Monthly Archives: September 2008

A Haven of Healing and Hope

I want to share three stories about Camp Wesley. When Courtney and I first anticipated the summer, we knew we would help with programming and life at camp, yet through the course of the summer we realized that Camp Wesley offers more than just a place to gather and to have a good time – I hope these stories will help explain (FYI: I have changed the names…)

The first story happened this past weekend at the Apple Festival, which turned out to be more than just a day to pick apples and make jam. We knew ‘Susan’ from this summer. She is a 12 year-old with a ton of energy who likes to be the boss and get everything she wants. I confess that when I saw her on Saturday I simultaneously thought, “Good that she is coming, and Oh-no, she is coming.” She came with her sister and a friend from their apartment complex – which is the Soviet-bloc style housing in an ‘under-privileged’ area.

The three of them met up with some of the other youth and spent little time picking apples 🙂 They chased the boys around camp, swung on the rope swing in the barn, and tried to put frogs in each others’ hair. Around 2 o’clock they asked Courtney if they could stay the night. Courtney thought another group of youth was staying so she said, “Sure.” Turns out the other groups would soon be leaving (even so, I think Courtney would have still said, “Yes,” …). They ran up to me and asked, “Can we sleep in the barn, can we sleep in the attic, can we sleep in the big building, can we…” I told them that I wasn’t quite sure what they were asking me. “Courtney said we could spend the night – isn’t that great?”

As I drove a group to the bus station in town I tried not to be frustrated as this unexpected plan. I really didn’t feel like being a baby-sitter for three 12 year-old girls. I phoned Courtney and discussed the entire situation logically, yet the entire time I knew in my heart that I needed to let the girls stay. Courtney asked the girls if maybe they could stay on a different night just not this night. “Well, where are we going to sleep tonight? Mom has already left for work, locked the apartment, and she won’t be home until 6am. We can’t go to our dad’s apartment because he drinks and, well, it is not safe for us there.”

For these sisters and their friend, Camp Wesley offers a place to live as kids and experience a haven – if even for only an evening – from the storms in their lives.

The second and third stories happened during children’s camp this summer:
‘Sally’ comes from one of the most economically- and resource- deprived towns (if you can call it that) in Latvia. This beautiful child has a ton of behavioral and socializing issues – some resulting from alcohol and drug use during pregnancy and some stem from poor (or lack of) nurture at home. Her life displays obvious signs of neglect and abuse. At moments this summer all 60-pounds of her would go into a screaming rage and only her pastor’s strong, patient arms of love could enfold her and calm her down.

Swinging on the rope swing in the barn became one of her favorite things this summer. While swinging, a smile would grow on her face and a life-light would fill her eyes. The swinging did not fix the behavioral issues or problems at home, yet those 60-second periods allowed her a tangible experience of freedom, joy and God’s love.

‘Sam’, his older sister, and younger brother came to camp because someone from a local congregation invited them. Their family deals with the many issues associated with unemployment, alcoholism, and abuse. The two weeks before camp were especially difficult – so much so that the sister chose to leave camp early because emotionally things were much too raw to stay.

‘Sam’ came to camp with a shirt, shorts, and a pair of shoes too small because the family budget cannot keep up with his 13 year-old growth spurt. By the third day of living, playing, and sleeping at camp his and his brother’s clothes became an object of scorn of other children. “Sam” and his brother also had a number of infected scrapes because they had received no proper care for them at home.

Over the course of the week, the camp nurse cleaned and freshly bandaged their scrapes daily, and we washed their clothes and gave them a fresh change of clothes. The thing I remember best about “Sam” is the smile that cracks open when someone takes the time to stop and truly see him and not push him away.

We saw “Sam” a couple of weeks ago – seeing that smile again brought a flash of joy to my heart.

Camp Wesley offers a haven where kids can receive healing and hope in things I often take for granted – like clean clothes, simple medical care, a safe place to sleep – and it also offers a place where they can experience God’s kingdom –love, hope, joy and peace – in tangible and practical ways.


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Apple Festival and an end to the camping season

This past weekend we had an Apple Festival at Camp Wesley in Liepaja (on the coast next to the Baltic Sea). About 50 people from 8 of the 13 congregations participated. Camp Wesley has about an acre of orchard containing many apple trees (of 4 or 5 different varieties – I need to learn the specifics!) a few pear trees, and a couple of plum trees. The camp also has quite a few cherry trees along with an assortment of various fruit bushes.

