I am finally by myself for a bit and I can let everyone know how Orlando Summer Project is going!
I got here a week ago Sunday and whisked off to my little gated community that I would be living in for the next 7 weeks along with 20 other college students. There are 3 condos and 1 house. I live in the house with 4 wonderful women who I have connected with, laughed with, cried with, and loved with in ways I never imaged would happen within the first week! All of last week we had orientation to train us and prepare us for the weeks ahead!
Monday we went to Campus Crusade for Christ International Headquarters and my goodness is it gorgeous! It is surrounded by ponds and little lakes and has 3 prominent building that stand tall in this little utopia that is away from the bustle of Orlando. I feel such a peace when I am on the property and waves of serenity wash over me. I feel like I am in a government office with top secret information or something! We went up to “The Hammock” which is entire 4th floor of one of the buildings that is a round room with windows looking out onto the entire property. I love it! We went through what the weeks would look like, planning teams (which we were assigned to) and we were introduced to the staff that would be overlooking the project.
Tuesday we had an Orlando Scavenger Hunt where we were given places (between our residence and where headquarters is) and take pictures doing silly things that were specified to the place. We divided ourselves up (our carpooling situation is split by genders only because each residence has at least one car) so we could get to know more people other than just the girls/boys. A rule was not to use a GPS but to ask people in the places, I originally thought we were doomed because I am directionally challenged and I hate asking people I don’t know anything. Little did I know I am actually directionally inclined and asking people was really easy! Before I thought people in places would be mad at us and tell us to leave for disturbing services, but except for two women in Wal-Mart, everyone was beyond helpful and nice! There were 40 pictures/challenges and my team did 38 (and the leaders said there was no way anyone could do all 40!) We actually ended up winning and we had such a fun time doing it! That afternoon we had a speaker come and talk to us about a ministry called “Here’s Life Inner City” that reaches out to homeless in Orlando. On Wednesdays our group is going to do relational evangelism through either Here’s Life (playing with kids) or going to a university and being a language partner for international students needing to excel in English. Naturally I chose playing with children (my roommates are slowly finding out how much I really love children, I am a little desperate this summer since I don’t know the next time I will be seeing some of these adorable children!) but hopefully working with the inner city kids will calm my excitement down a bit. (But really, who are we kidding?) That night we had our first bible study (2 girls and 3 boys studies) and we explained our journeys. We basically told a chronological story of how we grew up, the struggles we face, and how God interceded in our lives. It was the most vulnerable time I have ever had with a group of girls with only knowing them for 3 days! It brought us all the more closer.
Wednesday we had a little evangelism training (learning how to use Solarium, an awesome tool to start spiritual discussion) and then went to Cocoa beach to share the gospel with the people on the beach. I was completely terrified and scared out of my mind. Courtney, my evangelism partner for the day, was also very new and excited to potentially talk with others about God’s love. We went up to a few people to try to start spiritual conversations but nothing was fruitful. So we decided to pray for others in our group who were talking with people and having meaningful conversations with people. It was difficult because the beach is not that easy of a scene where people are really open to talking to random people coming up asking spiritual questions. But people in our group did have wonderful conversations with others and God can open people’s hearts up to the gospel if He desires it. After that we came back and hung out at one of the boys condos. Even though we had lots of free time to rest and relax, we always wanted to hang out together rather than be alone (we are a lot of extroverts!) This was a bit odd for me because usually at school I can put my needs for rest and alone time above hanging out with people, but I love this community so much I don’t want to miss any opportunity to interact with these wonderful people.
Thursday we had some more evangelism training in the morning at the Hammock followed by lunch on the quad (it is a large grassy space between two of the buildings. They have tubs of Frisbees, balls, basically if one wants to relax outside for lunch and play around, you can! That afternoon we finally got a tour of Lake Hart. The different departments were so phenomenal. The donations office had a machine to cut open letters (no one has to get paper cuts!!) and a machine that scans the checks super-duper fast! I also never knew that people don’t have to just give money, the office gets material donations, like cows and houses! Who would have thought that donations don’t have to just be monetary, the donations office can receive any kind of gift and then get a monetary price for it. I love that! We then went to the Jesus film department. If anyone has a heart for international ministry and being able to share the gospel, you need to learn about Jesus film. Cru many years ago decided to use this old 1970s film depicting Jesus’ life and use it as a tool for ministry. The film is translated into other languages (and I am not talking about bad Chinese dubbing, they look at the lip movement and match it with the language really spot on!) and a group will go into a country with all the necessities to show the film. They now have solar panels to power up the projector, a sound system, and it all is small and easy to travel with. A movie is so much more effective sometimes compared to trying to preach the gospel with an interpreter because the people can hear the gospel in their own language and they can fully understand and see who Jesus was. We walked by a wall with faces and names and my thought was “Oh, the original people who thought up the Jesus film, or major contributors.” But then the guide informed us that this was in memory of everyone up to 2003 who had died because they were showing the Jesus film. These were not people who belonged with Cru, they were night watchmen, pastors, regular people who just wanted others to see this film and see how Jesus lived on this earth. I was a little teary over this realization that people died and were persecuted for simply trying to show a movie to others around them to understand.
