We’re coming up for air after nearly three weeks with eight fantastic students and one marvelous faculty mentor from Southern Nazarene University. SNU’s SIMS program connects students with opportunities to engage in cultures and missions experiences all over the world. This was our third year to host a team of SIMS students. You can read about our 2016 and 2017 teams here and here.
This team was the biggest we’ve ever hosted, which meant we were squeezing into often unused sleeping spaces and squishing into the cars. It also meant that they brought a ton of energy, talents, and a wide array of personalities with them. Our full schedules and full home were wonderful. We wouldn’t trade the opportunity to be involved in these kinds of experiences for the world!
One big challenge for this team was the fact that they were asked to completely disconnect from internet/phone calls/text messages/etc for the 19 days that they were on the ground. For Americans between the ages of 18 to 22, that feels nearly impossible—like they’re being cut off from the world and everything they know. (Don’t worry, both we and the faculty mentor had access to all kinds of emergency contact info, so they weren’t nearly as disconnected as they felt.)
What they didn’t know, is that it was the best possible thing in the world for them to have the opportunity to completely disconnect from the bombarding messages of social media and constant connectivity with home in order to be fully present with the people right in front of them. They were able to genuinely engage with the person across the table at morning tea, the person at the cash register at the coffee shop, and with each other.
This week, I’ve heard many people connected with our church community comment on what a special team this was. They facilitated lots of super cool activities, but even more important was the intentionality with which they engaged in relationships. The students took time to genuinely listen to people’s stories and build authentic community. The result was a formational experience for everyone involved.
The relationships among team members became deep and significant as well. At our debriefing times, our students shared things like…
“…You’ve become like a family to me…”
“…I had no idea we would become this close…”
“…You’ve accepted me for who I am, and I really don’t feel like that anywhere else…”
They were honest about who they are and where they are on their journeys, and that was a beautiful thing.
Here’s how a few of our SIMS students reflected on their time in New Zealand.
In my time in New Zealand I had a ton of fantastic experiences as I interacted with over twenty different cultures and had the pleasure of meeting locals, refugees, and the Graham Family. In the three weeks I spent in New Zealand, I was able to learn people’s stories and see God moving in many people’s lives. This trip has refreshed my spiritual life and given me a new perspective on the world and most importantly God. The message I can’t wait to take home to my church and family is that God is moving in Crossroads Church of the Nazarene, God is working in Hamilton, God is working in New Zealand, and God is working all over the world in the lives of different people with their own different and unique stories.
I was so excited to come meet the people of Crossroads Church and get to know them during the time we are in New Zealand. I expected to walk away with new names and some funny stories, but God did a lot more than that. I learned about what it means to really be a part of a church community and truly participate in the lives of others. At the same time, I got to meet children of refugees from Somalia, Columbia, and multiple other countries. I have made so many deep connections with the Crossroads family, and I hope I am able to stay in touch and maybe even return to Hamilton one day. God is doing big work in this church, city, and country, and I am so glad I got to see a small part of this at work.
New Zealand was amazing! The air here was so fresh, and it was nice to experience that. The people here are so sweet. I am so glad that we got to know a fair amount of people in Hamilton. It was so neat to see God moving through this country! I hope to come back some day.
When preparing to go to a different country, I was warned of culture shock and how tiring this process can be. While there were differences which I experienced such as different outlets, driving on the left side of the road, and shorter store hours, I was struck by how similar the culture of the church remained. The people of Crossroads were inviting and kind. I never felt like that weird outsider, but rather was adopted into the family. In short, while my brothers and sisters from New Zealand may sound different from my brothers and sisters in America, they are still my family and we are all united through our love for God. This trip has been a huge blessing as it showed me that though other cultures may show love differently, love is always shown, and that is a beautiful thing.
Everyone told me that going on a mission trip would be life changing. Now that we’re at the end, I realized that it was life changing in all the ways that I didn’t expect. After being immersed with over 20 different cultures and with people of all ages, I have learned how to be intentional in my interactions with people who are very different than me. I have loved getting to hear the testimonies and stories of people who are living out the faith over 8,000 miles away from where I live. I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredible people and establish relationships with them through the love of living for Christ.