Student Leaders: SPRINT

Summer 2011 SPRINT Teams: Russia

Trip Dates: July 4-31

Project Description:

Team 1 - St Petersburg, Russia - Center for the Disabled Teens and Young Adults: Provide 1:1 support for a disabled or mentally-challenged young person in a day-camp setting.

Download Team 1's tax-deductible donation information

Team 2 - Velikiy Novgorod, Russia
- Tuberculosis Children’s Center: Lead a Vacation Bible School day camp program for non-infectious children ages 3-17 in a medical facility treating children who have been exposed to tuberculosis.

Download Team 2's tax-deductible donation information

Download Team 2's craft supplies donation wish-list

Host: Sunergos International

Estimated Cost: $4500

View a digital story from last year’s team.

Follow the team's personal blog

Russia Team 1

Russia Team 2

Team Updates

July 29

Team 2:

Here’s a final update from Team 2 as they prepare to leave the TB center.  Note the picture – the team exchanged hand-made shirts, reading “I love Russia,” or “SPU loves me.”  Great memories were made, indeed.

Team 2

Today we had to say our final goodbyes to the children that we have spent the last three weeks with at the TB Center. All of the children have touched our hearts in many ways and it was really difficult saying goodbye. We have made memories that are going to last a lifetime. Our time here is Russia has been full of laughs, love, and joy. Russia will always have a place in our hearts because of the beautiful children, generous people, and tasty food. We knew we were going to see God’s work here before we came, but we didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like. As we look back on our trip we can see God in every experience and every smile of the children from the TB center. All of these children were full of joy and they were all so loveable; this is why it was so hard leaving them. We made strong connections with 45 kids that we couldn’t even have a full conversation with (without a translator). As we fly back to America on Sunday, part of our hearts are going to be left in Russia. Please pray for the children at the TB center, pray for their health and happiness. Also, please pray for a stress free and safe journey home. We look forward to seeing our families and friends, and telling your all about our trip!

Love, Team Novgorod

July 28

Team 1:

Dear Family, Friends and Loved Ones,

Hello! We are back safe and sound in St. Petersburg and are currently starting to get ready to come back home on Sunday. We know that you guys are as excited to see us as we are to see you, but to be honest we’re definitely going to miss Russia. But we know that we are here for the amount of time that God wanted us to be and we are looking forward to sharing our experiences and stories when we get home.

Yesterday was the last day of camp with the disabled youth. There were many tears and it was hard to say goodbye. Although nervous at first, we all ended up loving our time there and really connected well with both our teens and the other volunteers from Russia, Germany and Poland.

The Gulf of Finland was beautiful, and although it stormed a few times (epically the last night); we all got really tan and “weathered”. Especially Jessica – to all of her family and friends, be prepared, she might be hard to recognize. ;) We enjoyed gathering our own water from a natural spring, bathing in the Gulf, sunbathing on the sand, taking the kids for walks, doing crafts with them (like body paint and balloon animals).  As well as eating lots of yummy Borsch and Manna, and bonding with the fellow workers by playing volleyball after the kids went to bed. Ten days is a long time and there is too much to cover, but in a brief summary here is a bit about what we each did individually:

Jessica: Besides tanning and becoming a few shades darker, she got to work with a young girl with Downs Syndrome. Although working with one of the more challenging teens (it was her first time away from home), Jessica has impressed us all by her amazing patience and grace (particularly when dealing with poop) and was able to share some special moments with her girl – especially when swimming and splashing in the waves. 

Natalya: Natalya was paired with a quiet, wheel-chair bound girl of 16, who loved being read too and enjoyed the many walks Natalya would take her on along the beach (wheelchairs work in the sand, surprisingly). After learning about the teen’s tragic past, Natalya has found more confirmation about her path as a nurse and is excited to see what God is preparing in her heart. The swimmer in her also came out and she loved spending mornings (or rather, every free moment) swimming as far as she could!

Deanna: Deanna is a natural with Special Needs kids and fell head over heels for her teen, an older boy also wheel-chair bound. Although short, she is surprisingly strong and was able to hold him upright and help him walk around. She also spent a lot of time splashing in the waves with him and playing peek-a-boo. He was quite upset without her around.

