If you had told me in May that I would be spending my summer going 11 days with no shower, sleeping in a tent for 20 straight days, making my own food, and preaching in a church, I would’ve backed out of this whole thing called “Journey.” I would’ve easily settled for working a simple job at home and falling into the same routine day in and day out. Now that I have had a chance to look back and reflect, I wouldn’t do anything differently. Looking back on the past 50 days, I realized the most important thing I learned this summer is that having a community you can be vulnerable with is the key to making it through life. Eight weeks ago I walked into a house full of strangers. I sat around the room looking at 13 different faces wondering how I was going to survive. I was convinced I had to have everything pulled together and always be on my A-Game. I had no idea how I was going to survive this summer and I wanted to turn right back around and get in the car with my parents. After day two, I quickly realized that no one has everything pulled together. Life isn't perfect, and it isn't always happy go lucky. Pain and struggling are real. Getting to take off my mask and show this group of 13 strangers who I really am was a terrifying moment, but they loved and embraced me in ways that I have never experienced. The people here are more real that I have ever experienced. They allow themselves to feel things and they are not scared to talk about it. They have seen me at my worst and loved me more for it. I’m not scared to laugh, cry, or be angry around them. I now truly understand what it means to have true community.
For instance, I know that Sam would answer the phone any time I needed her to. She has truly shown me what it means to have a friend love me so much that they don't want me to stay in the same place. I have never known someone to listen to me talk as intentionally as she does. I know that if I needed someone to laugh with and also talk to about real life struggles, Hannah is always there. I know that our conversation will be authentic and she will speak from her heart. If I ever need to find a verse in the bible or understand a word’s meaning, Jordan M is the girl for the job. Her knowledge of the Bible consistently motivates me to dive deeper and learn more. Anna M is the girl who speaks truth. Although she is younger than me, I know that every time we talk I walk away having learned something. I know that when she speaks it is not to hear her own voice, but to speak the words of The Lord. If I need someone to encourage me in truth and love, Anna B is the girl. She might possibly be the sweetest girl I have ever met. She is the only girl I know who could befriend a bat in a bathroom when the rest of us want to kill him. Her ability to constantly love me when I am unloveable amazes me. Jordan S is the girl who will tell you like it is. She is straight forward and honest. Everyone needs a friend like Jo. I already can’t wait to tackle Samford with her in the fall. Camie is everyone’s best friend. She has enough energy and positivity for the entire team. In fact, I am quite confident she has more energy at all times than the team has as a whole. She isn't scared to tell you how she feels and she will be the first to admit she is struggling, but she wont allow herself to stay there. Kate, sweet Kate. She has wisdom beyond her years and she also brings spunk to the team. Kate can put anyone’s thoughts into words and it sounds better than you could’ve expected. Between her wisdom, tattooing skills and pink hair, Kate is a one of a kind friend. Tony can only be described as a joyful noise. When he opens his mouth, words flow from it that are truly only from The Lord. He has been a great leader and encourager for me as well as the entire team this summer. To put it simply: Jay is the dad. He cares and loves each person on the team and I know that he sees each of us as God does. Jay takes what we are taught and digs deeper to find out how it applies to him personally. Simon is everyone’s protective big brother. He is the backbone of the team, but is never too prideful to humble himself and admit his struggles. William is the secret weapon and the jack of all trades. William is everyone’s best friend. He makes everyone laugh and is the best soccer coach we could’ve asked for. Then there is Jared. Jared is everyone’s favorite little brother. While he is the youngest, he is one of the more mature ones. Jared is the first to admit his struggles, but combat these struggles with positive notes and truth for the Lord.
These 13 strangers are now some of my best friends. Together we make up the body of Christ. Community is vital and this summer is the first time I have truly learned what it means to be loved by brothers and sisters in Christ. I can now say that I would not have wanted to spend my summer anywhere else and I am already not looking forward to saying my goodbyes.
- Hannah I.