Russian Church Camp to Benefit from More
United Methodist Mission Volunteer Teams
by Elliott Wright
Leawood, KS, November 19, 2007--The spotlight of volunteer mission service fell on a camp near the Voronezh River during a consultation of the United Methodist Russia Initiative, meeting in Leawood, Kansas on November 14-17.
Pledges of 24 United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) construction teams over the next three years were made during a workshop on volunteer opportunities in the four countries--Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova--covered by the 15-year-old initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries.
The Pilgrimage and Catechism Center, called Camp Crystal, is in great need of renovation. It was acquired in 2003 by the Eurasia United Methodist Church for the remarkable low sum of $100,000. The goal is to develop the site into a year-round center for use by young people, congregations, and the United Methodist Women of the Russian church. Irina Efremova, the camp director, is also president of the Russian United Methodist Women.
In its present condition, Camp Crystal can accommodate 200 guests in the summer and 100 in winter. Extensive work will add to its capacity and comfort.
UMVIM teams, which play a major role in the Russia Initiative, have done considerable camp work already, but the site is isolated. US teams have had few opportunities to interact with Russian United Methodists. Such people-to-people contact is a primary objective of the volunteer program. A very frank workshop conversation led to a commitment from the camp management to recruit Russian teams to work alongside each visiting UMVIM group.
An equally frank conversation took place on how best to transfer UMVIM funds used for onsite building materials and on how large teams should be.
Following these exchange of views, the Rev. Clinton Rabb, who heads the volunteer program at the Global Ministries board, asked the 25 workshop participants how many teams they could send to the camp in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Representatives of US annual (regional) conferences and congregations present committed two-dozen teams.
The Russia Initiative is a network of partnership among congregations and annual conferences in the United States and the vast Eurasia Episcopal Area. The area covers 11 times zones from the Modova-Romanian border in the southwest to the northeast reaches of Siberia.
Often simply called "Camp Voronezh," the facility is situated on the Usmanka River, 20 miles from the city of Voronezh, which is located on the river of that name near the Russian border with the Ukraine. Voronezh is a city of more than 800,000 people and has three United Methodist congregations.
The camp has a number of log cabins, a three-story brick building, and a two story structure containing a dining room, kitchen, and conference hall. The latter building needs the greatest amount of work, including new windows, new plumbing, and new electrical wiring.
The Rev. Tom Clark, coordinator of the UMVIM program in the West Virginia Annual Conference, who has led previous teams to Voronezh, was tapped to coordinate groups going to the camp over the next three years.
Staff of the Russia Initiative thanked workshop participants for developing a strategy to step up camp renovation and Rev. Clark for taking on the coordination.
Date posted: Nov 20, 2007