Greetings in the name of Christ! I am Paul Shen, the Youth Pastor at the Chinese Christian Church of New Jersey (CCCNJ), the home church of Elder Chia-Shan Yang. Recently I led our 6th Annual Sports Camp in Tokmok (7/11 – 7/15) and in Kara-Balta (7/18 – 7/21). I was asked by the CASA board to share my insights from our recent short term missions (STM) experience in Kyrgyzstan and I am happy to oblige. First, let me give you a little background to our Sports Camp team and structure. I usually bring four high school seniors and one adult co-leader from our church. We are paired with six interpreters, usually IUCA students and Mercy Foundation staff members from Tokmok and English Teachers from Kara-Balta. Each day, we run two hours of sports drills and contests (basketball, soccer and volleyball); and we teach one hour of Elective classes (this year we offered Hand Chimes, Origami, Worship Dance and English Games).
Each day begins with a group huddle where we ask questions to get to know the campers better. For example, this year, our STM team performed the worship dance “Who Am I?” and we proceeded to ask the campers questions about their identity and interests. Next day we performed a skit about our “Heart” and then we asked questions about their heart’s passions and career dreams. This year my co-leader Megan Wu wrote and composed a song called “Tears in God’s Bottle” for the Children of Kyrgyzstan. So after she sang her song, we would ask the campers this question: “What makes you cry?” Through these Group Huddle sharing times and our daily interactions with the campers, we have learned a lot about them.
In Tokmok, one third of the 80 Campers were from the School of Blessing while the other two thirds were Muslims from the Public Schools. In Kara-Balta, one third of the 60 campers were from the KB Christian School, one third from the KB Children’s Home, and one third from the Public Schools. We were encouraged by how well the Christian and Muslim campers worked and played with each other. The Christian students were well grounded in their faith and did their best to share the Gospel message with their Muslim friends. Each year, we are successful in getting some of these students, both from our Christian Schools and Public Schools, to attend the Youth Sunday Service held in the Tokmok Gym or to attend Pastor Artyom’s church in Kara-Balta. This is the benefit of our CCCNJ team working so well and closely with our local church leaders in both towns.
This year we were pleased to be able to teach hand chimes to the kids and to the Worship Team members of the Temple of God church.... they did such a great job after just three to four practices. We were also delighted to teach the children in Kara-Balta how to make Chinese scallion pancakes.
Over the last five years, I personally have seen the orphans grow both physically and spiritually. The two oldest boys, Rasheed and Sasha, now work for Pepsi six days a week from 8 am to 8 pm. They have devotions every night and their love for Jesus is heartfelt. In answer to the question, “What makes you cry?”, 12-year old Aidana answered: “When I think about Jesus dying on the cross for my sins”. When I complimented the principal of KB Christian School on how well versed her students were in English, she shared the reason was that the orphans at the KB Children’s Home interacted with short term missionaries from America and abroad on a weekly basis!
Each year my team members leave Kyrgyzstan having been blessed and inspired from their orphan children’s simple faith in God and their genuine love and care for each other. We are grateful for the local staff members of Mercy Foundation who work so hard in their dedication to provide children of Kyrgyzstan with a solid Christian education. We have personally witnessed how our financial support of CASA is yielding eternal dividends. Praise God!"