Shannon: While working with a 14-year-old boy who loved to stop and ponder things while walking, Shannon really connected with the various workers at the camp and forged many friendships while either playing late-night volleyball or talking about faith and life around the campfire. This experience has made her even more passionate about physical therapy and she is looking forward to working at similar camps in the future. We practically had to physically drag her out of there.

Emily: Emily got paired with a very outgoing older girl with Downs Syndrome, who was quite independent and saw herself as another volunteer and loved to “steal” our noses. Although suffering from a stomach bug at the end (she’s ok now :) ) , she also connected well with the staff and was able to talk “art” with many of them. One volunteer even worked with her and built a life-size sculptor! She was also teasingly referred to as “Snow White” by some of the girls because of all the singing that she did, but no one complained – both we and the teens loved it.

Elizabeth: Elizabeth worked with a young boy with Cerebral Palsy, who completely stole her heart. Elizabeth could be often found in the hammock with him in her arms, singing lullabies to him….that or on the beach playing “Beached Whale” in the waves. When he got a small fever she was by him day and night until he was better. She’s going to be an amazing nurse.

Vanessa: Like Shannon, Vanessa really got along well with the staff and was able to witness to many of them and engage with them and share life perspectives. She loved working on duty with the cook and was very good at it, keeping the fire going and helping prepare meals. Unlike the rest of us, Vanessa got to work with many of the kids when their normal team had a day off. Her proudest moment came when she put one of the more difficult teens to sleep all by herself (no easy task!!).

Rachel: Rachel worked with a young autistic girl who was quite energetic and kept her on her toes. Although challenging at times, since her teen wasn’t able to communicate with words, she was able to build a good relationship with her and even received an unexpected kiss one day. She also got considerably tanner and after a hesitant start, loved swimming in the water on her breaks.

July 27

Team 2:


This weekend we had the opportunity to relax and explore our home here in Novgorod. On Saturday, we went to a Russian village museum where we got to see how Russians lived centuries ago. Our favorite part was a huge wooden slide that we raced down, go figure. Also, there was a craftsman who made authentic birch items: like hats, shoes, bookmarks, baskets and so much more. As we talked to him we found out his story; he is one of the last people to know the way the ancient Novgorodians would work with birch. Getting to know the Russian people and their stories is a blessing.

From there we went onto our second historical stop which was a local monastery. We explored the beautiful grounds; it was mind blowing to think that we were walking on the same ground that has such a deep connection with the history of Novgorod. The rest of the day we spent swimming in the river that runs through the city, which we enjoyed immensely due to the heat. It was a great way to spend our Saturday.

On Sunday we worked with the kids at the church and later in the day we had the opportunity to go souvenir shopping at the Kremlin (get ready for some great gifts).  The weekend was nice but we were all really eager to get back to the kids at the center. Today was the first day of the last week here in Novgorod. We all agree that we are not ready to say good-bye to the kids and we are making sure to take advantage of every moment, not taking any second for granted. Our team meeting tonight was filled with mixed emotions, all of us struggling with the realization of the limited amount of time we have left and what their lives will be like when we leave. But we know that they will forever be in our hearts and in our prayers. We look forward to all of the fun things we have planned for the rest of this week (cinema on Wednesday!). As always please keep us and the kids in your prayers as we continue in our final week.

Love from the Novgorod team

July 22

Team 1:

The team is doing great, getting to know the teens and the workers of the camp. It has been a blessing to be able to love the kids and teens and show them that they are very important to us.  We have gotten to know the workers a bit more, especially since we hang out with them each evening after the kids are asleep.

It has been challenging in sharing about our faith with the workers of the camp, but slowly we are able to talk about who we are and why we have come to Russia on a mission trip.  All of the workers have such a big heart for the disabled youth and we really hope that they can see God through our words and actions.

Each team member is becoming more and more comfortable with the disabled youth, as we learn the things they like and the things they don’t like to do.  Some of them can voice their dislike, others try to explain non verbally.

God has been teaching the team so much through this camp, especially through the disabled youth. They delight in the small things like reading, swimming, walking, the rain and playing in the sand. It is such joy to watch their faces light up when they like something!

The team sends their love to you family and friends and cannot wait to tell you all about their experiences!

