The Indiana Jones theme music begins to play and excited students chant “Fan-tas-tic! Fan-tas-tic!” as Fantastic Fred dashes off through their midst. Fantastic Fred is really Kurt zurBurg dressed in a purple wig, sequined vest, and silver parachute pants, and his fantastic feats are really just slap-stick comedy and wordplay, but it’s enough to make the students look forward to seeing Fantastic Fred at the beginning of camp each day. From June 3 - 14, 2013, approximately 60 kids from Harmony Private School in Odessa took part in a camp where they practiced English and learned new phrases through games, songs, skits, crafts, and even science experiments. But most importantly, they had fun in an atmosphere shaped by the joy, love, and unity found in Christ, an atmosphere foreign to most Ukrainians, and one which school authorities are expressing a desire to emulate.
Last summer, the school asked zurBurg, a long-term missionary in Odessa and science teacher at Harmony, to run a two-hour English camp as a part of the school’s longer camp from 9 am to 6 pm each day. He and his teammate Amanda Keeny put together a camp that, though eclectic, met the needs of the school.
When the school asked if zurBurg could run the English portion of the camp again this year, he agreed without knowing how he would pull it off. But almost immediately after committing, he received an email from the son of an old friend asking whether or not he would have the need for a small, short-term team that summer.
Months after reading the email, zurBurg was still excited over the perfection of God’s timing, explaining, “We had just started praying for a team when Zach emailed me.” In the end, Zachary Horn, Corrin Scheie, and Emily Scheie came for three weeks to partner with zurBurg and Keeny.
Together with the help of zurBurg’s daughters as translators, they put together a two-week camp for Harmony School and ran the same camp on a smaller scale at another private school in the afternoon. A high-energy, American-style camp is a foreign and therefore thrilling activity for Ukrainian students, and through wearing funny hats, creating interactive skits, and handing out American candy, the team created an atmosphere of excitement and fun.
Reflecting on the purpose of the camp, zurBurg explained, “Our main goal is to serve the school community, and in serving the school we bring the presence of the kingdom and look for the people who God is drawing to himself.”
The camp was not a VBS, and at no time did the team give an oral Gospel presentation to the students. Nonetheless, a unified team of believers can’t help but radiate the joy and love found only in Christ. The English teachers were impressed with the camp, and their interest has opened ministry opportunities for zurBurg. When the director of the school and the head English teacher asked how and why the team was successful with the camp, zurBurg was able to explain that they were serving out of a love for Jesus and a desire to share His love. The school has also asked for zurBurg to train the teachers in how to run such a camp, which would bring him to a deeper level of personal interaction.
It might be hard to imagine how dressing up in a purple wig, high-fiving a group of energetic first graders, or playing a game involving the proper use of English prepositions can be a witness to the love of Christ. But the willingness to serve combined with the joy and love which the unified team demonstrated during the camp created a special atmosphere. The kids could not wait to return to each morning and they are already asking about next year’s camp.
- Written by Emily Scheie
- Photos courtesy of Kurt zurBurg
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