I never IMAGINED that I could learn so much in a short amount of time. I never imagined that I could grow to love 12 complete strangers in the span of 5 days. That so much could change in less than a week.
But I did, and it happened at Belle Glade Student Week.
Okay so what's Belle Glade Student Week?
Belle Glade Student Week is a week where our (Christ Fellowship) middle and high school students go to the city of Belle Glade for a mission summer camp. Though Belle Glade is in Palm Beach County, one of the richest counties in Florida, it's completely under served and it shows. So for 9 days, middle school (4 days) and high school (5 days) students blanket the city of Belle Glade with various service projects and summer camps to serve the people in that area. We're split into Villages and essentially you stay with your Village for the duration of the trip (shout out to Village 24; #CamoGrindNeverStops). At the end of each day, we all meet together for Tribal wars, dinner, probably the most impactful Worship you'll ever experience and then a "cool down" village meeting to discuss the day and the message from Worship.
I remember when I first joined CF before I was even apart of our Student Ministry, I journaled how I would love to go to Belle Glade and that I probably missed the deadline to apply. Fast forward 3 months later, one of the Student Staff members asked me if I would like to go as a Village Leader, and 5 days later, here we are. To say this trip was amazing would be under cutting everything that Belle Glade truly is. Belle Glade Student Week is more than just a missions trip or a summer camp, Belle Glade is literally a revival. I watched people encounter Christ for the first time, students and leaders recommit themselves back to God. I witnessed student step more into their roles as leaders and even ones who had given up on God, accept Him into their hearts. As much as this trip was designed to serve the students and the city of Belle Glade, it also served us as leaders and I couldn't help but walk away with a few lessons:
Have Short Term Memory
Unfortunately everyone isn't going to follow the rules. It is what it is. Someone is going to do something stupid, because let's face it kids (students) will be kids. But when working with students, you HAVE to have short term memory when it comes to these things. Personally, I had to learn this lesson, quick. I learned that I can not dwell on situations and mistakes that happened last night or even last week. Forgive and literally forget. In environments like Belle Glade where all 5 days are literally jammed packed with stuff to do and you're around the same 14 people all the time, there's no time to fester on a student/or adult not following the rules or doing something that "wasn't right". Trust me, staying mad isn't solving the problem for anybody, especially after a student apologized and corrected the behavior. If nothing else, Belle Glade taught me to love a little harder and to live a little lighter.
I needed this reminder. This should go without saying, but if you're involved in any type of Student/Kid Ministry, have fun. Like legit fun. I couldn't help but notice, the adults (and students) with the scowls on their face were the one who weren't really participating in the activities with the students. Maybe their face is set up that way (I know this is a Christian blog, but RBF is real) or maybe they were having a bad day, but it's like among all these activities, how could you be so upset?! We know it's silly, unorganized and you'll probably look a little silly doing it, but we're literally having forced fun, enjoy yourself!
Last year, I read Shonda Rhime's amazing book: Year of Yes. Ironically, her book Year of Yes, led me to Student Ministry (another story for another time), but in the book, I love how she emphasizes the importance of "play". She talked about how making time for play with her children sparked creativity, relaxation and happiness within her, which ultimately overflowed into her job. I can't help but think how the same concept can be applied with our students. Listen, Student Ministry is fun, a lot of fun, but imagine how much MORE fun Student Ministry would be if we just had fun with the students. Rules are important, but so is play.
Be one of the kids.
Let your hair down, get dirty with them.
Give Students the Opportunity & they WILL change the world
One of the projects that our Village got to do on our last service day was the Micro Dollar Club. We received $50 and 2 hours to do whatever we want in order to bless the people and/or the town of Belle Glade. Together, the students decided to buy 20 chicken sandwiches, 12 packs of toilet paper, 12 tubes of toothpaste, 12 toothbrushes and notes to go into each bag telling the recipient about the love of Jesus Christ. At the end of 2 hours, our students physically blessed 14 people with either the bags or with money and prayed for over 32 people (and those are just the ones that I was able to count). Then at the end, when we were out of money and had a little time to spare, we stopped at Winn-Dixie to bag groceries and load them into the cars. Yes, we as leaders, helped and guided the students through the experience, however they went out on their own. They were praying for people without prompt. These were all their ideas.
I learned that often times, we as adults, just need to get out of the way. We'll never truly know the impact of those little baggies now that we're gone, but I imagine that if we as leaders had interjected our own ideas, maybe we would have missed the mark that day. Maybe we wouldn't have been able to do as much with the little we had. Maybe a student wouldn't have truly been into the experience and mentally checked out. I don't know, but I needed that lesson to just get out of the way. So often we don't give our younger friends enough credit to make an impact. These students are more than equipped and given the opportunity they will change the world.
It was such an honor to go on this trip.
It was definitely the "reset" that I needed.
Granted sleeping conditions weren't ideal and I took more cold showers than I would like to admit, but this trip was so refreshing. Seeing students on fire for God has definitely lit a fire within me that pushes me to want to do more and to be more. There's something special about Belle Glade Student Week and I'm counting down the days where I can do it all again next year.