Team 2:

The past couple of days have been filled with fun adventures and awesome memories continuing to be made. Yesterday, our team began the day with a skit about “How to Cope” – one of the most serious and important topics we’ve talked about with the kids yet. It is encouraging to see them continue to react to what we’re trying to teach them, and even the smallest ones have input to give and stories to share. After making journals with the kids, we left the TB center early yesterday because of the fact that we hadn’t showered in five days! We walked to a “banya” not too far away, and were greeted with traditional Russian song and dance as the banya celebrated its grand re-opening. Feeling bold, our entire team decided to get up in front of a crowd to demonstrate our own version of Russian dancing—and were filmed by TV cameras! It was a fun way to experience more Russian culture, and funny enough, we ended up on the local news last night!

Today, though not yet over, has already been full of fun activities. Our team left an hour early this morning so we could take the kids to a children’s art gallery, but when we walked outside it began raining! So, we played some indoor games until the sun came back out, and walked to the gallery afterward. It’s always so much fun to spend time with the kids outside of the Center; it seems to make them open up even more to us, and allows us to hang out with all the kids, instead of just some. In the art gallery, we learned about the history of Novgorod through paintings, drawings, and clay sculptures. The kids all really seemed to enjoy it, and we did too! Afterward we were all treated to a boat ride along the river that winds through Novgorod. Today was such a beautiful day for it, and it’s so fun to get a different perspective on this city we’ve all come to know and love. It’s been such a great week and we’re looking forward to spending one more with the children before it’s time to say dasvidaniya!

July 20

Team 1:

We are now camping off the Gulf of Finland at the beautiful campsite that sits just a few steps from the beach. We love it here.

We arrived two days ago after a two hour drive through the countryside of Russia. After setting up our things in our tents we each got paired up with a disabled youth and a trained staff member, who we are working with as their assistant.

So far it’s been great! The teens, some of them in wheelchairs, have been enjoying the camping experience as much as we have. We’ve been eating delicious Russian food cooked over the campfire, going on long walks with our teams through the woods and along the beach (which the wheelchairs do surprisingly well in) and then either doing crafts with the teens or taking them swimming. Swimming so far seems to be everyone’s favorite activity; the water is warm and crystal clear.

Although challenging at times, we have all been partnered up nicely with a disabled youth and are getting to know them personally and are happy that we can help them explore and enjoy the great outdoors. SunErgos International partners with the organization we are working with; which is a non-profit that helps families who struggle to support their disabled youth by taking the children, who would otherwise be struck at home, out and to a classroom setting where they can play and simultaneously learn important life skills. Although Russia is working on making changes, many of these families receive no support and since handicap accessibility is rare, mentally and physically disabled people struggle to live a normal life and most are forced to stay home and never leave the apartment. This is why the non-profit and its volunteers is such a wonderful organization, as it gives the teens a chance to experience life as well as allowing the families a bit of a break now and then.

The summer camp is a great way for these teens to leave the city and explore more of the world. We understood how meaningful it was to them the first day we took them swimming! Everyone was splashing, smiling and having the time of their life!

As a group this has been a wonderful bonding experience and we have been enjoying getting to know the people we are working with. Our Russian is improving a lot too!

We will be out here for another week before heading back to St Petersburg for our final few days. Rest assured that we are all safe, healthy and happy. We hope you are all doing well and we love you.

Team 2:

Oh goodness! We can’t begin to comprehend that we’ve been at the TB Center for a week and a half already. Each day brings more and more joy to us all. These beautiful children have completely stolen our hearts. We fall in love with them more and more each day.

On Monday, we had an excursion with the kids outside of the TB Center. We toured two museums that showed us some of the history of Novgorod through Art.  Afterwards, we walked to a park. On our way we passed a little amusement park with carnival like rides. The kids stared and pointed the whole time. We had no idea but Zinaida, the woman who oversees all the activities for the kids, planned for us to go on rides with kids. To see the excitement on the children’s faces when they found out that we would actually be going on roller coasters and other spinney rides was like seeing the kids finding out we were going to Disneyland. Seeing their smiles and hearing their shouts of enthusiasm just reminded us all to appreciate the little things.

These wonderful children have taught us how to love with even a greater capacity than we thought possible.

