Time flies when you’re having fun, but it also seems to expand when you pack your days full of diverse activities. That is how it’s been with the summer so far, where a full work day like today can also include a morning run, two hours enjoying God’s presence and reviewing what He’s done, lunch with friends memorizing scripture, a blog post, and still plans for cleaning the apartment, dinner with another team, and going to meet and talk with strangers in the evening. Yes, that’s in addition to over 6 hours of research towards my dissertation.
The challenges so far
One piece of advice I was given about doing an STP was not to hold too tightly to any expectations. My biggest expectation was that the summer would be difficult, so that was easy to let go of. It has not been difficult in the way I expected, but there have been a few challenges. Besides adjusting to the pace, the difficulties have been:
- Evaluating whether or not I’m doing what I ought as a team leader … and figuring out how to move forward when I don’t really know
- Exceeding my own capacity mentally and emotionally almost every day
- Keeping my focus on Jesus Christ and what He’s doing at OME14, rather than dwelling on my own (often negative) thoughts and the lies I tend to believe about myself and this world
- Concentrating on my research work and dedicating enough time to it
But in the midst of these struggles, it has definitely been good, and at 1/3rd of the way through I want to summarize that good:
Learning in the classroom and out
We get official teaching times from different people with experience and passion for their various topics. These have covered studying the Bible, spending time enjoying God’s presence, what it means to be a witness for Jesus today, realizing and responding to the effects life circumstances have, and teaching other people the things we learn. I’ve appreciated that the focus of the teaching is always on application: and all of the things mentioned here I have had the opportunity to also (begin to) put into practice here at OME14.
There’s also the informal learning from being here and from being a team leader: observing and interacting with people, leading among peers, structuring a day intentionally to achieve a goal, and probably other things that don’t come to mind at the moment.
Spending time getting to know people
Most people who have been to an STP like Ozark Mountain Encounter harp on the friendships that are built as a result. The program replicates some of the conditions of the first-century Christian church as described in the Book of Acts, and this lends itself to the fast growth of a sense of community and togetherness. I tend to take a while to get to know and trust people, so I have been pleasantly surprised to find myself dragged into this fairly fast growth of really deep ‘fellowship.’
A little adventuring
Most of the adventure has definitely been of the self-discovery and social kind, but I have managed a little explorienteering and a big group canoe trip down the upper Buffalo River in Arkansas. Our 20-something boat convoy was also my first time whitewater canoeing, though all we hit was shallow class I. As well as being fun times and good group bonding, this was also incidentally preparation for Nicaragua C2C too!
It has not all been easy, but I am learning a lot about myself, about interacting with people, and about living as an ambassador of the Heavenly King. I’m looking forward to what the rest of the summer has in store.