon on your head and made you drink milk.. bah haha.

Bobby Earle said...

Dude, that first photo of that girl with her head down is gorgeous! You still got it ;)

Chris said...

DJ, sounds like an awesome trip! I work for the YL camp Saranac in the Adirondack mountains of New York and keep up with your life through your blog. I'm really excited you're involved with Young Life!

Svetlana said...

Now posts like this make me proud that I'm Russian..:)) Glad you guys had an ahh-mazing time and hope to see more photos!

Stephen Knuth said...

hahaha you got nylon strapped onto your face and sucked milk through it! I have been blessed to actually shoot the 2007 & 2008 promotional video for So. Cal Young Life Regions and it is an amazing group. I was raised up through their programs and I agree with you on the concept of how much fun their programs are. They sure do know how to impact the worlds youth and have a fun time while being crazy!! Go Young-Life!! Seeing this post reminds me so much why I love working in Youth Ministry today.

CIP said...

Looks like you are having an awesome experience. How cool to see God moving in the lives of people you are only just beginning to know, as well as your own!

plumtreestudios said...

Thinking of you...don't know where you are going next, but I hope things are okay at home. sending you and all in SB my prayers.
Great post!

Jim Davis Hicks said...

DJ,

I've been in Russia twice and love it! So cool that you were able to go there!

God be with you!

Jim

Gracie said...

Praise the Lord, DJ -- What a wonderful way to use your time, energy, and talents!

JoC. said...

Younglife?!? AMAZING! i love that you're involved with YL. LOVE IT. great ministry.

J.C. Carley said...

I am a wedding photographer in CT and I have been following you for a little while. I just saw your post about your YL mission trip. I have been very involved in YL as a volunteer and as a staff person for a few years. I also worked at Castaway (camp in MN) for a summer as an intern. Pretty cool stuff. Thanks for giving your heart to the kids in Russia. Fun to see other photographers that have other interests in common. Have a great day!