At the end of my first week in Liepaja I found myself at another camp. This one was located on the grounds of the oldest Latvian Baptist Church just outside the seaside town of Pavilosta.
I arrived at the camp Friday afternoon to discover two hundred children of all ages all over the place. It looked like complete chaos. Some were playing games, others were running wildly, while still others were hiding in their tents.
In the midst of the anarchy I noticed a group that didn’t fit in with the rest of the campers. They stuck to themselves and never mixed with anyone else. I sought out the leader of the camp to learn about this unusual group.
The camp leader was a pastor from a nearby town. He explained that these were youths from an orphanage where he worked part-time. My mind went back to before I left for my trip. At the time I was preparing to work in an orphanage. Now I was in a position to actually apply my training to actual practice.
In order to reach out to this group, I had to overcome several obstacles. Language continued to be a barrier. If I could somehow work past this, I needed to gain acceptance of the group. At the previous camp, I used the balloon animal craft to appeal to younger children. At this camp, I needed something more clever.
I brought a puzzle ring to Latvia. It’s made of four interlocking silver rings that fit together to create a single larger ring. It often worked as an icebreaker when meeting new groups. At this camp it worked marvellously. I was asked to take it apart and rebuild it over and over.
Around the camp fire on the first night I was formally introduced to the group. They asked the usual questions about my background and my reason for being there. In response, I asked them about church and life in their city. It was a great time of singing and fellowship.
Some of the high schoolers started speaking to me in broken English. It gave us the freedom to talk to each other with relative ease. I started playing the games they enjoyed, and I was able to teach them how to play baseball. I still don’t know why they were so curious about baseball, specifically, but I was not going to miss an opportunity.
By Saturday night it was time to return to Liepaja. The camp itself went until Sunday night, but I had to return to meet with my field supervisor and his wife. As I packed up, I took a quick look around at the campers laughing and playing. In the midst of the group my eyes focused on a small group playing in a circle. They were from several churches in the area who became friends during camp. Included in the circle were some from the orphanage. It was satisfying to see them part of the group.