Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Called to Serve

*Spotty internet connection on my tablet has led to delayed posting. Sorry.*

On a recent morning walk, Mirek and I discussed how we came to camp. "It was like I was being pushed. There was no choice. It was just go."

"I felt exactly the same way. I felt drawn to the camp though I had no idea why." I never wanted to be a missionary. It was the first time I understood what it felt like to be called. I was in a place of uncertainty in life and I wasn't really sure if going on such a big trip was a good idea. I don't know where I will be working. I don't know if I can afford it. A mission trip? To Poland? My thoughts kept returning to the trip. I had to go. I didn't know why, but I had to go. There really was no choice. It was a must. I gave in. I just knew somehow it would work out. There was no more doubt.

Coming that first year was a risk, but it proved to be a good one. For me it set into motion a series of life-changing events including a return to school. For Mirek, his first year led to a friendship that introduced him to a girl that will soon lead to marriage and fatherhood. Everything happens for a reason.

After five trips I can't imagine what my life would be like if I had ignored that force pushing me to go. In the beginning I thought it would be a one time trip. Instead I return each year feeling that my work isn't done. Eager to return.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Land and People That I Love

Morning hikes, classes, and free time. I love this place and the people so much. A few photos from our camp Valentine's Day. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Feeling Sluggish

In our church for children's sermons Pastor James does "sermon in a sack." A child picks an item and puts in the sack. At the service he opens the sack and creates a short sermon based on what is in the bag.

Josh decided he didn't think it was hard and allowed me to pick the item. 

He got two slugs in a sack.

He actually did a very good job. After asking questions of his audience, he picked up on a line about the trail slugs leave behind, saying we leave behind our imprint too. We strive to make it a positive one that reflects the love of God.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Best Day Ever

"This is the best day ever!" shouted a boy of about 10 as we rode the bus from the airplane to the airport terminal. "First I got to ride on a plane without a seat belt and now I'm riding on a bus without a seat belt." I wish I could share his enthusiasm. The stress of flying and hours spent in cramped conditions often make it easy to forget for a time how much fun it is to travel. Eventually the jet lag wears off and the joy returns.

Today our Polish friends arrived and with them came lots of hugs and laughter. With no new counselors this year they are all old friends. The best day ever.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Feast Your Eyes

I love my Polish friends and I look forward to seeing them each year, but I'm equally excited to see something else. Polish food. See below. I don't think I need to describe how good it is. The pictures speak for themselves. **With the exception of the kielbasa at the end, these are all restaurant foods, but what we get at camp is equally good.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Connection as Deep as You Desire

The end of the semester means projects and papers and late nights and no time for blogging. If you haven't noticed the two little buttons to the right, Missionary From the Prairie now has both a Facebook page and an Instagram account. Just two more ways to follow us on our journey.

Voluntourism is a big buzzword these days. In recent months I've come across numerous articles, mostly derisive, that discuss the topic of traveling (particularly abroad) to do volunteer work. Most of these articles focus on groups that go to third world countries and specifically those going to work at orphanages. They criticize the volunteers for having a "white savior complex" and claim they do damage by briefly coming into these children's lives, bonding, and leaving. Reading these has left me thinking about my own role as a short term missionary. Am I just as bad? I've decided no.

Our trips are short and while we do leave with children in tears, most of us do not leave to never again have contact with our campers. The digital age has made it easy to stay in contact even when we are half a world away, a huge difference from those going to the poorest countries in Africa. We can chat and share photos or videos over Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. We can even talk "face to face" via Skype or FaceTime. Our mentoring relationships and friendships can be as close as we choose. Even when the day comes that I am no longer going to camp I know many of these relationships will continue. Also, for many of us camp is not a one and done experience. Of the 14 Americans who will be traveling to camp this year, 10 of us are repeats. I personally will be on my fifth trip. Many of our campers and counselors each year are returnees from previous years. Short term mission trip is somewhat of a misnomer as well. The duration of the trip is short, but many of us spend weeks, months, even the better part of the whole year planning activities and lessons. Because we have so many returning campers each year, we are always looking for ways to make it new, while carrying over a few favorites from previous years. Lastly, and most importantly, I can't attest to how much impact I have on anyone else at the camp, but I do know that each year the experience does teach me something. I may be traveling with the intent of being the teacher, but I leave feeling I was really the one who was the student.

From year one to year four

Friday, April 8, 2016

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Sometimes, your students teach you. Last summer at camp we asked the kids what they would want if they could have one wish granted. Most answered as you would expect from kids. They had places they wanted to travel to, or maybe a new computer, clothing, or a puppy. One boy gave us a very different answer.

He wished for nothing. He wished for nothing because he doesn't need anything. "I have all." At his young age he could already recognize what is important. Sometimes even as adults we lose sight of that. We see only what we don't have and fail to enjoy what good things we already possess. Sometimes it takes the wisdom of a child to remind us.