People gathered together to pick, peel and preserve apples. Some people stirred the two big, black kettles bubbling over the camp fire, while others made two giant cakes in the kitchen. Some people canned the jam and preserves in jars they had brought from home, and Everyone tasted the progress along the way.

We also tried to do some work at winterizing the camp … as we drove away yesterday we reminisced about the past 3 months of activity at the camp… The unknowns and anticipations before hand – the many different groups and people we had the opportunity of meeting – Wow – only three months ago… (obviously I am currently struggling with words – hopefully I will be able to articulate something later.)

We will try to post some photos when Courtney returns from Switzerland this weekend (she brought the camera with her).

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WOOHOO for Brooke Frances !!!!

Yesterday, Courtney’s sister, Amy, gave birth to a 9-pound (4kg) girl in Portland, OR. Her name is Brooke Frances.

We are sooooo excited to be Aunt Courtney and Uncle Dan for the 4th time!


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translation and crayons and the resuming of language lessons

Translating is hard!! We have made attempts to learn the language while here, and one of my (Dan’s) favorite phrases is: “I know enough to get myself in trouble, but not enough to get out of it.” As different folks have visited and various groups have traveled through, I have, at times, had to translate from Latvian into English. While I don’t catch everything and I miss a lot of the nuances, I can usually convey the broad brush stroke meaning of the conversations.
Fluency in a language, I think, is similar to a box of at least 64 color crayons – you have the primaries, you have the basics, and then you have a variation on all of those. In a box of 64 crayons, one doesn’t have only ‘red’ – no, one has ‘brick red’, ‘maroon’, ‘mauve’ – etc…
Well, a few weeks ago a group of people from United Methodist Churches in Tennessee came to Latvia to spend time with people from the congregations here – to work on projects together, to share stories and songs, to share meals, to laugh…
Right now I have about 8 colors in my Latvian crayon box. So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when, on the second Sunday of their visit, I was asked to translate the sermon – from English into Latvian because the pastor became extremely ill. The service went okay. The people understood the basic message – and they helped me as I searched for words…
So while Will, the preacher, had a great message with wonderful nuances on God’s goodness, I couldn’t convey all those meanings. It is as if he would say ‘sky blue’ and ‘midnight blue’ and ‘aqua-marine’, and I would translate, ‘blue’ ‘blue’ ‘blue-like with a bit of green’…
We are sooo glad that our language lessons begin this week – hopefully another color or two in the box by Christmas time…
Well, just wanted to share some silliness with you.
: ) peace

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Change – Change of Seasons – Change of Roles

We have come back to blogger-land…sorry for the absence.
This blog is about change – the first two sections are kind of silly, the third has more substance.
Latvia uses the Lat as its currency, and each Lat has 100 santimi. (oh – at the beginning of the summer, $1 was worth 0.42 Lats, or 42 santimi…I think today it is around $1=48 santimi.)
What can spare change buy in Lativa?
10 santimi (about 20 to 25 cents) = one large plastic bag to bag groceries at the store
20 santimi = 1 hour of parking in Liepaja, but only 6 minutes of parking in Riga.
20 santimi = the price to use public restrooms in both Riga and Liepaja
35 santimi = one ride on the tram in Liepaja
40 santimi = one ride on public transport in Riga
50 santimi = coffee from automatic machine in bus terminal

Change of Seasons:
The weather is cooling down and more rain has fallen recently. Also, the sun now sets outside our window around 7.45pm. Leaves are starting to turn color and fall from trees. Stores are closing out their summer wear and full-length coats are beginning to appear on manequines around town.

Change of Roles:
As of our annual conference two weeks ago, our jobs have changed slightly. Courtney will remain the director of youth ministry and director of Sunday School and Curriculum for the country. Dan will continue to work with continuing education for clergy and laity.
Our new roles: Courtney will serve as the program director for Camp Wesley and Dan will serve as the camp director. We are excited to serve in these vital roles to continue the wonderful work already begun at Camp Wesley. (we will write more about the camp itself in a later blog.) These new roles do entail an eventual move to the camp, which is located in Liepaja. Until that happens, though, we will split our time between Riga and Camp Wesley. (the photo shows us standing in front of the main gathering/dining facility at camp.)

That’s all for now.


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