Upon arriving back in the US, the international teams spent a few days together at the camp where we’d gone through our training to decompress and share our experiences. The testimonies from the Africa team Crossfire have always stayed with me, and their version of the song Halleluiah has remained in my ‘favorites’ playlist ever since. My favorite song of our own was Dzienki Jezu, which we learned in Poland. The only recording I have of it is a demo we made for any future groups needing to learn the song. We were still missing Cristina, and Katja’s drum was positioned in a way that the mic picked it up strangely. After a few days, everyone hit the road again.
Vacation Bible School took up most of our remaining months. Ben remarked that we spent more time in Montana than anywhere else, and we should change our name to Watermark Montana. We also spent a week at Trinity Lutheran Camp, where the seed for joining a Youth Encounter team was first planted, and where Bryan and I had attended camp since we were children.
It was hard to say good-bye. The seven of us had been through a lot together in the past year. We were used to doing everything as a group, no matter how much we argued or fought with each other. Any decision split seven ways was never easy. There is no one else in the world who can completely understand just what that year was like. I’m so lucky that Bryan and I come from the same hometown, so we can occasionally get together for coffee and reminisce. I’m hoping to see him again this weekend, in fact.
It took me a while to adjust to being permanently in one place, and maybe it’s the reason why I haven’t lived in one place for very long ever since. I used to consider myself an extrovert, but after I got back to Montana and my final year at university, I found myself either avoiding people and hiding in my room or itching to go somewhere, ANYWHERE, just to be on the road again. I no longer hide in my room, but the itchy feet have never gone away.
Spiritually, I don’t know if we impacted the lives of others more, or if our own lives were more impacted. I sometimes felt that I was the spiritual ‘weakest link’ of the team. My Bible wasn’t full of sticky notes like Melissa’s or falling apart from constant use like Katja’s. My prayers and faith didn’t have the same beautiful passion like Cristina’s. I didn’t read dozens of books on theology and discuss them with everyone like Ben. I wasn’t good at discussing spiritual topics in a way that didn’t put people off like Bryan. I wasn’t a leader like Jim. It took me a while to realize that we all have a relationship with Jesus, and just like with humans, no relationship is going to look exactly the same. I learned different things from my teammates, and putting those things into practice helped strengthen my relationship with Christ. I’m not afraid to lift up my hands in worship anymore, my Bible looks a bit more battered than it once did, and I adopted Melissa’s practice of reading four chapters at a time from different books of the Bible: an Old Testament, a Psalm, a Gospel, and a New Testament. It took me until 2010, but I did finish the entire Bible. (In German, I might add.) After an entire year of being in a different church every single Sunday, I turned to non-denominational churches that preach straight from the Bible without adding other ideology. I currently attend Fresh Life, which has a rocking good band (I feel that after a year in a band I know a good church band when I hear one) followed by an hour-long sermon that gets my fist pumping in excitement and my heart filled with joy.
It’s been ten years since we’ve all been together. Since parting ways I’ve seen Jim twice, Melissa twice, and Katja four times- most recently two summers ago for her wedding. Bryan and I get together a couple times a year. I used to think that we’d all stay close forever – that the intensity and uniqueness of our time together would bind us in a way that we’d never forget. But life and distance take a toll, and a lot can happen in ten years. I asked my teammates to provide a short bio on what they’ve been up to. I’ll update the blog as their responses come in.
Me: (MT, keyboard, vocals) I finished my degree in German and worked on staff at a camp in Idaho off and on for a couple of years. I lived in Italy for a while to get my certification to teach English as a second language, then taught in China and Russia for a year each with a lot of traveling in between. I’ve been back in Montana for the last three years – one in my hometown substitute teaching and two in my college town. I got married two summers ago to a handsome Mountain Man, whom I’ve known since university. I love languages and working with foreign students, and I’d like to get back into teaching.
Katja: (Germany, drums)
Ben: (IA, electric guitar, vocals)
Jim: (MN, acoustic guitar, vocals)
Cristina: (Romania, lead vocalist)
Bryan: (MT, soundboard, vocals)
Melissa: (VA, bass guitar, vocals)
Gunther the Goldfish: made it back to Virginia with Melissa, where he died. We suspect that he’d gotten so used to the movement of the van that he couldn’t stand calm water anymore.