Ruta Christian Camp, Lithuania

The Vinius (Lithuania) Church of Christ now owns their first building. After years of renting, the congregation now has a central location to call home. Renovation of a two story grocery store is under way and they will have an auditorium, office, fellowship room with a kitchen and much needed storage. The church building is surrounded by high rise multifamily housing and near shopping and major transportation so it is easy to find and convenient for members and visitors alike. Attendance is increasing with as many as 40 Christians attending. Juozas Puodziukaitis is the full time minister and Rimas Rusakevicius is the part time youth minister and the director of Ruta Christian Camp. A Friday evening youth devotional is a regular activity. In addition, the local church meets often in one another’s homes and socially.

Ruta Christian Camp started in 1998 with a one week residential camp. It has grown to three week long camps divided into small children, teenagers and a family camp. Campers enjoy Bible class, singing songs, hiking, swimming, arts and crafts and other group activities. The goal of the children’s camp is to plant seeds and teach children that Jesus loves them.

Two groups of American Christians traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania for orientation and team building. The Ruta Christian Camp is sponsored by the Gateway Church of Christ from Pensacola, FL and this group of seven was joined by the nine person team from the Midway Church of Christ from Hitchcock, Texas. After a few days of bonding with team members and the Lithuanian church staff and members it was time to meet campers.

The Monday that camp began started with the camp team meeting the campers (children 6-12) in a parking lot of a shopping center and taking a bus to the Lithuanian countryside. Camp Ruta is located in a beautiful lake area about one hour north of Vilnius and the nearest town is historic Molotai. After registration was completed all settled in for an exciting week of Bible study, singing, games, arts and crafts and building relationships.

Russell McLaughlin is the senior minister of the Midway congregation. He returned to Camp Ruta for the first time since 2002. He attended Ruta Christian Camp three times from 2000-2002 and has also traveled to Lithuania for gospel meetings and seminars, including September 2015 when he preached three nights, led a youth retreat and a marriage seminar. When asked about the opportunity to serve in Lithuania, he said, “ you keep coming back, enhancing relationships and supporting the church”.

Fellow Texan Juston Cooper condensed the camp experience to one word, “Wonderful!”

Camper Kernas Laurynas said camp is “awesome” . He enjoyed learning songs and stories about Jesus and meeting new friends.

Julija Bezverchova loves Ruta Christian Camp. “This is the fourth year. I like singing and learning the Bible.”

If I had to describe my first experience volunteering at Camp Ruta I would include all the following: potato pancakes, cold, pink beet soup (better than expected), smores, many hugs but NO elbows allowed on the table, chapel with singing in two languages, learning new songs like the one with the watermelon, the sun never goes down…………., vocational missionaries including a grandmother, daughter and granddaughter, Texicans and Floridians, High School and college students to 84 year old zip liners, big and strong men with soft hearts, a doctor and CEO, BBQ chef and plumber, the karate master……kids! Kids whose parents grew up forbidden by the government of the USSR to have religion yet who are hungry for the word. Kids who tolerate Americans who speak English. Kids who love one another in a way that only the adults could imagine. Kids who see Jesus in others….

The kids loved the week at camp as did the counselors and leaders. When the week was over, hugs were shared and tears shed but all know that through Jesus we have “forever family”.DSCF2112

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