61 hours from now we’ll be together at the airport. Wow. Can it be that we are really so close to actually being in Slovakia? Where did all the time go? It seems like only yesterday we were all just coming together and meeting for the first time, still unaware of how things would work out, how this would change us, how we would change Slovakia. For some, this may have more associated stress than we could ever have imagined. For others, it may seem like a cakewalk. For all, there have been and will continue to be surprises throughout the journey. These surprises will come in many shapes and forms. Some bad, such as: family emergencies, illnesses, lost luggage, weather. And yet, at the same time, we will have many more good surprises: the eager joyful expressions on our students’ faces each morning, weather turning out for the better during lunchtime activities, the opportunities to share ourselves and God’s love, and even, in some cases, life long friends to remain in contact with regardless of how many miles lie in between.
For me this journey has so far been unremarkable compared to years past, while at the same time being utterly complicated in a new and different way. From the previous two years I have had the opportunity to serve in Slovakia, I have learned that there is only so much planning one can actually do for the EFL courses we’ll be teaching. I’ve learned that all we can really do is learn to be prepared for everything; remain flexible. The students, and their English speaking abilities, change drastically from year to year and we need to prepare for activities we can do in class regardless of the English speaking level of the students. Being a structured person, this was always very difficult for me because throughout my entire life I have never willingly put myself into any situation without knowing exactly what it’s going to be like. As a result of the prior experiences in Slovakia, I’ve learned to prepare myself for the changes we’ll have to make. To be, as is our motto, “flexible”. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.
This year has been a completely different experience for me because I am not solely involved with the EFL courses. This year, at the request of the Bible School, New Heights is sending over a group of 6 college students to put on a New Heights style youth camp for Slovak high schoolers. Being the only college-aged student to have gone twice before, I was approached about the idea of the camp and of leading a group of college students and was very unsure about the whole thing. You see, New Heights’ youth camps tend to be VERY crazy, VERY high energy, VERY extroverted, and I am one of those people who was always, and still is, VERY reserved, VERY low key, VERY introverted (especially in new and unknown situations). I said that I would love to do this camp though, because I KNOW that it will be a very, VERY awesome experience for the Slovaks. Beyond even their wildest imaginations. And we’re only reproducing a fraction of the (awesome) chaos that is New Heights.
Throughout the planning process, I have always been excited and eager for the camp. I still am. But as we’re drawing closer, I am also growing more and more anxious and nervous as well. I cannot help but wonder, “Am I really the right person for this?” “What was I thinking, saying I’d do this?” while at the same time knowing that I must not give in to those thoughts or it really would turn out for the worst. As I’m thinking these thoughts and looking through my bible for pleaces fear is mentioned, a couple verses in Isaiah really hold my attention:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
I know that as long as I hold God close, put God’s will first, everything will be alright; I will find the necessary strength, the “inner chaos” to do this camp and do it well. I must not doubt myself and my abilities, for through the Lord all things are possible. And whether things happen as planned, or we become as flexible as Gumby, it will be an amazing experience for the Slovaks, and for us. I look forward to what these next few weeks bring.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4