10th of April 2019: we were finally here, sitting on the plane eagerly awaiting the adventure to come. This was my first experience of mission, we were going to Romania to serve the community out there, and try and do whatever we could to help. For many of us this would've been weeks maybe months of waiting, but for me it felt like years. Ever since I had heard about the opportunity of this trip five years ago, I had been set on the fact that I would be able to go one day.
It all really started about a year and a half ago, it was year 9 for me, 1st term. We had been set the challenge of fundraising for the year 10's to go on the same mission trip I went on only a few days ago. We each had to raise £100 to pay for food and transportation and we all met our target as did all of the year above. We were the support team. We were the ones who stayed back and prayed, and raised awareness you might say. That was a humbling experience because it made you realise that this was nothing about you but all about others. But I still couldn't shake off the excitement and prospect of that being me one day.
We then arrived at the start of year 10, 1st term. We were again set the challenge of fundraising, but this year knowing we had a possibility of actually going ourselves. At some point during that term, anybody who wanted to go had the opportunity to apply and go through interview stages. I had my interview with two of the wonderful women who took us on the trip, they asked us questions such as:
Why do you want to come on this trip?
What do you think you could bring to the team?
I answered all the questions to the best of my ability, I told them that I have had a lot of experience working with kids in the past and I love working with them, and hoped for the best.
A few weeks later, I heard that I had been selected to go! I couldn’t be happier! t. School was busy at that point and I didn't really process that I was going until I was sitting on that plane, until everything was really about to begin.
There were 10 from my year, some of my best friends which made the trip all the more fun, along with the 4 adult leaders. We were going to be staying with a lady called Irene who works for the ACA (Aurora Christian Association) and working with her. The focus of the trip, I'd say was working with and encouraging children in various settings. I visited the kindergarten twice, where we did activities, and sketches and just played with the children, it was best thing to see the pure joy on their faces.
We also ran a two day holiday club for 6 to 11-year-olds. There were probably five different groups and most had a mix of English and Romanian leaders. The teams were split up into age groups and I was put with the five and six-year-olds team. We rotated as groups around a games session, crafts and a Bible study. On day one the Romanian youth led the Bible study but on the second day we had to lead it. Everything we said had to be translated in to Romanian! This was quite a challenge! And of course the attention span of young children, as you probably know, isn't that big! But the children were just so affectionate, and they wanted to be your friend ... it was really lovely.
We all also visited either the gypsy village or Gypsy Street. I think it's fair to say that we all learnt a lot from these visits and it was a very eye-opening experience. We simply visited a few families, chatted to them and gave them gifts. It was a beautiful mess really, beautiful people surrounded by some not so beautiful things, it was very humbling, upsetting, but also hope filled, the attitudes of these people was very inspiring.
At the weekend we also visited the two churches in the village. On Saturday night was the visit to the Pentecostal church, and on Sunday morning the visit to the Baptist Church. They were both very different, I enjoyed both, but I think my favourite was the Baptist church, it was so warm and friendly ...
Preparation for the activities filled much of the other time. As well as that, I think a lot of life skills were learnt by us year 10s too! We had cleaning to do, and cooking. We were on a rota to make sure the house where we were staying was always in good condition so that took a fair amount of time too.
My biggest takeaway from the whole week was just a sense of unity. God spoke to me in various different situations about how important this was. The first time I noticed this fact was when we were praying and worshipping with the youth. We sang in two different languages, prayed in two different languages, we had so many differences yet often the one thing that we had in common was the most important of them all. I looked around to see everyone so deeply in worship praising our Lord and I instantly knew that this was the reason we were all here. Jesus has this most incredible tool of breaking down boundaries and we have the opportunity to do the same through him.
He was the one thing we all had in common,I later thought that if I was meeting this group of people in any other situation, I don't think we would've connected at all, let alone on the same level! It was sort of like this unspoken comfort we all had, knowing Jesus, knowing we were working for the same thing, it created a connection that couldn't really be imitated. I wasn't close with many of the youth but somehow that didn't really matter, we were all there because of something much bigger than ourselves.
The second time was at the Baptist church on Saturday evening. The word was given by the youth pastor who we had met on Thursday night at the youth meeting. He talked about the Body of Christ working together and unity despite differences, I again felt God nudging me to remember this fact.
This unity tied us all together throughout the week. I strongly believe that was the thing that made the whole mission trip such a success. I got this picture of us all sitting at Jesus feet like the little children listening to him in the Bible. As we all sat around in this circle we had to talk to each other and as we did, so Jesus was at the centre of it all, exactly how it should be, and exactly as it was.
This unity spread not just through us and the youth but also the children and adults we met. The children who came to the holiday club just had such an affection for us and just really wanted to be our friends. It was just lovely to be totally honest. I made friends with a few of the little ones in my group, as did others. It was a beautiful thing to see us all united under the name of our God, hopefully passing on this beautiful, light and life - filled gospel to our younger brothers and sisters.
Jesus was the rope we all held onto, meaning, we all held onto the same rope. This made all the difference.
One final thing I learnt which I'll mention is how incredibly blessed I am. I always knew this fact but I've come back with a deeper realisation of what this means. One day when I visited the 'Gypsy Street', I met three different women, all who have different stories to tell, different situations, different families, different homes. One woman said something I don't think I'll ever forget. She said, "since I've met the Lord I am grateful for anything that comes my way." I was sat in her lounge which was also her dining room and her kitchen and looked at how little she had compared to me. She was so happy, so joyful. I thought I must remember to be a little more like her.
All in all the trip was joyful. It was fun, yet inspiring and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.