July 15

Team 1:

Time for our weekly update and we couldn’t be more excited to share about our experiences at the Baby HIV Orphanage. We apologize that we have been quiet for a few days, but fortunately our time has been well spent and we have so much to share!

While Monday was a little shaky with us being introduced to the children for the first time, Tuesday we established what would be our weekly routine. We have been lucky to have an apartment opened up to us for us to stay in and have been treated to some of the BEST Russian home-cooked meals, thanks to the generous spirit of Alexandra who has agreed to come cook for us. We would all be fat and happy if it wasn’t for chasing kids and burning it all off after each day ;)

Tuesday morning, and each day afterwards, the children became more familiar with us and each morning they would rush to meet us. I think it is safe to say that we have all been blown away by how amazing these children are. While facing so many challenges, these children have an amazing capacity to love and each one of them willingly opened their hearts and were generous to share their smiles and laughter. These children have a rough life; they don’t have a family and are very sick. But God has been generous and has provided them with an amazing facility that does the best to accommodate for their unique needs and they daily receive medicine and therapy to help them stay healthy. While stretched thin, the staff there is very compassionate and loving towards the children – which is unique for a place such as this. We are all impressed with how polite and well-mannered the children are, they are happy and it is hard sometimes to remember that they are sick with the smiles on their faces.

For most of our week we have been outside, running around with them. Bubbles were a HUGE hit as was sidewalk chalk. The language barrier was an issue at times, but fortunately for us, our actions were more important to the children than words so we could get around that communication difference, and having two amazing translators helped. We have picked up some more Russian. Thanks to the children we now know that a dog says “Gawf gawf” and a horse says “E-go-go”, that toy buckets and shovels are popular on the playground and that we have to say “Paka!” to the cars passing by. Over the course of the week we have all had amazing experiences, we have all been writing daily in our journals so we can share them all when we return, but here is a small glimpse of what we’ve each individually been doing:

- Vanessa learned that she is a natural with newborns and quickly became the favorite to push them around in strollers.

-Shannon bonded tightly with a rosy cheeked little 3-year-old girl who cried each time she left.

- Natalya spent a lot of time smelling flowers in the garden beds with a shy 4-year-old girl who had a preference for her and thought she was the coolest ever.

- Elizabeth was well exercised running around with a very robust and energetic 4-year-old girl who taught her a lot of new Russian words.

-Rachel built up some muscles tossing a trio of 3-year-old boys up into the air a million times after catching them on the slide.

-Jessica was attached to the hip to an 18-month-old girl who, while very stand-offish at first, quickly warmed up to her and Jessica was one of the few who could make her giggle and laugh.

-Emily has been sketching individual drawings of each of the children in-between being one of the favorite swing pushers (mainly because she would serenade them in the process).

-Deanna was well adored by a 2-year-old boy who made her a gift out of twigs and leaves as a going away present after spending a week building things with her.

There is so much more that we can say, but then this little post wouldn’t be so little. So we just want to let you all know that we are doing very well, we are all still healthy, we’re getting along well (almost TOO well sometimes, hehe) and are now packing for our next ministry: camping by the Gulf of Finland with about two dozen special needs teenagers. We love you all very much and have cherished hearing the comments you have been leaving.

Dosvedanya from Russia with big hugs!

“Emmie” (Emily), “Zhenya “(Shannon), “Raya” (Rachel), “Natasha” (Natalya), “Zhana” (Jessica), “Dinka” (Deanna), “Liza” (Elizabeth) and “Vanya” (Vanessa)  ….(as termed by our Russian cook )  

Team 2: Hello Family and Friends!!

On Tuesday was the first day that we got to work at the TB center, and as a team we have already fallen in love with the kids. As excited as we were to finally see them, beforehand we were a little apprehensive about how we would interact with them, especially considering the language barrier. However, as always, God’s hand was already on the situation. When we saw the children gathered around the windows awaiting our arrival, the nerves left and were replaced by an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement.

