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Pictures from Serving Slovakia 2012

Serving Slovakia 2012

July 6 – 22

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Mon
23
Jul '12

5 Highlights from a Slovak Summer Camp

Summer camps exhaust me. I love teens, and I love spending quality time with them. But by the last day of a full week at summer camp I just want to take my sore muscles, raspy voice, and weary eyes home from some much needed rest.

This last week has been different. By the end, I was still sore, raspy, and tired. But I could easily have stayed longer.

And I can’t quite figure out why. The language barrier made it difficult to capitalize on those spontaneous conversations that usually provide the best opportunities for meaningful interaction. So I’ve been at camps where I felt like I’ve had more of an impact. The camp facilities were smaller than I’m used to, which means there was also less to do. So I’ve been at camps that were more fun. And trust me, it wasn’t not the food! So why did I feel like I could have stayed longer?

Some of it may just be novelty of doing ministry in a new place with a new group of people. Maybe the novelty would wear off after a few more days and I’d be ready to go. Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t been at a summer camp for quite a few years, so I’m not as burned out on them as I used to be. And maybe it’s just because I’m here with my family, so there’s no need to rush home and see them.

Maybe. I’m sure each of those has some part in it. But I suspect there’s more.

Read the rest here.

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Sat
21
Jul '12

We’re on our way!

I write this from the Vienna Airport. We are officially through security and are waiting to board our flight to Dusseldorf. From there, we will fly to Chicago O’Hare and then on to Portland. We should be arriving in Portland via United Airlines flight 461 around 11pm “tonight” (Sunday, July 22). That’s right, we’ve learned how to fit more than 24 hours into a day– Just fly West!

Though we are all sad to leave Slovakia, we look forward to seeing our friends and family again.

Fri
20
Jul '12

Never the Same

As I think about the ending of my adventure in Slovakia, I become introspective. There have been many highlights of the trip.  I will share a few lessons I will never forget.

First has been the learning to minister to others and love them right where they are at. I had some challenging students this year and yet, I was able with God’s help to enter  into their lives. Instead of getting stressed out, I learned to laugh with them. When a student held a dead spider in my face yesterday, and kept up the act, I named him, Charlie. This spider helped us create props for our Friday program, was cradled in a student’s arm, and was finally given a web “home” to rest.

There is something about water balloons that invites people to laugh. I originally was only going to fill 5 for game. However, a couple of students had worked super hard to help me fill the 5 and I wanted to reward them. Each was given a balloon and we went outside and played catch. Soon all the balloons we had filled were taken outside and were being played with. Never mind about my original thoughts for a game. We were having so much fun just laughing together. This informal time helped me to connect with these children in a special way.

Today, our fearless leader was teaching about straight and curly hair. She was comparing curly hair to students’ prior knowledge of curly French fries. Since I have curly hair I was also used as an example. It wasn’t long before I was chuckling at the thought of having curly French fries for hair. Just then, one student expressed my thoughts in words. For the rest of the day we laughed at the thought. It was special to have this connection with a difficult student.

I know that entering people’s lives can be messy and down right hard and uncomfortable sometimes, but when I view them as people that God wants to work in, it is so much easier. I am also coming to learn that when I am in connection with God first, I can love and serve others in a way that would otherwise not  be possible.

The second major thing I have learned on this trip is more about how the body of Christ functions and about the power of community. A wise friend in the States wrote me about families while I was on the trip. “Families love you, hold you, tease you, and even hurt and ignore you, ” was the part of the letter. One of the sweetest moments for me was realizing how much this team functions as a family. While I never experienced the hurt or ignoring part, I sure felt the tender love, compassion, and teasing while on this trip. As I was looking around the room during team devotions this morning I was asking Papa God to continue to work in the hearts and lives of  the people I have come to know and love- that each one of us would enter back into America as changed people willing to let Him into our lives and to be able to serve those around us in a way that is radical.

Going to Slovakia has been an adventure. I have learned so many things about ministry, laughter, and community. My life will never be the same.

