Camp In A Box- Camp LELA


Imagine that every May you had to haul your entire camp facility on a trailer to a nearby public forest. You unload and re-assemble the camp. There is no electricity available. There is no water. There are no public toilets. You create a camp from a box.

Every spring in May, Slavik Puzanov does this. He loads up Camp LELA from a storage shed in Odessa, Ukraine. It will take him and an army of volunteers three weeks to reassemble carpet ball tables, eating shelters and tables, stage for chapels, cooking stations, outhouses, shower facilities, above ground swimming pool, ga-ga pits, sleeping tents, beds, and all portable lighting run off generators.

Imagine 700 orphans attending this camp. Imagine doing this camp for 7 straight weeks. Imagine hauling water 4 times a day so that teeth can be brushed, faces can be washed, and food can be cooked.

Here is their mission statement:

We serve His children throughout the Odessa region because He calls us to do so.                                                              

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Their website states:  Camp LELA is a ministry of Nasledie Heritage Foundation that seeks to minister to orphans and children from troubled homes. Our goal and heart’s desire is that each child from the orphanages that we work in would have at least one chance to come and spend a week to ten days in our camp. Volunteers demonstrate Christ’s love for the children and help to provide an environment that is unique and different giving the children a great life experience. We want each child to feel loved and to hear about God’s love for them. We also want them to have a great time! We spend months planning for these camps and seek to provide a program that is spiritual and entertaining. It includes Bible lessons, all camp games, swimming, campfires, singing, crafts, sports activities, and much more.

So here is the deal: Next time you have a little bump in your camp operation; water pump goes out or electricity goes down for an hour – remember Slavik and his team.  Think of Slavik hauling water in the back of a truck so that his campers can have water to drink.

It is easy for me to write and to recommend supporting and getting involved with such a camp as Camp LELA.  Camp LELA needs to raise $60 per child in order to run their camp; they want to have 700 campers during the summer of 2015.  It is easy for me to recommend this organization: one of our former staff, Laura Rechkemmer, works alongside of Slavik.

If you are needing a project for summer camp offerings… here is a great place.  If you are needing a VBS project… here is a great place.  If you have 60 extra dollars… here is a great place.  Check out their website and locate the donation button.  International Messengers of Clear Lake, Iowa is the parent organization that handles all financial donations to Camp LELA: they are a great organization as well.

Contact Laura at:

Maintaining a Camp Culture


My travels are over for the Spring; I have visited nine different camps over the past seven weeks. I have seen and heard enough. My last trip was to Wisconsin for a regional Christian camping conference; 13 of us attended from Hidden Acres.

This last trip was different from the other trips; I was accompanied by many of our staff. They had a chance to watch another camp in operation; and they began to compare: “ We serve our food this way – I didn’t like how they served their food. We plow our snow off the sidewalks and roads – they left their snow on most trails and roads. Our office space is big and spacious as guest check into our office – their office was cramped and crowded. “

For me, observing another camp functioning is a bigger learning opportunity than sitting in seminars or hearing a chapel speaker: it forces staff to see and understand why we do certain things a certain way. It cements into their thoughts our culture and our system of “doing camp.”

However, I also reminded our staff, that certain camps have developed their own “particular” cultures to fit their own guest groups and their needs. Not all people who attend camps are “farm folk” from Iowa who have a tendency to be extra friendly and trusting. The camp we visited this past week was a teaching camp owned and operated by Wheaton College in the Chicago area; and Chicago is different from Dayton, Iowa. This was a great camp with a great reputation as a learning center and training grounds for students.

Consistent camp culture is usually developed and maintained by a leader who is willing to stay with an organization longer than a 3-5 year window. Culture is developed and maintained by leadership who remains resolved to stick with something through good and bad times – through fat and lean times – through smooth and rough sailing.

My takeaway from it all: Know your culture, teach your culture, live your culture, and build around your culture: but also to protect your culture, guard it from vacillations, and push back on those who wish to change your culture.