Saturday, July 23, 2016

Processing and Reflecting

a view up in the Alps
16th century castle ruin near the camp
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Reutte and go see our interns. Reutte is in Tirol, which is in the bone part of the "chicken wing" of Austria. It is also in the Alps. It was an trip filled with extreme beauty as I took the long bus ride through the small villages and town. It is also the kind of place where you take a picture, look down and realize that it just doesn't capture what you are seeing. 

As much as I did get to see a few things, my primary focus was not to ride through the mountains. My main focus while there was to check in with our interns on the second leg of their journey in Austria. The first half of their time here is encapsulated by this post here.


view from the ruins
So I set off to spend the weekend there and connect with our interns. It was a great time of encouragement and seeing the work that God is doing among the students at camp. I got to do both a large group debrief with all of our interns at once as well as one-on-one times to check in with each individual intern. Through all these conversations a few key themes rose to the top. As I have processed through these ideas, I realize how important they are, not just for short term camp ministry, but also as general life principles. In my next few posts, I hope to discuss some of these ideas and draw out some of these connections.

There is a climbing section
in the grocery store
As I talked to our interns, one topic that came up over and over again was expectations. The more time I spend in cross-cultural ministry, the more I see how our expectations of a situation shape how we experience it. In our missions training, we talked often about how difficulty can be compounded based on our expectations of a given situation. When we walk into a situation expecting it to be different, expecting it to be challenging, expecting a curve ball, we often are not surprised when things don't go smoothly. But if we expect things to flow smoothly, it hurts all the more when we have to adapt and change. In this way, it is like a rubber band around our waist. The farther apart our expectations and reality are, the more the "snap" hurts.

One of the major challenges to this is it is often a backwards looking thing. We don't often get to know or understand that our expectations for a situation are violated until after we feel the snap. *So often that emotional difficulty is a signal to us that our beliefs or expectations have been violated. But if we just focus on the the experiential side of it (what happened and how does that make us feel) - we can miss the chance to explore our beliefs and expectations. We miss the chance to see what is usually unconscious and learn more about ourselves.

This applied in so many ways to the interns. They were navigating cross-cultural relationships with campers, staffers, and even with co-counselors from different regions of the US. They had so many opportunities to evaluate their expectations of relationships and situations. Everyone that has worked at camp knows how intense it is working together closely with people from all different backgrounds. If we had given our interns a pad of paper and a pen before they left for camp, they probably would not have been able to list the expectations that they are now processing through. 

In my next few blog posts, I'll explore other factors and topics from our debrief time with the interns and how they shape cross-cultural experiences.
*I first heard this taught at a college group at Friendship Church in 2006 or so. I have tried to track down a book or teacher to attribute this to, but to no avail. If this sounds familiar, I'd love to know what book this comes from.