Today was focused on getting to know the kids through attempting to learn their names (let’s just say Russian names aren’t the easiest to pronounce) and playing various games and activities. Almost every kid wasn’t shy towards us, and immediately ran up and grabbed our hands and gave us hugs as they welcomed us to their home. We couldn’t have gotten through the day without our wonderful translators Marina and Art who dealt with constant questions from both us and the kids. However, some of the kids knew a little bit of English and are eager to learn more, which is a blessing. When it was time to leave, we already had a difficult time saying goodbye even though we will be seeing them tomorrow. The kids are just as attached as we are, many of them blocking our way out of the center, and hanging on to us so we would not leave. We are excited to start our VBS lessons tomorrow, and we know that the next  12 days are going to be a life-changing experience.

Tonight we got to experience our first “shower” since arriving to Novgorod. We were all expecting to not shower until the end of the week, however God had different plans and blessed us with a LARGE amount of rain. So we threw on our bathing suits, grabbed our soap and shampoo, and took a much-needed shower in the pouring rain. After a few strange looks and many laughs, we are smelling fresh and feeling refreshed. It’s amazing how God provides through the little things.

We love and miss you all, and please keep us and the kids in prayer as we dive into God’s mission.

Lots of love from Team Novgorod,

July 11

Here’s an update from team in St Petersburg.

Hello friends and family!

On Sunday, we went to Cavalry Chapel service that was translated into English. The worship was beautiful, as it seems everything is in this city! It was an especially unifying experience to sing a song or two we knew from home in English while it was sung in Russian. It is a reminder of the central thread that binds us all together from all ends of the earth. Afterwards, we enjoyed Russia’s finest restaurant: McDonalds. :))) Then, we speed packed and had a wonderful scenic tour of the city by bus (rather than our regular mode of transportation, the metro) as we moved to our new home. We were greeted at the apartment with a wonderful homemade meal by Alexandra, our wonderful Russian grandmother who will be cooking for us this week. Once we settled in, Tanya shared her passion for the ministry we will be working with and the kids we will be loving on. We shared what God’s taught us on this trip and reflected on the trip through journaling before going to bed.

Today was our first day at the HIV baby orphanage. We spent the first part of the day playing with HIV+ toddlers. They ran right up to us and grabbed a hand and went to play. In a way, they picked us out. They just knew we were there to love on them. Those who were a little shy definitely warmed up to us by the end of the day. While they were away at lunch, Dr. Slava took us on a tour of the orphanage. We were amazed by the services and facilities available for the babies there. Psychologists, physical therapists and other professionals dedicated to providing the best foundation for the children. Among many other rooms, there was a fitness room, sauna, salt room for those with asthma and a transition room where the kids are taught the basics needed for living more independently.

We went home for lunch cooked by our precious Alexandra and when we returned we cared for babies. Then, the toddlers returned for more fun! By the end of the day, we were all completely exhausted and excited to go home to borsch and quiet time to rejuvenate for tomorrow. This is going to be a rewarding life experience for all of us and we are looking forward to what God is going to do through us this week.

Hello from Novgorod, Russia!!!

We arrived safely last night and were greeted with a delicious meal. Novgorod is the oldest city in Russia, over 1150 years old; we learned about the history and amazing sights we are going to see during our time here. Today we all walked around Novgorod, praying for the people and the children we are going to be meeting tomorrow.

Also, it’s Aryn’s Birthday! We surprised her with French toast and birthday cake this evening. (Don’t worry Shelli we didn’t forget it was your baby’s Birthday!!)
Today we also met the director of the TB Children Center we are going to work in for the next three weeks. We are going to meet the children tomorrow at 10AM. There are 50 children ages 2-16 years old. Please pray for them to receive us well and for us to let God’s light shine every minute we are with them!

All of our love, Team Novgorod

July 9

Preveyet from Russia! (“Hi!” in Russian!!!)

These last two days have been full of discovering St. Petersburg and creating life long memories. Yesterday began with seeing the Winter Palace inside of the Hermitage Museum. We saw works of art by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and many others. Not only were there beautiful pieces of art inside, but the building itself was a masterpiece. After hours of exploring the Winter Palace we walked outside to our first Russian storm.  After getting under the down pour, we ran to dinner where we sat down for traditional Russian dumplings. Overall it was an adventurous day.

Today, we went to St. Isaac’s Cathedral where we were able to climb to the top and see all of St. Petersburg. The view was spectacular, we feel so blessed that God has led us to such a beautiful place. After this we ventured to the Spilled Blood Cathedral, where the walls are covered in Mosaics. It took twenty years for the cathedral to be finished. Aryn’s exact words were, “I feel like a princess in the palace” (the outside really did look like a fairytale.)

