As most of you know, I took two amazing weeks this summer and went on a trip to Serbia. I have always loved to travel, experience new cultures, and most importantly, share Christ's love with those around me; so, when this opportunity came my way I couldn't refuse it. Some may say I'm crazy for getting on a plane with people I've never met before and flying across the globe to a country I've never heard of, but it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I wouldn't take it back for anything. While we were in Serbia, we helped lead a week-long English camp with Josiah Venture. While there, we help students improve their conversational English skills, encourage them, and teach them stories from the Bible. So, I want to jump right into what made my two weeks in Serbia so amazing!
I want to start by giving you some insight into Serbian culture. Even though I understand very little of the culture, this is what I learned in the two weeks I was there. To set the climate, we have to keep in mind that Serbia is a shame and honor culture. This means if I were to do something that put me to shame, there would be a large threat of ostracism and my past mistakes being emphasized over victories. The level of encouragement students hear over the week at camp is not the norm. It was incredible to see them open up as we encouraged them in their strengths as opposed to pointing out their flaws. I had several students tell me they weren't looking forward to going back to school because the environment is so negative and discouraging. For many of these students, camp is a break from the negativity.
I want to share one story that is so special to me and continues to touch my heart as I think back to it. The second night of camp we were in our discussion groups. Galé had shared a touching story from the Bible of how Jesus loves us like the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one. I was hopeful that this would touch my student's hearts and we would have a meaningful conversation. To make them more comfortable, the discussion groups were in Serbian. Even though I didn't know what was being said, I could tell it was good. Afterward, I pulled one of the students aside and asked him what happened. He shared with me that last year he came to camp with a heavy burden. He felt empty. Like something was missing. That something was Jesus. When he realized this, he decided he wanted Jesus to take that burden and emptiness he was feeling. He asked Him to be the Lord of his life, and immediately he felt joy. He felt like that burden was lifted and that void was filled! He had shared this with the group and I was so proud of him. He told me he was so excited for the upcoming week at camp because he wanted to know how to become closer to God and continue to feel that excitement and joy He gives.
What this amazing young man shared is something every Christian experiences. You accept the gift Christ has given to you and you're excited to share it with others, but that excitement begins to fade. I'm asking God in prayer that He would bless this young man for sharing and renew his joy. I'm praying the same for myself. I'm praying I would never forget how exciting it is to be a child of God!