Ozark Mountain Encounter is over, at least for this year. I am having trouble summarizing the summer, except to say that it was worth it. Even if it ends up delaying my graduation (which it shouldn’t, but might), it’s still worth it. Thank you to those who partnered with me on this — that was a big help both emotionally and financially.
A special kind of bubble
OME is a very intentional environment, and so it is a bit of a bubble. It is not really intended to be like normal life, but rather a way to teach and train principles applicable to all of life — and do so in an accelerated way. Some have called it a greenhouse for spiritual growth, and that is perhaps accurate.
But one thing that became very obvious to me and to many of us there is that environment alone is not enough to cause significant, lasting change (for adults at least). That is, just putting myself in a good environment for growth does not mean there’ll be much growth: changing and growing take effort and discipline and often some of God’s intervention. The environment can help a lot, but it does not bring about the growth.
A bigger wheel
The Navigators, who facilitated OME14, use a particular illustration for an active and balanced life following Jesus. This illustration is based on a wheel with different spokes that are all vital parts of a healthy relationship with God. In some ways it is hard to summarize what I got out of OME14 because I feel like I grew in every area. That is, of course, the point of the program, and so it was a success there. I’ll summarize one or two points but you’re welcome to ask me for more — there’s plenty to go around.
How I spend time with God
I’ve been in the habit of spending time each day reading the Bible and praying (and it’s been a good habit!). This is a simple, foundational way to spend time getting to know God. At OME, I learned a lot of practical ways to make this habit so much more effective: I learned that I feel most connected to God and concentrate the longest when I’m outside. I learned that I need to keep track of things I decide to apply to my life and make sure I’m actually doing them! And I learned and got to practice one way to do that in a very practical way. These are simple things, but put into practice they have a big impact.
Appreciation as an art
At OME I have felt more appreciated than perhaps ever before in my life. Part of this came from God starting to heal some past issues in my life, correcting lies I’d been believing that were preventing me from accepting love when people expressed it. But mostly this sense came from having friends who are incredibly gifted at encouragement and are willing to go out of their way to show they care. My team received baked goods and thank-you notes for dates and for just being ourselves. Through words of encouragement and cards and well-placed questions and gifts and more baked goods I also personally felt really valued, and I am thankful to my friends and to my God for that. These same friends have also challenged me to follow their example and do a better job of appreciating others!
I am far from done processing and applying the things I have learned at OME. I am well into the process of missing the environment, the community, and the people. It has not always been easy at OME, but it has been more than worthwhile.