In One Month

In one month, I have seen.  I have seen busses unload campers onto campus for some of the most impacting days of their childhood.  I have seen campers leave their comfort zones and become vulnerable.  I have seen families and couples open their homes for me.  I have seen the view from the top of Mount Coolum.  I have seen many what-are-the-odds dares.  I have seen carnival rides and a magic show in Toowoomba.  I have seen the overlook, downtown, bridges, and banks of Brisbane.  I have seen the ocean waves and long camping beaches.

In one month, I have smelt.  I have smelt many cups of coffee.  I have smelt the beautiful flowers from the carnival of flowers, and the fairy floss and other assorted carnival foods.  I’ve smelt funky lagoon water while helping with raft building.  I’ve smelt salty air and sunscreen.  I’ve smelt exhaust from vehicles while biking to work.

In one month, I have tasted.  I have tasted Vegemite, and then tasted it a few more times.  I have tasted kangaroo burgers.  I have tasted the grocery list of a girl who is living off of a stipend.  I have tasted camp lunches.  I have tasted beetroot, beef pies, lemmingtons, caramello koalas, and lollies.  I have tasted Anzac biscuits.  I have tasted fish and chips.  I have tasted Red Rooster.  I have tasted Tim Tams and all the glory that comes with.  I have tasted Milo.  I have tasted iced vovos, cheezels, and Cadbury chocolate.  I’ve tasted a Bunnies snag.  I’ve tasted expired minced.

In one month, I have heard.  I have heard children laughing.  I have heard so many riddles.  I have heard program trainings.  I have heard representatives talk about their camps and the interwoven passions within them.  I have heard devotions and love for Christ.  I have heard personal stories.  I have heard history, policies, politics, and opinions.  I have heard twisting, clicking, and squeeze checks on carabiners.  I have heard briefings and debriefings.  I have heard carabiners gliding down metal wires.  I have heard encouragement from my teammates.

In one month, I have felt.  I have felt homesick.  I have felt like an outsider.  I have felt the passion my teammates have for the work they do.  I have felt grief while waving goodbye to campers.  I have felt the weight lifting from a child’s shoulders as they conquer a fear.  I have felt nervous before speaking in front of large groups of campers.  I have felt my legs burning when walking up the huge hills on campus and climbing the mountains.  I have felt barriers slowly coming down.  I have felt my true self becoming comfortable.  I have felt the genuine interest to get to know me.  I have felt my filter becoming less picky.  I have felt connections being made, relationships building.  I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I have felt loved.

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First Days at Camp

The first week at camp consisted of being coachable.  Paying attention to the little details went a long way.  I was taught how to successfully walk across the low ropes course without falling into the lava, how to tie bamboo logs together and attach four water jugs to make a successful raft, how to play big group game where you want to get as many pool noodles in your section as possible, how to explain the nature walk with enthusiasm as to relate to the kids, how to explain the medium ropes course and every job to do with it, how to keep the whale tale balanced as more and more kids jump on, how to explain every style of going down the flying fox, and how to debrief every activity in a way that draws reflection and understanding.

Needless to say, the first week was jam packed with stuff.  My team members and fellow staff are all wonderful in their own ways.  This week I have completely put my trust into them and let them guide me every step of the way.  They have been my teachers and role models.  It is so inviting to see the passion each of them have for Luther Heights and the style of ministry here.  The genuine care and commitment each of them have for making camp as fun and as safe as possible for our campers is contagious.

My very first group of campers were absolutely astounding.  They were all great listeners and encouraging of one another.  It was so rewarding to see each and every one of them grow throughout their short week here.  The teachers were very pleasant and so appreciative of all the work we did with the kids.  It was the most gratifying moment to see a kid overcome the fear of the flying fox and finally zipline down it.

As I am finding my place in Coolum Beach and at Luther Heights, it is still hard to wrap my mind around considering this place my home for one year.  A year is so difficult to conceptualize; however, I know that in the blink of an eye it will all be over.  Every minute matters!

S/O to the Nice Man in the Melbourne Airport

My flight pattern had me fly from Chicago to JFK to LAX to Sydney to Adelaide.  When I reached LAX, I was exhausted.  I thought how could this be, I haven’t even left the country yet.  I slept a majority of the flight from LAX to Sydney.

My country coordinators told me the connection in Sydney was tight for time.  Plus, I had to go through customs, claim my bags, recheck my bags, take a bus to a different terminal, and go through security.  I started running once I grabbed my bags, but then I saw on the monitor above the check-in that the flight to Adelaide was canceled.

I was nervous, yet relieved that I didn’t have to run anymore.  They put me on a flight to Melbourne then to Adelaide.  I thought it was quite absurd that I would be traveling on five flights to get to one destination, but at this point I was content with how close I was.

When I made it to the gate for the flight to Melbourne, the man checking the tickets told me my carry-ons were too large and heavy.  I had to check them, claim them in Melbourne, and recheck them.

In Melbourne, I had about an hour layover.  I quickly went to get my carry-on bags from baggage claim, then went back through security.  I was so hungry since I hadn’t eaten since about 6 AM on the flight to Sydney.  Finally, I had a little bit of time before my next flight.  I went to an adorable coffee shop and order a coffee and a sandwich.  I only had US cash and my debit card.  When I tried to use my debit card, it got declined three times.

