Monday, January 30, 2012

Lessons learned

So, as I transition my life and my blog into new things, I want to end the "One Year Challenge" with an article I wrote for a church website. This article features things to consider when doing the One Year Challenge.  My year doing this and living in South Africa has truly been life changing; filled with unimaginable adventures, fantastic sights, trying times, and wonderful friendships. And even though the points in the article were written specifically for the One Year Challenge, I think that a lot of them apply to just plain life. I hope you get the opportunity to go on an adventure like this, or just look at your life with the same adventurous spirit. :)

Myself and An, my fellow intern, with children in Soweto.

After much deliberation and prayer, An and I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, almost a year ago, for the One Year Challenge. We were both wide-eyed and excited, but also clueless as to what to expect both from a new country and the full time ministry. After a year of lessons and adventures, we are now just weeks away from heading back to the States, and have just a few insights for those of you considering or heading off to a do a one year challenge. 

1.       It’s a year. – As the title implies, the One Year challenge is a YEAR. Not a spring break, not a summer internship. Really think through if you are ready and willing to commit to a new country/city, a new campus, a new church for a year – to give your heart and build family.   

2.       Be ready to get out of your comfort zone. – Especially if you are doing your year in another country, things will be DIFFERENT. That doesn’t mean bad, just different. Be flexible. Be ready to try new things, talk to new people, and adapt to where you (especially to your campus).

3.       Be humble. – As Christians, this is an on-going lesson. But if you are going to move somewhere new to serve God and be trained for a year, be humble. Let God and the people he puts in your life teach you and mold you. The one year challenge will change you and your life if you let it.

4.       Make friends. – This may seem like a stupid point, but when you don’t know anyone and you’re driving on the other side of the road and eating foods you’ve never seen, you may be tempted to crawl into a cave and hide for a little bit. Don’t! Force yourself to make friends and give your heart. Jesus tells us in Mark 10 that “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields” for him and the gospel, “will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields)” and in the one to come. So, don’t hold yourself back.

5.       Find a hobby. – You’re somewhere for a year. That’s enough time to really make a life for yourself. An and I quickly learned that we needed something fun that we each enjoyed doing, to help us feel like we had our own lives in our new country. For An, this has been rugby; for me, joining the gym. Both of us have loved having something that we do each week, and it’s a great opportunity to reach out to more people.

6.       This isn’t your campus ministry. – No matter where you went to school, or how big or small your ministry is/was, you are no longer on the same campus. Do not expect things to work the same, especially in another country.  An and I have had to be willing to learn from trial and error, as well as, adapt to the culture here. Again, come humble and ready to learn.

7.       It’s an adventure, so embrace the details.  – You’re in a new place – enjoy it! Whether it’s a whole new country or just a new city, there are things to explore, foods to try, languages to learn, and places to see. Love it! An and I both learned how to drive on the left side of the road; we’ve eaten ox jaw; we’ve swum in the Indian Ocean; and we’ve held lion cubs. And it has been a blast! God is not only blessing you with the opportunity to serve him, but the opportunity to see his creation in a new way and go on an adventure.

8.       Pray, pray, pray. – Both in making the decision to do the one year challenge, and while you’re there. Prayer is arguably one of the most important things we can do to keep ourselves faithful, as well as, those who we’re helping get to heaven. Don’t underestimate the power of it and how often you can do it. Especially in new life experiences, like the one year challenge, you’ll need prayer like never before.

9.       It’s only a year. – I know we said this before, but there’s another way to look at this. It is JUST one year. It really is a blink of an eye. It will go by so quickly, especially if you just let God use you in whatever ways he has planned. If you are worried about finding a “real” job and starting a career or finding mister or missus right, and are afraid that this one year will put a dent in that, don’t worry – God is far greater than one year. He has amazing plans and who knows what doors He will open through your year of service.

10.   You’re doing it to serve GOD. – No matter what happens in your year – whether you love it or…not so much; whether you get to go on incredible adventures or just stay in your town - it is all for the glory of God. And whether you think you “know enough” or not, or if you wonder if God can even use you – God will use you. That is why An and I made the decision to move to South Africa. Don’t lose sight that you are wherever you are, to serve God and help spread the incredible news of salvation!

One part of the adventure.

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