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Fri
20
Jul '12

This Isn’t Kansas Anymore: Life at a Slovak Summer Camp

My wife and I lived in Scotland for a couple of years. And, in many ways, making the transition to Scotland was much easier than moving to a place like Papua New Guinea. The language and culture of Scotland are similar enough to America that we could navigate through society fairly easily.

One thing we noticed, though, is that when two cultures are rather similar, it really makes the differences stand out. You have a nice breakfast with bacon, eggs, and toast, all things that any American would be quick comfortable eating, and then they hit you with some smoked haddock, which will stay with you all day long…and then some. You get the hang of driving on the other side of the road, and then you run across a road sign you’ve never seen before. (It took me a long time to figure out what the “no parking” sign was trying to tell me.)

When something seems mostly familiar, the differences really stand out.

That’s been my experience this week. In many ways, the summer camp that we’re helping with in Slovakia is just like the many camps I’ve attended in America. And that’s not surprising given that my church in America has a long-standing partnership with this one. We’ve been helping with camps here for years, and many of the Slovak leaders have interned at my church for as long as a year. So the games, the format of the evening program, the small groups, the free time, these all feel like home.

And, as I discussed in my last post, the students here face the same challenges as early adolescents everywhere. So even new students are old friends.

But the similarities just make the differences stand out that much more.

What do I mean? Here are six differences between a Slovak summer camp and one in America. Or, to be more accurate, here are six differences between this Slovak summer camp and the ones I’ve attended in America.

Read the rest here.

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Fri
20
Jul '12

The Last Day

Wow, the last day.  Looking back, the rest of the trip seems like an instant and yet tonight is the night of the ending party.  So many relationships, so many prayers, so many laughs, and a few tears as well, but here we are staring at the last few hours of Slovakia 2012.

It is the last chance to speak terrible Slovak and watch all of the kids make fun of us.

It is the last chance to lead camp songs like “Pharaoh Pharoah” at the top of our lungs and get WAY too into it.

It is the last chance to be drenched by a split second Slovak thunderstorm.

It is the last chance to have the courage to sit down and get to know a camper whether they know any English or not.

It is the last chance to be dumbfounded by how the worship that we can’t understand can make the biggest impact on our hearts.

And finally… it is the last chance to have Jesus work through us to leave an impact on Martin, Slovakia

We have made it this far but it is not time to stop.  We “…fought the good fight…” and now we need to finish the race.  We must continue to check our pride at the door and let God shine through us in every action and every word.  So please, pray for this last day because it is not the end, but the last chance that we have to be humble servants of God’s work here, in one of my favorite places in the world.

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Thu
19
Jul '12

Camps

This is my first trip to Slovakia and I have learned so much I can’t begin to process it all yet, but one thing I’ve really loved has been visiting the camps. We brought several young people and one family of four whose primary purpose has been serving in a high school and then a middle school camp for Slovak youth. We, as the EFL members of the team, have gotten to travel out to the camps one night each week to observe, meet the campers, and see our NH youth in action. I have so enjoyed these visits. I came to the Lord as a young teen and church camp was so influential in my formative days as a believer that I have an appreciation for them perhaps not felt by other adults. I have been so blessed to see our ‘kids’ working with these Slovak kids, using fun as a doorway into their hearts. We have heard how at least 2 generations of Slovakians have been ‘lost’ to the Lord due to 40 years of communist rule; these camps, as well as the Christian school here in Martin, are an important means in getting a foothold into a culture that is hungry for what only Jesus can supply. I am so happy that I’ve been able to be a part of it all.

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Thu
19
Jul '12

Dinner at J-Camp

Can’t say much right now, as we’re at J-Camp eating dinner. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit this afternoon after classes. We’ve been playing with water balloons, launchers, singing songs, being silly, and just enjoying all of the great things happening here at J-Camp.

More to come later, as this is currently being typed from my iPhone.

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Wed
18
Jul '12

J-Camp: Day 2

Hello, Hello, Hello!

Camp has been fantastic! The students here have been very welcoming and I quite enjoy the small community feeling this camp has to offer. As Cameron mentioned earlier, the language-barrier is not a problem at all. The students’ interest in communicating with us, whether through words or actions, has proven to be just as prominent as yesterday. However, their energy levels somehow seem to get stronger and stronger each day.

