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.