A Crazy Summer
I think its safe to that my summer is off to a crazy, but amazing, start. On June 27 I left for Estonia with 10 wonderful people (7 high school students and 3 leaders) to lead a three-week mission trip. We arrived early Sunday morning (just after midnight) and caught a few hours of sleep before heading to church and then camp. Camp ran Sunday-Friday and our team’s responsibilites included being cabin counselors and teaching a lesson on Thursday morning. This was an intereseting experience as the campers ranged in age from 8 up to over 18. Everything also had to be translated – twice – as most campers spoke either Russian or Estonian. We relied primarily on a mostly silent skit and an object lesson to make our point about being strong and courageous as we follow God’s law (Joshua 1:7-8). Throughout the week it was incredible to watch the way our team connected with the locals and excelled at all of their responsibilites, despite the fact that many of them had either very little camp experience or none at all.
The day after camp we took a day trip out to Rakvere, home of an authentic 14th century castle. Being in a castle that old was amazing in its own right, but there were also people dressed up in authentic costume, swords to play with, walls to climb, and a torture chamber to tour, making our afternoon a very complete and enjoyable experience. The next day after church we had the opportunity to see part of the Tallinn Song Festival. This event only happens once every five years and is an important part of Estonia’s identity and culture. Prior to our trip we had watched The Singing Revolution, a documentary which outlines the important role this festival played in helping Estonia regain its independence from the Soviet Union. The event was absolutely packed with people and we couldn’t find anywhere to sit with a decent view, which meant that it wasn’t quite as enjoyable an experience as many of us had hoped, although I think we all agreed that we were glad we went because of its cultural significance.
Our second week in Estonia was spent in the capital city, Tallinn. We were part of what they called “City Camp,” which is similar to what we would call VBS. In the afternoons we would play games, sing songs, make crafts, and learn a Bible lesson with kids and teens up to about age 14. Our main involvment was in the evenings, when the teens and young adults would come. Our team was responsible for leading games, and the program also included some great singing times and discussions around our lessons, which continued on the theme from camp – Be Strong and Courageous. Many of the youth had been at camp the week before so we had the opportunity to continue to build relationships with them and talk with them about faith issues. There was a very real sense of community, and many of the youth would join us for supper and other activites long after the program had officially ended. On Thursday night one of the students from our church was baptized in the Baltic Sea – a very exciting way to top off a great week. Three Jr. High students from our church had also been baptized back in Calgary earlier in the week and many of us were having deep conversations about God with some of the Estonian teens. It was one of those moments where it becomes easier than normal to see how God is working in our world.
On July 12 we returned to Calgary amidst many difficult goodbyes. It was hard to part with the people we had met in Estonia, as well as the other members of our team who had been our constant companions for the past two weeks. A long and tiring flight back to Calgary did not mean rest, however, as we arrived back in Calgary at 8pm on Saturday and by 1pm on Sunday I was back on the road headed to Pine Lake for a week at Jr. High Camp. Eight students from my church joined about 50 other campers for a fantastic week. It was hot, and the lake was closed due to blue-green algae, but water fights and slip n slides allowed us to cope as we built relationships and talked about what it means to be a follower, not just a fan, of Jesus. I always love camp, but this week was especially significant for me as it was my first time being at camp as a youth pastor. It was good to know that the conversations and experiences I shared with my youth kids wouldn’t have to be put on hold until next summer.
This blog post is drawing to an end, but my busy schedule is not. Next week our church is hosting a VBS where we are expecting over 100 kids. It will be another tiring week I’m sure, but also another opportunity for God to shine his light.
Tallinn Song Festival #
Tallinn Old Town #
The Baltic Sea & a Baptism #
One last note – if you want to learn more about what we did on our trip, one of the students wrote a blog post every day about his experiences. These are part of a larger blog about a trip he is taking with his family, but the earliest posts give a well written summary of the trip from the point of view of a high school student. See phloatingaround.wordpress.com