Last summer, a bright-eyed, joyful young girl named Achlem* attended Olive Grove, a holiday adventure located along the Mediterranean coast.
Children and youth ages eight to 18 attend Olive Grove, where they participate in fun activities such as sailing, swimming, sports, crafts, and discussions about Bible stories. Qualities such as faith, hope, and love are emphasized. Counselors serve as friends and guides, often challenging the children to grow as individuals, friends, and followers of God. By the end of their time together, the hope is that the children are drawn into close relationships with each other and with God.
Achlem was one such child, attending the holiday adventure for the first time. It was obvious that she loved life. Achlem would run around the beach with a mischievous yet cheerful smile and a contagious laugh, uplifting all who were around her. But after hearing this young girl’s story, you wouldn’t think that she would be so full of life, so happy, and so free.
Turkey is not Achlem’s home. Her family had fled there from Iran. They are refugees in Turkey, hoping to eventually make it to the United States. Her family was forced to leave Iran because they are Christians and were involved in Christian work. The Lord has provided greatly for this family in their new life in Turkey; however, fleeing one’s home and being forced to live in a foreign place isn’t easy. Yet, this little girl’s joy was founded in Christ and His Word.
One day, after a Bible lesson at Olive Grove, Achlem invited her counselor into her cabin where she pulled out her Farsi Bible. Her eyes lit up as she read the words of that day’s lesson in her own language. She was filled with joy at the chance she had to show her English-speaking counselor that she, too, could read the Bible. Achlem didn’t know much English and had struggled to understand that day’s Bible lesson. However, she knew that whether in English or in Farsi, the words of Scripture brought truth and joy. She and her counselor were able to share the joy of God’s Word together that day, and both were encouraged.
*Not her real name
-Written by Kristin Dykstra, TEAM missions coach, and Lisa H. Renninger
-Photography by Kristin Dykstra