Have you ever pictured yourself: in faraway places, meeting new people, trying new words, or sampling unique foods? Thoughts of the adventures ahead were certainly in the minds of seven from RiverLakes as they boarded the plane to Quito, Ecuador Summer 2017.
Traveling with International Schools Project (ISP), a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, the team's go to train school teachers in a curriculum that presents the foundation of Christian morals and ethics. The role of small group facilitators is a link between the main speakers and teachers. This gives the teachers hands-on, practical ways to help their students internalize the curriculum’s concepts.
When asked what her trip to Ecuador showed her, veteran ISP team member, Sue Whitmore shared, “What is most amazing and draws me every year is to see the team come together and become flexible in watching the Lord maneuver and do what we don’t expect. I am somebody who likes my ducks all in a row. I like things to be just so.” However, as you might imagine not everything goes “just so.” Logistics alone create some bumps when you are maneuvering 400 teachers, 38 small group facilitators and their interpreters in facilities you are unfamiliar with, language and cultural barriers. Yet the conference goes on and the details come together. Flexibility and trusting God with the details is so important. Many reasons to have a wealth of prayer support for each team member and for those who would be interpreting each speaker and small group leader’s words.
Interpreters are vital to the success of each conference. Donna Dungan was excited when she was assigned the same interpreter from the 2016 conference in Quito. With joy she noted, “We had a great reunion.” She said, “It was a gift from the Lord to hear that her friend was using the curriculum and had even included additional application of Scripture. Her spiritual, educational, and professional growth was evidence that God has been working in her life.” A true gift. God is working behind the scenes and beyond the team’s brief time in each country. This is a picture of the ISP trip’s purpose as stated by team leader and speaker for the elementary track, Cheryl Levey, “The purpose is getting the Biblical World View teaching that’s in the curriculum into the hearts of the teachers so they can get it into the hearts of their students. Then you can begin to change a culture of a country.”
Carol Feil saw God help her adjust expectations on the go. Communicating across language barriers isn’t always about words. It is a smile, an understanding look, even as she waited to hear from the interpreter what her small group was saying. It was a challenge for this leader not to be able to respond quickly in conversation. As she noted, “God is God and I am not. I had to trust that the truth He desired to be communicated would be understood.”
Janice Witcher tells how the story of the Prodigal Son makes a huge impact on the last day of each conference. She comforted an upset teacher in her small group whose own father had been mostly absent from her life. Janice was able to share truth about who God is and how very different He is from our earthly fathers. He is a forgiving, loving, relationship restoring Father! This concept is life-changing for some at these conferences.
The team all echoed Susy Kimber’s amazement at so quickly growing to love your small group in the four days it takes to complete a conference. A bond that keeps many of the small group facilitators in touch with their interpreter and small group members long after they’ve returned home. Cheryl Levey says, “These ongoing relationships are a highlight for many that travel regularly with ISP.” Her own interpreter quickly tapped into Cheryl's wisdom. As Cheryl said, "I'm grandmother-ish, that makes me safe.” As a result, she heard much about Anna's life challenges during their four days together."
As a recently retired teacher, Chuck Kimber was wondering in which ways the Lord might use him in this next season of life. Chuck was touched by the enthusiasm he saw in other trip participants. “They were much older than me, but they had vibrancy about life and serving the Lord that I often do not see. Their stories and lives are incredible.” Chuck’s wife, Susy, really enjoyed all she learned as a small group facilitator. She hopes to implement concepts into her own classroom. Chuck stated, “Our lives are deeply imbedded in education and ISP gives us opportunities to share the Lord, ourselves and teaching experiences with teachers in other countries.”
Sue's going to heaven this year reminds us to spend our time and energy on things of eternal value: people and God's Word. God used her to greatly impact the lives of teachers in other countries: Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador, for His glory. What a perfect way to spend a life.
Short-term ministry trips often stretch, challenge and teach but overall they are grand adventures in unusual places. If you were considering such an opportunity, last summer’s Ecuador team would encourage you: Be bold. Take the risk. Know that if you are willing to go, God will grow you as He works in the details.