Afterwards we sat down and watched another little segment on a couple who gave a crazy amount of money to have the film translated into the Gamo tribe language who resides in Ethiopia. The couple was able to go to the Gamo tribe and show the film for the first time. My first thoughts were of Lulu. Lulu is the reason I have such a heart for Ethiopia. She is my best friend’s cousin (which the entire extended family I consider my own, so I think of Lulu as my cousin as well) and she was adopted from Ethiopia a little over 2 years ago. So when I was watching this video I had this crazy emotional thought “What if Lulu’s mother was there? What if she experiences this awesome movie and accepted Christ into her heart? What if she hasn’t? Is it translated in her language? Will she ever experience Christ?” It did not help that the video showed the crowd’s reaction to Jesus being nailed to the cross and suffering. The people were screaming violently, crouching and hugging themselves because the pain of what Christ was going through was excruciating. It made me pause because yes, what Christ had to endure is gut wrenching and sickening if I see it visually, but I have never cried out and realized all the darkness in my heart that Christ had to suffer to atone for my sins. I was crying as I was watching this video because I was so convicted and saddened, I wanted to take their pain away. Yet I was also so joyous that the people responded so strongly because we later heard that 4500 people had seen that first showing and 900 turned their heart over to Christ. Also that tribe and that film are still being shown and churches and ministries have come about because of that translation of the film. I was so amazed and excited that Cru is a part of something so wonderful. We also saw the ITG (tech stuff) deparment, NCO (National Campus Office, World Wide Challenge (the magazine), the Prayer Floor (different rooms are for different continents, it is so beautiful an image!), and the President’s office (the president works at a standing desk! It is the least flashiest/plush office I have ever seen!). We then had bible study again that night with more journey stories told.
Friday we went to DISNEY WORLD! It was so much fun! I have never been to Disney World but I have been to Disneyland once. We rode Thunder Mountain, Tea Cups, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, It’s a Small World, Philharmagic (it is one of the best things there, they go through Disney songs in 3D [which is done super well] and spray air when you are “falling,” scents in Be Our Guest, water when you slash into the ocean, it is legit!), Hall of Presidents, Buzz Lightyear shooting game (out of the 20 of us I got 3rd place, I am a Space Ace!), Splash Mountain, and saw the fireworks show. Beside the Philharmagic the coolest tech moment was at the end of the night before the fireworks they had the castle all lit up and showed “The Magic and You” which went through all the lands in Disney World and the castle would transform into a sandcastle, an ocean, etc. by projection and it was so realistic! I was very tired and through with standing in lines, but I really did enjoy it because we stayed as a group pretty much the entire time (other than for dinner) which I was not expecting when we arrived that morning. So I was able to talk with different people while waiting in line from our group and learn more about the people I would be living with for the next 6 weeks.
That Saturday we met up as planning teams and that afternoon we went to Orlando Baptist Church and put on a free car wash. This was another evangelism time where we would be doing service by washing cars but while the drivers waited we would engage in conversation. It was such a wonderful time to really reflect on how much I hate being a servant for the Lord. I wanted to be sitting in the shade and talking with the people, but I only dried cars and help up signs by the road to get people to come to our car wash. I was so humbled because my heart was not in talking with the people but being comfortable and in the shade so God forced me out to do work and realize that this is what service should be, selfless and for the Lord. I was so tired from the day before and the car wash I thought that I would just fall into bed and be asleep for 12+ hours. But the other condo of boys invited us to their place and naturally I could not miss out on being with the group. I had a new found energy once I get there and I got to connect with some of the guys that I had not really talked with throughout the week. It was great talking with a guy named Adam who shared his journey with me. His story reminded me of my brother Daniel and I can already see that Adam is going to open my eyes so that I might be able to serve and love my brother at home more than I have been.
Sunday the only thing we ever have to do is go to church. We all went to a church called Crosspointe which was okay. I was personally not that excited about what the pastor had to say, but their goal is to point people to Christ which I appreciated. I will probably go to another church next week and see where the Lord is guiding me. We then hung out together at our house and played signs for a while which was great to laugh and have a good time. The girls then took naps/went out so I relaxed (though the whole time I felt like I needed to socialize with people) until we went over to the girls condo.
Overall, my first week was a blast and I loved every moment of it. While it was fast pace, so is our “normal” week. It was good to get us going and active so that when the regular weeks come, we won’t be complaining about all the things we have to do. I am loving Orlando and God has been transforming my heart in every activity and moment we have been together as a group.
And this was just week one! Get ready because I about to post 5-6 posts in the next few minutes! (I love/hate that we have such little internet, it allows for community, but I can't do blog posts, so I make a word document to the ideas are fresh! Yeah Clubhouse parties for internet use!)