JV Summer Survival Tips
Amy Nickerson | July 2017
JV’s Amazing Race and intern training, Media Academy, evangelistic summer camps, JV kids camp, and plenty of follow-up events make summer in Central and Eastern Europe awesome. But let’s be real. With around 130 camps in full-swing this summer that means miles of travel for short-term teams and interns, tons of late night dance parties and early morning leader meetings, hundreds of attempts to remember and pronounce new names, hours spent teaching English, sports, or music, all while serving God in a country that’s not theirs with a culture they don’t fully understand and with people they probably just met. While there’s no doubt that summer ministry is incredible here, it can also be super tiring and difficult.
Here are some of our best tips we give our short-term teams, interns, and staff members for how to not only survive the packed summer of ministry, but come out of it having seen God work, ready to do it again next year.
Be a Learner
You may have the role of teaching a workshop or two or speaking during evening program at camp this summer, but make sure you also put yourself in the position of a learner. Travel is a fantastic teacher if you’re willing to let it be and camp is a great place to gain new information and experience. Be open. Observe. Ask good questions. Listen. Get out of your comfort zone and try some different things. You never know when God may want to show you something you’ve never seen before. Teachable people are guaranteed to come away changed.
Engage in the Small Things
When you want to sit on the sidelines during the thirteenth time through the camp dance or are tempted to tune out completely when the evening discussion switches into a foreign language, remember that the small things matter. There’s a reason why God has you here and sometimes it may not be that glamorous. Sometimes the reason you’re here is to lay out napkins and cutlery on the table so the campers can eat. Sometimes it’s to be present and pray when you don’t understand the conversation going on around you. And sometimes it’s to be a teen’s partner in what seems like a stupid game. Whatever the task at hand, and however small it may feel in the moment, engage anyway. It’s purposeful. And you’re here to help further the movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe. Even the seemingly small things are big when you think about the lives that could be transformed through meeting Christ at camp.
Remember It’s Not about You
This is about serving a movement of God. We’re confident He’s already at work here and that He doesn’t need us to do anything in order for Him to continue to move. However, He has graciously invited us to participate in His plan, to have a front row seat to witness the redemption and restoration He’s bringing to the lives of young people here in Europe. Having that mindset as you serve will keep you humble and unified as a team, when pride, differing opinions, and stressful situations start to interfere with the peace.
Although the summer is not about you, you are in Europe! Make the most of your time here. Don’t be afraid to act like a tourist for a day. Go see those castles or art museums when you have the chance. Take a nap during free time at camp so that you can be fully present when you’re awake and with people. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself and getting enough time to rest, so that you can also care for others well. And take the time to slow down, enjoy, and eat some gelato. It’s good here!
Be Ready for Anything
While we hope your summer is even better than you expect, we can also guarantee it won’t be exactly what you expect. Overseas ministry is an adventure and you’ve got to be ready for anything. There will be missed flights, cars that break down, visa issues, basement floods, technology problems, sickness, hospital trips, and bad weather. All at exactly the worst times, maybe even all at the same time. But there will also be unplanned trips that lead to the best stories, friendships with people you never thought you’d meet, deep conversations where you feel God at work, memories made that you wouldn’t have made otherwise, sacrifices that lead to blessings, lessons learned in tricky situations, and opportunities to step out in bold faith and rely wholeheartedly on God. Be flexible, hold things loosely, and always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have.
Fight Like This is a Battle
In both the fun and the trials, this is ultimately a spiritual battle. Young people’s lives are on the line because they don’t know Christ. They don’t know that His love can literally change their eternity. Yet they deserve to know that truth, because He died to save them. The stakes are high and there is an enemy that would like nothing less than to make us forget that. Be ready to fight. Put on the full armor of God. Make sure you’re listening to the One who is commanding it all. His is a battle worth fighting and that’s why we do what we do each summer.