Castleberry UMC
Thursday, August 22, 2019


Samantha, Haley & Johnny have returned from their mission trip to the Ukraine!  We are looking forward to hearing about their experiences!


Johnny Chavers 2009 Mission Trip to the Ukraine

Johnny is a member of the Castleberry United Methodist Church.
My name is Johnny Chavers and I live in a small town in South Alabama. I want to share my experience of this past summer of 2009 with “Mission Without Boarders” (MWB). I have traveled to the Ukraine every year since 2002 to work in an English teaching camp near Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine.
In past years, I was involved with a group of Americans and the Ukrainian staff members of the camps. God led me in another direction this year and my trip turned out a just a little differently. I signed up with MWB to go to a camp in the eastern Ukraine near the Polish border. I was not part of a group and was the only American at the camp.
I arrived in Kieve on July 1st and was greeted at the airport by some friends from past trips. It was nice to see each other again. The trip from the airport to Kiev can be very confusing and the cab drivers are only to happy to get a foreigner into their taxis for a little extra money.  It would be to my advantage if I could speak the Russian language fluently. But, my Russian is limited at best. We were glad to see each other and my friends insisted that we spend some time together catching up. All I wanted to do was get some badly needed sleep, but that would have to wait for a while longer. We made arrangements with a good driver who helped us with the money exchange and then took us to a hotel.
Anyone who has flown east on a long trip understands jet lag. There is an eight hour time difference between Alabama and the Ukraine. The flight takes eighteen hours and then several days to get readjusted to the time change. The return trip home never seems to affect me.
Plans can and often do change in the Ukraine. I arrived on the 1st and was scheduled to proceed to the camp on the 3rd. I called MWB to advise them that I was in the Ukraine and it was decided that I should be taken to the camp at 12 noon on the 2nd, a day ahead of schedule. 
At precisely 12 noon, Mr. Mykola Bogdanets (the Ukraine MWB National Manger) arrived at the hotel door to pick me up. I was impressed with his promptness because past experience had taught me that most Ukrainians tend to run late. Mykola had driven from Rivne (a four hour trip) on the International Highway that is under construction. Once completed, it will be nice road to travel. My bags were loaded into the van and we were off.  Mykola noticed a woman and her daughter by the side of the road that was holding a sign for a ride. Mykola stopped to pick up the women and drive them to their home which was two hours away. It was obvious to me that Mykola was someone who helped people on a full time basis and it was not just a job for him. We arrived at our destination in Rivne about 5 PM.   The MWB headquarters in Rivne were very nice and an improvement over the hotel where I had stayed in Kiev. I met my translator whose name was Mesha and he gave me a tour of Rivne.
At 7 AM the next morning, we continued on our journey to the camp (a four hour drive to Camp Svityaz.).  I met some of the team members and found another person who spoke English. Her name was Ola. I never quite learned how to pronounce the name of the camp while I was there. The camp was held at a boarding school for orphans. Some of the children at the camp lived there, while others were brought in to participate in the camp project.
The first day was devoted to getting settled in and meeting the children. The boarding school was nice, but it was not set up to house adults. I shared a room with several other men. The beds were built to accommodate children and were too small for us to sleep comfortably in. Days in the Ukraine are very long. The sun rises at 5:30 AM and sets at 10 PM.
Classes started on the second day of camp and the team was well prepared. I helped in the music class where Zana was the main leader and signer. Mesha and I played guitars that were provided for us. Our morning classes went very well and following lunch most of the children would walk to a nearby lake (about 1½ miles from the camp) for a swim. The lake is well known in the Ukraine. Ukrainians and people from other countries travel to this part of the country just to visit the lake. The lake water was as clear as any that I have ever seen. The first time I went swimming the children wanted to play. We didn’t speak the same language but it didn’t matter. We had fun and a language barrier doesn’t matter when it comes to children.
After my second day at the camp, I was told that I could stay with a local pastor if I wanted to. I believe they thought the camp might be a little to rustic for me. I might be a  spoiled American but,  I came to serve not to observe.
I was the first American that many of the children had ever seen. Most of them were curious about me. Some of the children wanted to teach me Ukrainian and others wanted to learn English. I sensed that what these children needed more than anything else, was love and attention. I pray that I was able to give them a good impression and left them with some memories that will help them in life.
Classes were held every day and in the evening a service was held that delivered a message through singing and skits. The team had come to the camp to give of themselves and to share Jesus with the children. The age differences of the children (five to seventeen) made it difficult to focus on the different needs of such a varied group of children and young people. The leaders did a great job and worked with what they had . On the final night of camp the children performed for us to show their appreciation.
The last day at camp is always a sad one. As we packed our bags, we watched some of the children leave. And then, it was time for us to go. The team stopped near the lake for a cookout before driving back to Rivne. The next day, Mykola drove me back to Kiev.
I want to thank everyone who worked with me at “Mission Without Boarders” and a special thanks to the people who made my trip possible.
I am grateful to all the Ukrainian members of the team who made me feel welcome. I hope that I will, someday, work with them again.
If you have ever considered a short term mission trip, I highly recommend that you contact MWB to find out what’s available on their schedule for next summer.  If you are not able to go, consider supporting the wonderful work that they do. God is using this group in a special and amazing way.
Feel free to E-mail me at:
Johnny Chavers