OBI English Ukraine Camp Friendship - 19 Years Later - By Paula Halvorson
Updated: Jul 19, 2022
In 2004 Misha and I (Paula Halvorson) met at OBI English Camp. As one of the Ukraine English teachers, Misha was my student. The camp lasted less than a week. At the end of the week lifelong ties had been formed that hold strong to this day. At the end of camp, I said to Misha, “Next year I will see you in the US.” To Misha that seemed like an impossible dream. And yet, the next year, he sat at my table, in Annapolis MD, knowing that with God all things are possible.
His trip to the United States was made possible because of generous giving. It allowed Misha to improve his English skills and grow in his faith. But the story doesn’t stop there. Through the years, as trips were made to Ukraine for camps and conferences, Misha made it a point to go to whatever lengths it took to visit the team of traveling Americans, bringing first his wife Anya, and as time passed sometimes including his children, Nastya and Tima. The bonds forged so many years ago didn’t weaken with time but grew.
Misha became a pastor of a church, and his entire family was involved in ministry at the church. Then, on February 24, 2022, the war in Ukraine escalated as Russia invaded the whole country. Misha not only needed to get his family to safety, but he also took responsibility for his congregation as well. Finally, he got Anya and the children safely to Bucharest. He continues to work in Ukraine helping people get to safety and cares for those who are in need.
Meanwhile, I was looking for ways to serve the Ukrainian people we loved so much. I found a church in Romania that welcomed me as a volunteer. Although I knew we wouldn’t be helping the Ukrainians I personally knew and loved, I knew this was part of a huge chain, linked together by the Spirit, seeking to serve. And then, to compound my joy, I was able to see Anya, Nastya and Tima!
Currently, my husband Art and I are waiting on the State Department to give the go ahead for Anya and the children to come live with us in the US. They are in limbo as they await the next step. It is hard on everyone not knowing the timing or the plan, but all rest confident in the grace of the One who holds the future.
Can a one-week camp make a difference? Can the relationships survive time and distance? Can small contributions make a big difference? Yes and yes and yes!
But God had even more in store! In early June, I was able to go into war torn Ukraine and serve. We brought in medical supplies and worked hard packaging food for the most under-served communities. We visited hospitals and refugee camps and prayed with many. All of that was joy, since a big part of my heart stays in Ukraine, but the greatest joy was seeing some of the people we have loved for years, including Misha!
Former OBI Board Member
English Camp Ukraine Teacher