The perfect opportunity
During the first week of camp, I had the privilege to serve on a small team from New Heights Church as a leader at a camp for incoming high school students in Slovakia. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my passion for teaching, serving, and sharing the love God has for us.
I pictured it being a group of students who were nervous to speak English, but would come around after a day or maybe two. I thought that as a leader I would have a good idea of what was happening and would be able to direct and lead my little group through camp in order to help them to form friendships between each other.
I felt like a burden
I did not anticipate 85% of camp (including almost all instructions) being in Slovak. I did not imagine that as a leader, I would be among those feeling the most clueless. I found myself feeling as though I was not really needed and I felt like a burden because someone had to constantly be translating for me.
However difficult it was, it also became rather entertaining to watch as my team and the campers received instructions. The students would run off, and we were left looking at each other like “Any chance you suddenly learned Slovak and know what we are supposed to do?” (Spoiler alert, God had a plan and it did not include any of us spontaneously understanding Slovak.)
I was forced to look outside what I pictured as the role for a camp counselor. I had to think of other ways to serve these students; ways that didn’t include actually leading them through the camp.
What I discovered was I just needed to be present.
Any conversation I had with the students was important. Reaching out to ask and answer a string of “What are your favorite…?” questions was exactly what they needed. I had to learn that despite my usually reserved personality, a great way to connect was by being upfront, outgoing, and goofy. Sometimes being present was smiling at the student who would have rather run a marathon than try to talk with me in English. Other times it was participating during water rec activities and having a smile on my face while getting questionable creek water dumped on me.
I truly believe God gave me this beautiful yet challenging experience to expand what I know about leading and serving others. At the end of the day success was not measured by my love for following rules and knowing the plan, but instead by the contagious joy among the students and the willingness I had to step outside my comfort zone, time and time again.
God did not call me to be perfect, just to be present.
“Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
I memorized this verse before I left for Slovakia and prayed God would give me the right words to share with my student. However, my answer is not always verbal, but is usually an action. So, when God gave me the sudden courage to face my fear of dancing and join the impromptu glow stick dance party with the students, you better believe I answered and was present.