“Incredible and life-changing”. So said Victoria and Sarah when I talked to them recently to get some reflections from their trip to the Middle East.
Whilst they went ostensibly to run activities for children in a refugee camp, the inevitability was that they were impacted themselves. This is why Square Pegs Coaching encourages, inspires and occasionally sponsors young people to go on life-changing adventures.
They were working with young people from a foster home and also in the refugee camp. They talked of some of the sights and sounds, with their accompanying emotions:
- children only eating half of their food and then squirreling away the remainder for their absent siblings or parents
- a hard-core little boy posing and posturing, whilst wearing an obviously-female denim jacket, since that was the one suit of clothes he owned
- once-wealthy kids and adults (there was talk of mansions plural in their homeland) who now had nothing of a material nature but yet showed resilience and an ability to cope, coupled with a chunk of joy
- a teenager with no known name but a very visibly odd-shaped head, from where his parents had tried to kill him.
It was easily apparent that the general plight and position of the people, along with their resilience in dealing with such, had greatly impacted the girls.
I asked what had helped with the hard bits and almost in unison they name-checked each other; two teenagers who had met only a year previously and were now finding the strength they needed from one another – a real testament to the friendship they have formed in a very real, non-virtual way. Once again real interaction trumps social media.
So what has changed for them in the future? Both are able to look back over the previous few years and see how far their journey has already brought them, but I challenged them as to how this trip will impact them, as the memories fade into the future.
Victoria had never been away from home for more than a week prior to this trip but is now moving down south. She plans to continue being an ambassador for the people and the region, inspiring others with tales from beyond the news headlines. She had also thought to go back to the Middle East next year but that has been overtaken by a move to Birmingham for a year-long training programme; still a cross-cultural adventure but a little closer to home.
Sarah said she was certainly interested in returning if the chance arose but will not force it, maybe with one eye on the impending start of an International Relations degree. Whilst that choice was made prior to this summer, this trip has brought a new relevance to what she will learn. She wants to impact people with her life, but is now realising that beyond her studies she will have the capacity to affect whole tribes.
They both wear their values on their sleeves – they talked of a country coping and waiting and they have an eagerness to be part of a solution to the problem; one that is suddenly more apparent and urgent for them. You can almost touch their desire for the removal of kids’ hopelessness; you can sense that they want to have a wide impact as they live their futures. The question arose in our discussion, “What can I do (to make a difference)” but there is no hint of hand-wringing despair. Instead, these two are looking to find answers and, I have no doubt, will enact solutions.
We met at Soul Survivor, a Christian youth festival, where two years previously Sarah had experienced healing from debilitating illness. Being sick bred a resilience in her that is now being exercised as she revels in restoration, making the most of the opportunities presented. She said, “God is still working on me”, with an expectancy that there is more to come.
I agreed when the girls said that they have (re)learned to never under-estimate the power of prayer and I was reminded of the great evangelist, DL Moody, who reputedly said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him.” I am tempted to substitute ‘two girls’ for ‘a man’. We should not under-estimate the power of two committed teenagers with a desire to change the world. Watch this space!