Family Camp: Delivering Hope to Families in Eastern Europe

by Monique Reidy

It’s no secret that Eastern Europe has more than its fair share of social angst. Besides the well-documented economic decay, the decline of family values and the widespread collapse of the marital structure in that part of the world are producing a generation of young people who are perpetuating the brokenness.

RussiaFlag.jpgDid you know that very few people bother to get married in Russia? And nearly half of the few marriages that do happen end in divorce each year? Because obtaining a divorce is quite simple, millions of families break up each year, turning out a slew of one-parent families struggling with financial, social and child-care issues on a daily basis. Most of those divorced people marry again, taking on the responsibility for a second family, only to find themselves as victims of another failed marriage not long past the honeymoon.

While most young couples do not wish to live with their parents after they get married about half of them do so out of necessity. Family support is simply indispensible because the state-provided social protections are not adequate. But as a result, these young people rely on their parents to run the household and fail to gain the necessary tools, skills and experience to manage their family life. They do not learn how to run a household, how to organize the family budget or how to raise their own children. So once they move out on their own, the pressure is often too great to bear.

Other pressures also contribute to the disintegration of the traditional family. Currently, Russia is undergoing strong pressure to redefine “marriage” based upon new emerging trends. Three of the most popular “alternatives” to the traditional marriage arrangement are:

• Concubinates – Cohabitation without legal marriage - a recent trend among the “new riche” and “upper middle –class.”

• Poligamic families – Having more than one spouse at one time occurs often in Muslim regions.

Marriage_Problem.jpg• Individualism - Both spouses have their own separate households but are connected to each other by a registered or not-registered marriage (this arrangement is most popular in well-to-do circles).

The floundering traditional marriages that do exist in that region of the world today find little or no support when faced with hardships and the average struggles that most relationships face. Consequently, the modern family representation in Russia has slowly acquired the following conventional patterns:

• The traditional family construct is on the decline.

• Spouses are often treated as common property.

• There is an increase in rampant alcoholism among most adult and teen family members.

• Couples are electing a conscious avoidance of childbirth.

While the availability and use of modern contraceptives has increased, abortions are still considered by many women as a permissible means of contraception. Abortions in Eastern Europe are still widespread, often leading to infertility in women, including women of reproductive age. With that comes depression, guilt and in extreme cases, suicide.

A report by the United Nations Children's Fund revealed that Russia ranked third in the world in per capita teenage suicides, trailing two other former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Globally, an average of seven out of every 100,000 teenagers commit suicide every year. In Russia, that number is 22 per 100,000, and in two regions, Tuva and Chukotka, more than 100 per 100,000. Annually, more than 1,700 Russians between 15 and 19 take their lives, according to the report.

The breakdown in marriages and family support is directly correlated to childhood trauma and teen delinquency. And the decline is so rapid it’s difficult to fathom a treatment to stop the proverbial bleeding. It’s evident that Eastern European families are crying out for help.

(For more information on these conditions, visit THIS UN REPORT, The Rand Corporation, or the OECD Better Life Index.)

God has heard those cries and has called Christian Associates, with our Eastern European staff and colleagues, to impact those suffering spiritually and emotionally with His Word and healing. CA has conducted family camps in Russia over the past few years, which have resulted in powerful testimonies of how God has transformed families and redeemed lives. The upcoming camp will take place this July and will include 20-25 couples with about 12-15 kids. These couples are young and range in age from early twenties to early forties.

This year, camp will include four main sessions, several workshops and some free time. There will be a children's program running during the adult sessions. Guest speakers will include Michael Warren and Dudley Callison, as well as Pastor Shawn Thornton from Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, CA. Rita Warren and Mike Katzenberger will conduct workshops and there will be opportunities for facilitated discussions. Counseling and mentoring will also be available. 

Speakers and CA team members hope to provide inspiration, encouragement and ideas for practical application for participants to use in both their marriages and family life. Topics will range from navigating marital conflict and building healthy biblical marriages to raising godly kids and so on.

As Eastern Europe appears to continue on a downward spiral, team members from Christian Associates who have a passion for the people of that area seek to bring God’s love in massive doses to families in desperate need of His hope and healing. Please pray for the success of this camp to do exactly that.

To donate essential funding towards this event, please go to CA's Donation Center and select "Regional Advancement / Russia Outreach - 61899" in the dropdown menus. For further questions, email Mike Katzenberger at katz[at]mkatz[dot]org


Monique Reidy is editor-in-chief of Thrifty Hunter magazine, publisher of, and co-author of "Working World 101: The New Grad's Guide to Getting a Job." She has a Master’s degree in communication from Pepperdine University and, along with her husband Steve, is a good friend and supporter of CA.