I went to charge my phone by my gate, and called my mom.  I was telling her about how hungry and frustrated I was from hectic travel problems.  This was when an older gentleman next to me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I don’t mean to over hear your conversation, but I was thinking to myself… If my daughter was stranded in an airport and hungry, I would want her to have food.  Here, please go buy yourself a sandwich,” as he handed me his credit card!  My jaw dropped.  I said, “Are you serious?!  That is so generous!”

I went back to the same coffee shop and ordered the sandwich.  The cashier remembered me and asked if I wanted the same coffee.  I explained the situation to him, and said I didn’t want to spend more of this kind man’s money than I had to.  The cashier looked at me and said, “Oh thats all right, I’ll make it for free.”

It was priceless to see God’s light shining through these nice people at such a crucial time.  I was completely stressed out from having to claim my luggage, my flight getting canceled, jet lag, and the thoughts of moving to a new country for a year.  My mood did a complete 180 after these kind souls reached out to help me.

As I was sitting on my flight to Adelaide, I began to reflect on how privileged I was.  I was not thankful or feeling guilty for my privilege–just recognizing it.  If I appeared differently from a blonde, blue-eyed, white girl, the kind man might not have trusted me with his credit card.  He wouldn’t have offered to buy me a sandwich if he didn’t automatically trust me at first glance.  It is interesting to think about all the privilege I was simply born with.  I didn’t work for it or choose it.  I am not deserving over anyone else in this world.  I believe the first step is to become aware.  I hope to spread awareness during my YAGM year.

Journey Across the Pacific

The Chicago YAGM and myself were on our way to bed after a long night of card games.  It was a Thursday night, so I knew it was Friday in Australia (+15 hours).  I already realized that if my visa was not approved by the morning, I would have to wait out the weekend since the next working day was Monday.  I was already mentally preparing myself to open my immigration account in the morning and see “assessment in progress” like it had always said.

It was about 1 AM when I received the text that my visa was approved.  I screamed and jolted up in bed.  My roommates thought I was hurt until I screamed, “I GOT MY VISA!”  I danced and sang a made up song about granted visas.  Then, I ran into the apartment across the hall where the boys were staying and repeated my screeching announcement. My friends accompanied me in my excitement.

I could hardly sleep that night.  Once I finally fell asleep, I woke up earlier than I had any other morning.  I got up and showered, thinking I should be as fresh as possible going to Australia–as fresh as you can be after 30 hours of travel time.  We all went to our favorite coffee shop, and I waited for word on when my flight was.  My flight ended up being the following morning at 11 AM, but I was happy to be allotted one last night with my Chicago YAGM family.

For our last night, we ate dinner at a nice restaurant together.  Then, we went back to the apartment and played my favorite card game for hours and hours.  It was about 1 AM, and everyone was getting sleepy.  I spitballed the idea of going to get Insomnia cookies, expecting to be shut down.  Everyone was game, so we walked over to get cookies at the wee hours of the night.

Although we stayed up later than we ever had, my Chicago YAGM fam woke up with me at 6:30 AM to send me off.  They all circled around and put hands on me, while one of them said a blessing.  It was a beautiful moment to be blessed by some awesome friends who I knew I was going to miss so much.

I am from…

I am from farmlands

From basketballs and sneakers

I am from big piney

From Fyle’s and Donovan’s from laughs and dance parties

I am from Eggstravaganza’s

From lobster with butter and chips and cheese

I’m from the long days out on the lake

From Santa’s cookies and waiting until the age of 12 to do “big kid stuff”

I’m from a catholic confirmation with the freedom to explore my spirituality

I’m from Robbinsdale, MN and Germany, Ireland, Poland, and France

Where, Oh Where Has My Visa Gone?

Unfortunately, I and four other YAGMs are experiencing some immigration visa complications.  We have been approaching our delayed deployment with a positive attitude, though.  My country mates will be in Sydney, Australia in a few hours.  I am very excited for them.  They will then take a flight from Sydney to Adelaide, where they will be embraced by our lovely country coordinators, Kim and Henry.  As much as I wish I was with them, I know it is out of my control.  At the end of my YAGM year, I am not going to remember the few extra days I had to spend waiting in Chicago.  It is going to be so minuscule compared to the experiences I will have the rest of the year.

We finished YAGM orientation yesterday.  I met some of the most wonderful, kind-hearted people here.  It is pretty amazing how similar we all were, even coming from completely different backgrounds.  What brings us together is our drive to serve our global companions.  Each and every one of us are dedicating a year of our lives to do so.  It was inspiring to meet some of the alumni and hear their stories.  Orientation was filled with long sessions that discussed difficulties we will face, how to approach different cultures, logistical information, relationship building techniques, and lots of ice-breaker activities.  It was long and mentally, emotionally, and physically draining, but I felt like it prepared us all for our deployments.

I cannot wait to see all the work us 93 YAGMs do this year.  We will be doing God’s work all over the world and touching so many lives.  It’s going to be a great year!IMG_2809