Each year, our Senior class has the opportunity to go on a service trip in the spring. Students are involved in numerous service and adventure activities and have the opportunity to attend local church services. We asked Senior, Lauren O'Steen, to share some of her reflections from the Senior trip to Belize in this week's blog. Check out her story below!
God works in more ways than anyone could ever imagine. I know it’s a cliché; Christians use this statement to account for all sorts of possibly random instances that “go right” throughout their lives. When I took part in the Senior Service trip to Belize with my class in late February, however, God definitely surprised me in the ways He was able to work in and through me and my classmates, to hopefully have blessed the world.
To be honest, I have been very skeptical of the “service” aspect of the Senior Trip in the past. How can I, a relatively unskilled teenager, really do lasting good for a people who may not even have running water or electric lights? What a country like Belize needs are lawyers to settle land disputes and engineers to build infrastructure, not me getting in the way of a teacher trying to prepare her students for end-of-the-year exams. After struggling with these thoughts for a while, I decided to go on the trip, only prepared to grow closer to my classmates and have unique adventures in a beautiful place, but not really thinking I would be able to make an impact of some kind.
The day we arrived in Belize was the hardest for me. We traveled for more than twelve hours to reach the country (leaving every member of our team exhausted); my luggage had been taken by a stranger at the Belizean airport; and I was very (unreasonably) worried about what I was going to be able to eat. All of these different stresses manifested themselves into an intense feeling of helplessness that I was not able to shake off throughout the day.
That night, we rode in our three battered vans to worship at Unity Presbyterian Church. I was wearing a borrowed, salamander orange dress and was not in the mood to be attending what we were warned would be a long church service, preached in English Creole.
My mood changed the moment the service started at Unity. The worship leader/preacher Ernest, who decisively did not have the voice of an angel, brought to the ravenous congregation upbeat versions of some of my chapel favorites, such as “How Great is Our God,” accompanied only by his guitar and three backup singers. The crowd reacted to his music in a way I had never seen before, dancing and singing with an immense joy that left me absolutely positive that God was in the room, hopefully smiling as wide as I was.
The sermon Ernest shared with us detailed the faith of Job. The message hit me like a truck. Why should I be making the choice to wallow in my relatively insignificant problems when the Belizeans around me, who came from very different lifestyle situations than me, were being so joyful and responding to the message so earnestly. Ernest hugged each of us as we got back into the vans after the service, giving us each his blessing, “I love you, God loves you, you are special.” I made it my mission from this point forward to show God’s love to everyone I met and remind them that they are special.
"I made it my mission to show God's love to everyone I met and remind them that they are special."
While on the Senior Service trip, I learned that I can sense God’s presence most in situations that leave me with a feeling of overwhelming joy. One morning, we met with preschoolers in Cayo, singing songs and putting on a skit before joining them on the playground. At the seesaw, I met a energetic little boy with a gold chain named Carlito. He had an arm full of the toys we had brought and wanted to play. He loved to talk, and I grew to realize that Carlito had so much information stored in his brain that he wanted to let out, telling me why some toys can float and others cannot and the name of every single flower growing on the preschool grounds. Calling me only “friend,” he loved that I paid attention to what he had to say, just wanting show me everything he could including the chairs, steps, and water jug. The light in his eyes and the joy it brought me was amazing. Looking back, it’s ironic that in this situation where I did not mention God once, I was able to feel His presence the most out of any other time in Belize.
The Senior Service trip was a blessing to me personally, one that I hope everyone reading this has an opportunity to take at some point in their lifetimes. Reminders of God’s light were everywhere to me, for example, in the eyes of a Standard Four student in Orange Walk when the concept of ratios just “clicked” to him for the first time and the pride that Carlito showed when (with a little assistance) he was able to count all the way to 100. In Belize, I grew to realize that for a trip to “count” as a missions trip, one does not have to build a house or school, but simply want to spend time and show love to others around the world. While I do not feel as though I changed the world while on the trip (or even the country of Belize for that matter), God was still able to work through me to listen to people whose opinions are normally brushed aside and show them that there is a bigger world that they have a place in and, as Ernest would say, that “I love them, God loves them, and they are special.”
At WCCS, we believe that God has uniquely called every one of us to serve – and has given each of us different passions for areas of service. Our students are given the opportunity to serve in a variety of areas from our youngest at the lower school to our graduating seniors at the upper school so that each one can begin to determine how God is specifically calling him or her. We want each student to discover gifts and talents that will allow them to bless our world as disciples of Jesus Christ.
One of the ways that we strive to help each student identify his or her individual calling is through the experience of job shadowing. Shadowing can help students explore career paths that they might be curious about and help them determine whether or not God is calling them towards a particular field of study as they embark on life after WCCS. This past week, our seniors were given the opportunity to shadow a range of individuals in the workplace in various ministries and professions in and around Rock Hill. Some were even current WCCS parents and alumni! Some of the careers our seniors are exploring include nursing, law enforcement, physical therapy, engineering, graphic design, mission work, education, construction management, computer science and fashion merchandising, just to name a few! Many of them came away from the experience with a more clear picture of the direction God has on their life.
Here is what a few of them had to say about the experience:
“I job shadowed at JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Service, a ministry in Waxhaw, NC that makes Bible translation and language development possible). It increased my desire to be a missionary. Many people in this world do not have a Bible in their heart language or native tongue. JAARS tries to make that happen. An interesting experience I had while job shadowing was that I got to ride in a missionary plane. I got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat and wear a head set. The pilot told me not to push any buttons or mess with the steering wheel. It was the best experience! I hope I can bless this world as a missionary, leading people to Jesus and helping them [discover] their own call in life.” – Anna Hutcheson
“I shadowed Product Launch Advisors, LLC with [WCCS parent] Richard Gregory. I feel like God wants me to do mechanical engineering to create or improve technology that can help better people’s lives. One “take away” from this opportunity that I never want to forget is that engineering isn’t just about being smart, but rather working hard. I hope this experience drives me to improve on myself and my work, constantly getting better and better and leading people to Jesus.” – Connor Oedewaldt
“I job shadowed at Westminster Towers with Heather Brady. I believe God is calling me to be a nurse, specifically towards pediatrics. I have always loved kids and loved helping people. I would hope to bless the world in my profession by showing the love of Christ to all my patients and spreading the Gospel. While job shadowing, I saw firsthand the patience and love nurses have in their hearts for their patients. The nurse I shadowed was in charge of giving all of her patients their medicine for the day. She knew her patients very well and knew exactly what to say to convince them to take their medicine. I thought it was awesome that she adapted to each person and will definitely remember that in the future. One thing I will take away from this experience is to always have patience and show them God’s love. I hope my Christian worldview will impact my career in the way that I treat people and that they will see Christ in me every day.” – Kara Hill
“I job shadowed at Imaginovation (a web development and design company) and would like to work in cybersecurity, working on better ways to keep people safe. [Through this experience] I learned that a lot of people in the computer science field are absolute nerds and they are very fun to work with. It made me want to serve in that field! [I also learned] that Spanish is a valuable tool to have when looking for a job. I hope my Christian worldview will lead me to a job where I can work in something I love and be a blessing and example to my coworkers.” – Gerald Wheaton
As we have students actively seeking God’s call on their lives, will you join us in prayer not only for our seniors, but for each WCCS student – that they will begin recognizing at an early age that God has a unique purpose for each and every one of them…not just in the college, careers, or spouse that they might choose, but in their day to day activities. We pray that they will spend time in His Word, learn to recognize his voice above the world’s, and look around them to discover how He is specifically calling them to reach out to others in the name of Jesus Christ.