Today is our last full day at camp and everything inside of me is breathing a massive sign of relief. But there is a small section of me that wishes we had just one more day with these kids. The photography kids have literally just started opening up with us and connecting. There’s the same couple of boys that came with their own cameras and one of them was Nikon. He asked me to come with him to see the spider web he had found for the macro class and wanted to shoot it with me. I brought my macro lens and let him use it to try it out. He also used my professional lens and was so excited to see the difference in the color and clarity between his lens and the ones that I used. I need to ask him his name again.
There’s one who’s name is Darius and he looks like a guy from the first Hunger Games. He’s the sweetest boy about thirteen. I am so shocked with how loving the boys in this culture are to each other and adults. They pretty much ignore the girls but they love on each other more than any culture I have every seen. I wish the kids in the US were like this.
I also really like a boy named Michael. He’s very sweet and knows quite a bit of English. He learned from video games. There’s a girl I need to ask her name as well and she really loves photography and getting to learn different techniques and the rules of photography. Today, I taught macro with Aria and it was probably the most receptive the kids had been. I think it had a lot to do with the personality tests we did the last few days. I feel like we should have started with that to get them warmed up to us. They were very distant and struggled to even want to be with us the first few days. We also had Seth do a question and answer thing and the kids wrote down all kinds of questions about God, Jesus, demons and prayer. They asked a lot of questions about Seth personally as well but mainly the revolved around spiritual things. They seemed to really like that as well.
This whole experience of camp has shown me many areas in my personal life that I need to work on. I see these young people that I came with on this trip and they are teaching me, someone ten years older than them, so many things. I see the way they love and interact with each other and me and I am shocked at their moral character and strength together. We are a team and so often, I feel like I am the weakest link letting them down. They assure me that this isn’t the case, but I know it is. On the hike up the mountain to the BBQ while we were in Romos, I realized it very clearly that it was me. On a spiritual plane, a physical one and a mental one. Before I came here I felt very confident that I knew I was strong in mind and faith and very good at connecting with others. God has gifted me with feeling things about people and how to connect with them instantly. He blocked that for nearly every single person since I’ve been here. And it actually hurt me very deeply that He would do that. I’ve never felt so alone in all my life. Haley said that He probably did that to level the playing ground with everyone else. Which may be true, but it hurt and I was struggling with feeling betrayed by God, even knowing that He is good all the time and has a deep purpose and plan for everything he does. I felt an instant connection to Jessica and the old woman in Geaugiu but that has really been it and it’s been insanely hard. I thrive on those deep connections with people and having to work for them has been mental and emotionally exhausting. I have committed to spending time with each of the people here on a one-on-one level, even for just a few minutes, to talk with them and get to know them much better before we leave in twelve days.
I am so surprised to see so many areas that I need to work on. I never expected that to be a side effect of this mission trip. Not ever. I do put up walls so that people only see what I want them to see. I want to work on being more transparent and making sure that the person they see inside glorifies God well.
Currently, most of the camp is out on a hike. I chose to stay back. My feet have been swelling immensely and are causing lots of pain for me. We have a full weekend of walking and long car rides, which causes me to swell more. Compression socks and essential oils aren’t really helping so I need to try and stay off my feet as much as possible before we leave. I have repacked my suitcase for the third time on this trip and I have three more times to do the same thing. It’s actually been really fun changing locations this many times. Usually, I hate that because I like a familiar routine but this has been really great. I am ready to roll out tomorrow but saying good bye to these kids we have spent nearly every waking moment with for the last week will be really hard. I am not ready for the tears but I am ready for the next leg of our adventure.
I think my favorite person on this team is Seth. He’s hard to figure out but he can draw you in immediately. He’s mysterious and creative and absolutely hilarious. I really love his stories and his ability to be very honest on who he is. He connects well to the kids in every place we’ve been and I really love that he comes down to their level without changing who he is. I love taking photos of him and you see him in many of my images. He has a way of showing his love for those around him without trying or losing his masculinity in the process. He’s who he really is all the time and the team and the kids respond very well to it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as brutally honest about himself and willing to accept it as Seth.
Also, Emily. She’s the very picture of a quiet and gentle spirit. I admire her so much and I am shocked at all the qualities that every person on this team brings to the table. We are all so different and all love God. I am in awe of how He is using everyone here. I don’t feel like I am being used very well because I am getting in the way of His work. This week, especially. I feel like an absolute failure. But I trust that He is working through me no matter what. I find it so bizarre that Aria says she closes off her heart to almost everyone but she can compassionately teach something to draw the kids out of their shells. She’s quite remarkable.
Another sweet person is Hallie. She's a teenager too and so quiet and sweet. I really love being with her and seeing her face light up when we start chatting about something.
Tomorrow we leave camp to head into civilization and I am so excited. We will say goodbye to this set of kids to head down the mountain. We will be heading to castles all weekend before getting to a new missionary’s home and staying there for our remaining time. Camp is exhausting and I am very ready for some relaxation time and being able to sleep in without a schedule to keep and people to teach. I am looking forward to taking pictures of new things instead of the same program every day.
When everyone got back from their hike, we gathered everyone up and had a water fight. It was truly, truly glorious watching the kids splash in the river and the creek.
We had a bonfire with Romanian s'mores and the kids waited in line for a long time for theirs.