What a providing God we have because it is a wonder that I am still awake right now to type this. The amount of energy these kids have is outstanding. This is definitely one thing American and Slovak middle schoolers have in common. We play sports and games a lot, climb at least two flights of stairs multiple times, and have dance parties after night meetings. Already today I have taken a two-hour nap (on accident, of course). Let’s just say that sleeping has not been an issue for me.

Some things have come more naturally to me than others. One area where I have had a struggle was the opportunity I was given to share my story. Because it would need to be translated, the time it would take to share would double. I needed to condense it, write it out, and make sure that it was somehow relating to the theme of the camp (How Do You Broadcast Yourself?). Me being my usual self, I procrastinated until the day before. Luckily, my life story isn’t exactly something I need to study up on so the real challenge came in making it short but still leaving in the important parts. I had no idea how it would turn out. When the time came for me to share I was worried that the students would get bored or not understand the translation. However, when I was done I got some encouraging comments from the Americans, including Sydney who said to me with missing front teeth “What you talked about was AH-MAZING.” Even though the Slovak students haven’t said anything to me, the support from my team-mates was definitely helpful.

All in all, the day has been excellent and I can’t wait to continue to connect with the students here at camp, through English or not. I feel so blessed to have been able to share my story with these students and establish relationships.

 

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Tue
17
Jul '12

Fumbling Toward Belonging: Are Middle Schoolers the Same Everywhere?

[L]ooking around the room, I see many familiar faces. I see the athlete all the girls will love in a few years, though now he’s a little shy and prefers to run with his hair flying in the wind. Next to him is his awkward, overweight, and rather nerdy friend, loyal to a fault and trying to keep up. Across the room are several other boys, the popular crowd: fun and good looking, sought out by others. And, of course, there are others as well: the boy who looks like puberty is still years away, and the other one whose body is well into the process but whose mind may never catch up.

And there are the girls. On my left is the power group: the tall, attractive girls who look several years older than any other kid in the room, though they’re not. Confident and insecure at the same time. A few seats to my right are several smaller and rather awkward girls, the ones who haven’t yet grown out of the slight layer of “baby fat” that still pads their young bodies. Scattered around the room are a few others who don’t quite have a niche of their own yet. All of them clearly wrestling with what it means to be caught between child and woman.

I know these kids. And I know them well. But I’ve never been here before.

Read the rest here.

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Mon
16
Jul '12

J-Camp: Day 1

Greetings! We are now 1 day down on J-Camp (think Camp Surf/Camp Getaway, but with much fewer students…who don’t speak English). Our team has been meeting regularly with Lubka (one of our interns from a few summers back), in order to prepare for camp. As I wrote earlier, we are here in much of a support role for the camp…Lubka is the one who really put the effort into planning this whole week.

 

Camp has been great, we were apprehensive about the level of English that the students would possess, but it turns out that has been a non-issue. In fact, I would say that, at least for myself, I have been able to connect better with the students who speak no English at all. I am for sure expanding my Slovak vocabulary at an exponential rate for now. As we are seeing in the summer teaching series, it is our weakness that God completes with his strength. In this case, it is much of my weakness in communication and Gods strength showing through as his love.

 

Additionally, the Cortez family, who were a late addition to our team have proved to be an amazing blessing for this camp. They brought their two daughters (one middle school age and one younger), and they have been connecting with the students in some ways better than even we could as adults and older student aged individuals.

 

Tomorrow morning, I am blessed with getting to lead the team in a devotional time, as such, I chose to cover Genesis 11:1-9, the Tower of Babel story. It seems like a perfect fit. It is such a great reminder of our own weakness to have the language barrier. If not for that, I might become quite arrogant in seeing that this camp is going well, I have done many camps before and I would quite honestly pat myself on the back and say “good job Cameron.” But no, when this goes well, when the moments of true connection happen and we are able to share the love of God, it is clear that is not from my own strength at all!

 

As they say in Slovakia when it is time to go to sleep, Dobru noc!

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