And, tonight we went to the Ballet! We saw Swan Lake! Beautiful Russian ballet and music. Being in St. Petersburg this week has felt like an amazing vacation, but we are ready to get to our mission sites to begin what God has called us here to do. We are so excited to see the children and we have been praying for them every day. Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

Tomorrow we leave our home that we had for the first week. One team going to Novgorod, the other moving into an apartment, which is a block from the orphanage. We cannot wait to start next week and meet the kids!

July 7

Another update from the St Petersburg team.

Today was a new experience for us all. This morning we learned Russian History by Tanya’s husband, Michael, who spoke to us in Russian and was translated by Tanya. This brief lesson was a great insight into the people here and all they have been through. Russia has a rich and deep history with both good and bad. One fun fact we learned about St. Petersburg was that it was built on a swamp. We now understand the mosquito invasion in our rooms. After class we were given an assignment that would allow us to see the city for ourselves. We were split into two’s and told to find certain churches and get information about those churches. Then we would have to go to a certain market and buy various items.

After stopping at a Russian McDonald’s for lunch we were off! This adventure allowed us to practice the little Russian we know, taught us to navigate the metro system, forced us to stretch ourselves, and overall just experience St. Petersburg. Afterwards we all met up at a crepe shop (the Teaspoon) where we enjoyed dinner and shared our stories from today. For the rest of tonight we are enjoying some free time and looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow.

July 6

After our long journey, 16 hours on the plane, we finally made it to St. Petersburg! Going through customs was easier than we originally expected; however, we had minor complications with claiming our luggage. We lost two boxes, but luckily they were delivered today! We are fortunate enough to be able to stay in a church that provides us with a comfy bed and daily shower. When we first arrived Tatiana (our host) greeted us at the airport and warned us she would not allow us to go to bed until at least 8PM local time; which meant we would not get a nights rest for 27 hours! (This was needed for us to get used to the 11 hour time change.:) It seemed like it was the middle of the day when we were going to sleep because the sun was still in the sky and didn’t show any signs of setting soon. This obviously did not bother us though, we slept like angels!

On day two, today, we learned some Russian. We began with the alphabet, and then we did numbers and colors. Then, we went out on the town. We stopped at our new favorite restaurant called Teaspoon. We ate bllini, which are very similar to crepes. They were delicious! After lunch, we took our first ride on the metro. We had to have a mini lesson on how to use and act while in the underground metro. No pictures are allowed and there is no such thing as personal space. We went to Peter and Paul’s fortress; it was full of cobblestone and a very beautiful cathedral. We ended the day with a beautiful boat ride around the canals of St. Petersburg. Now we are back at our home, until Sunday, and looking forward to what St. Petersburg has to offer us until we leave for Novgorod.

Thank you all for the continued prayers and support throughout our journey.

Alli, Aryn, Tim, Tanisha, Jess, Savannah, Adrienne, and Sam

July 5

The group has arrived in Saint Petersburg, where they'll spend the next couple days getting to know Russia before beginning their work.

The team will post updates on their host's blog at The website is a great way to learn more about Sunergos' work

July 4

This morning sixteen Seattle Pacific University students begin their journey to Russia, where they’ll spend the next month learning from and serving with Sunergos International, a ministry dedicated to caring for orphans and vulnerable individuals in Russia.

The group is divided into two teams; Team One will spend time with developmentally-disabled children and young adults. Team Two will volunteer at a treatment center for non-infectious children who have been exposed to tuberculosis. Over the course of their trip I’ll send regular updates to keep you informed of their experiences.

SPRINT (Seattle Pacific Reachout International) is SPU’s short-term missions program. This summer we’ll send nearly 70 students to 9 countries across the globe to learn from and serve alongside local community leaders. These students have been meeting together since February, and have spent significant time in pre-trip training to consider the impact of short-term service, ways to approach unfamiliar cultures and the role of American Christians in the global context.

Our hope for SPRINT is to provide opportunities for students to learn first-hand from leaders engaged in significant issues in their communities and to encourage others through their service.

Back to SPRINT.

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