This post was written by Jill Turley, a member of our Czech 2014 mission trip. This is her story.
You know that moment in a lot of romantic comedies where two complete strangers happen to literally run into each other for no reason other than the plot calls for it and these two strangers end up falling completely in love with each other and become more important than life itself? When you see it as a viewer, it’s really corny, completely cliché, you absolutely see it coming, but if the movie’s good enough, you don’t even care and you find it really beautiful? That’s my faith.
When I first heard about the trip to Czech and was considering going, it didn’t really seem like that big or hard of a decision. I’d been out of the country before, and I’d been on missions trips before (a very different kind, but missions nonetheless). My biggest concerns were: would the job I was applying for at the same time interfere with the trip, would I be able to eat the food, and would my parents go for the idea of going to a random country with a guy I’d known for 6 months (I’m very much an adult, but seeing as I still live in their home, they do have some say in the matter). Well, I didn’t even complete the job application, I was confident in my ability to eat new foods when I know I have to, and after a little convincing my parents were on board too. At that point, I was genuinely happy that I would get to go on this trip, but I didn’t really feel the excitement that other people did, and I didn’t fully comprehend the impact the trip would make on my life. Now that I’m a week into being home, I realized, like a rom com character, how naïve I was. When we first arrived I felt completely like a fish out of water. I was in a strange country, with a strange language, with all these people that I was just trying to remember names, I couldn’t understand signs or even the currency we were using, I had gone over 30 hours without any real sleep, and I was just overwhelmed and tired. I didn’t entirely know what to say because I didn’t know how much each person could understand. I didn’t know how to start a conversation with someone from halfway across the world that I just met. I didn’t know all these things, and yet I was supposed to be some sort of spiritual inspiration in these people’s lives? Looking back, I know I had an impact. I know because a room of 30+ people raised their hands to say that our team made a difference to them in some way, and I know that statistically I had to have contributed to those hands. I know because I prayed with people and felt something within me, as I know they did too. I know because I felt strong walking around completely exposed in a circle of people talking about insecurities and pointing out my own, and that shouldn’t be possible. I know because, through Christ, talking about my life and the lives of others and having faith during the hardest of times, I made almost everyone in a room of 59 people cry and feel something strong and moving. I didn’t make an impact because I knew the language or had this deep spiritual wisdom that no one else I encountered in Czech had. I made an impact simply because I was myself. I talked and prayed with and got to know the people I would anywhere else: the people I could relate to. The teenage girls that I could understand because I was in their shoes a short time ago. The young women my age that if we went to the same college, I know for a fact that we would be friends. The women frustrated at their families (particularly some men) for not embracing faith and God the way these women feel that their families should. The ones searching for reason for all the messed up stuff going on in their lives. The ones that don’t feel like they’re worth it for insert inaccurate reasoning here. The guys that were easy to talk to and you just want to have fun and interesting conversations with. I know that I probably didn’t greatly affect any men in their 30’s, and that’s alright, because that’s not who God called me there to impact. I didn’t expect to make that many friends when we arrived in Czech. Even throughout the trip, I didn’t think I would have that many people I really held close to me. There were moments throughout the trip when I had seen a lot of people tearing up at the thought of leaving. I had remained oddly calm at these times (especially because the best thing that tends to make me cry is seeing people I care about crying) for the majority of the trip. It wasn’t until our very last night in Prague, mere hours before we needed to wake up at an unholy hour in the morning and make our way to the airport and start our journey home. We said our last goodbye to our last friend we had made in the country, and it finally hit me: all these wonderful people that were doing amazing things were gone. At the very least, the next time I would get to see any of them in person would be in a year’s time. That’s if I even got to go again next year. The teams are small, there might be people who haven’t gone at all that get to go instead of me, I might have a job that won’t allow me to take the time off. The possibility of not getting to see these people in person again absolutely terrified me. I more than teared up, I full on started weeping (much to the concern of my poor teammate/roommate who was trying to sleep like a normal person). I normally don’t completely miss people, it’s one of my character flaws. I’m sitting here REALLY missing my Czech friends right now. Now while the idea that I might not get to see them in person again still scares me, I know that that’s not going to stop me from making an impact on them, and them making an impact on me. I have dozens of new Facebook friends that I get some sort of message from every other day. I have every intention of staying in touch, and doing whatever I can to be able to go back. Even though there’s a lot that we don’t have in common, there’s a lot that we do, our faith being the biggest thing. We all run to God in our times of need and our times of rejoicing (not all the time but we all make the effort) and that’s an amazing and beautiful thing to share. We were all brought together to support each other, to open up to one another, to trust that a complete stranger can become a great friend, to love each other. Like a rom com cliché, Czech and I ran into each other out of nowhere and formed a bond that can’t be broken. And to me, that’s the most beautiful way it could have happened.