As I write this, some of my Serving Slovakia teammates are putting the finishing touches on the clean up of the classrooms, some are running off to buy last minute souvenirs or to have one last ice cream with their students, others are beginning the process of packing for the trip home, and all of us are amazed at how quickly the two weeks have flown by.
Unlike past years, I haven’t written any blog posts. Oh, I had great plans to do so. We read a terrific book as part of our preparation called “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat”, and I could see all kinds of possibilities for application during the trip.
Just not the ones we ended up with.
This year has been unlike any other. We’ve had what has seemed like a non-stop string of challenges that, if I’m completely honest, made me momentarily want to crawl back into the boat – and sail in a different direction. We’ve had a team member who was left at the airport due to an unforeseen passport issue; not just one but TWO medical emergencies – one which required surgery; four lost suitcases (they eventually arrived); a missing laptop; a sprained ankle; unbelievable heat that made the classrooms feel like furnaces and sleeping impossible – and all of the normal things that happen when you’re thousands of miles away from home.
It would have been so easy to focus on these things – and stay in the safety of the boat.
So, what kept me water-walking? Certainly not me, but so many other wonderful things. It was seeing relationships between virtual strangers on this team blossom into new and fun friendships in a way I’m not sure would have happened were it not for the storms we experienced. It was seeing all God is doing here in this beautiful country through our friends at the Center for Christian Education – who are doing some pretty amazing water-walking of their own. It was the continued focus of the whole team on the promises of God and His character. It was seeing God’s provision and faithfulness to us in the midst of our circumstances. It was the commitment of the whole team to look at each obstacle and use it as a reason to lean into Jesus even more; to stay focused on Him – which is a must for all who get out of the boat.
One of my favorite memories – one which will stay with me for a lifetime – is of the morning our teammate was meeting with the doctor to find out why he was losing his vision (detached retina; emergency surgery; miraculous story of God’s provision). We all – or maybe it was just me – looked a little shell-shocked as we gathered for our morning devotions. Instead of doing that day’s lesson, we instead spent the time going around the room and sharing passages from scripture that have been especially helpful to each of us in times of trouble. As the truth of God’s Word washed over me, it quickly replaced the desire to scramble back into the boat and refocused my heart on the One who is able to keep water-walkers above the waves. The One who calms the seas.
And now, as I reflect on the past two weeks, I can honestly say what a joy it’s been – and how grateful I am for this team that God put together. As we read in today’s devotional lesson:
“When human beings get out of the boat, they are never quite the same. Their worship is never quite the same. Their world is never quite the same. Whatever the results, whether they sink or swim, something will have changed. This is true for you. From this point on, for the rest of your life, every time you walk on the water, each time you trust God and seek to discern and obey His calling on your life, your God will get bigger, and your worship will grow deeper, richer, and stronger.”
I have seen this played out over these two weeks in Slovakia. The storms have gotten smaller as God has gotten bigger. Worship has been richer. My faith has grown even stronger.
So now, as we pack up our things and prepare to leave, I do so with a sense of gratitude, sadness, and anticipation. Gratitude for the opportunity to be on this adventure with 30 other amazing water-walkers; sadness to be leaving this country and the friends I love so deeply; and anticipation for all God has for me – for us – as we each look for our next water-walking adventure.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
“But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.” Matthew 14:30-31