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.