Where and how do I start?

What a summer full of surprises and meaningful experiences!

This summer was my third summer working and serving with PASSPORT Inc. PASSPORT has a special place in my heart since my first time going there as a camper in 2009, a few months after I came to United States. It was the first time I ever felt I was welcomed by my own peers for who and what I am. Therefore, it is always an honor and a privilege to be a staffer for PASSPORT as I hope to give that same chance to campers I encounter each summer. I worked with the youth the last two summer as a Bible Study Leader and Choice leader. I thought I would be working with youth again this summer but it was not God’s plan. I was offered a Recreation Coordinator position for PASSPORTkids! (3rd – 6th graders). I was very honored and happy but at the same time, I was shocked, scared and nervous because I have never work with kids. Also, it was my first time being a program staff and at kids camp!

However, I believed it was God’s plan therefore I said “YES” to doing ministry alongside sixteen wonderful friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ at PASSPORTkids! From June 6th-July 31st. This summer theme was called “This Wild Life” and our theme verse was John 10:10b(CEV) “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” As a first time program staff, I was very excited to learn how to live this life to the fullest but at the same time very nervous and scared as well as feeling felt out because of missing my family. My whole family went back to our home country the first time in nine years for my brother and more for my parents. Seeing the picture of a huge family reunion made me joyful but not seeing myself in there made me homesick and frustrated. I tried my best not to show my emotion to the team but I am sure there were times that I could not hide it. The first two weeks were a struggle with trying to figure out the rhythm of camp for my position and fighting the feeling of missing family.

Hence, there were times that I cried alone but the team did not know because I hid in my room. I tried my best to put on my smiley face but sometimes, that made it worse. Also, there were times I wondered and questioned God, “Why? What do you really want me to do? I thought you wanted me to be here.” One thing I forgot was that I had to take risks, face challenges and be out of my comfort zone to do God’s work because God is there every step of the way. Nevertheless, one of the Bible Studies was about Moses and how he thought he was not good enough but God sent Aaron to help him. I was reminded that I was not alone and God put sixteen sisters and brothers alongside. Also, seeing the pure joy, laughter and cheering of the children of God after the Rec Party gave me a new strength and hope to keep on going. It felt more like home, a home that is not a house but a home that is a circle built by seventeen young ministers; a home that was filled with happiness, grace and love. Because of that I was reminded and affirmed that I have made the right decision of saying “YES” to serve others while I could have run away and go back to my country with the family. It was a tough decision but the right one because it was God’s plan; I accepted the fact that God put me where I was needed.

Yes, there was peaceful time as well as chaos during camp. However, I experienced the presence of Christ among our team as well as from campers and chaperones. First to the team,

I’m very grateful and thankful:

For a director who led the team with patient and grace.

For an assistant director who was always ready to guide the bible study leaders humbly and others

For a mission coordinator who taught us about different ways of doing mission

For a worship coordinator who led us in worship praising God with lovely voice

For a pastor who delivered God’s messages: told stories calmly and gave comfort to other

For the bible study leaders who guided the campers as they learned about how precious they are to God.

For the summer staff interns who were always willing to assist others above and beyond

Each of these people have served others with love and grace and they truly showed me what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The staffers were very loving, caring, supporting and encouraging. We all made sacrifices one way or another but I thank God that each of us were in a place where we were needed.

Hence, I was given a variety of ways to mister the team, chaperones, kids including those whose first language isn’t English specifically Chin and Karen. I could feel the presence of Christ through the laughter I shared with all the kids. I am unable to describe all. Undeservingly, I got more than I could offer. One of the things I did normally during the day was that I co-led 6th sense with the pastor; 6th sense was a 45 mins specific for 6th graders and those whose last time being at kids camp. First day of 6th sense was swimming at the pool and second day included ice-cream, devotion and water balloons. Out of the many good things that filled me joy, some of the moments I would always remember, because of happiness are:

Campers who mockingly (or could be serious) said as they all giggled, “Sam dah lahni ba (Karen).” during pool time. It translates “Sam is not funny.” My response was “Funny is all I got.” Nevertheless, the joy I saw in their faces was indescribable.

Camper who asked if I know what ADHD is; when I said yes, a camper excitingly said, “I have that. That’s why I’m always energetic and excited.”

Campers who danced theme interpretation to a song called “Do not worry”, a reminder that we are so much worth to a God who makes everything and “Orphans Kingdom”

Camper who never really smiled but after water balloon fight, started smiling the rest of the week. With the help of the pastor during 6th sense, a camper asked “Sam, can I get a hug?” as one hand behind their back hiding a water balloon; I said. “Of course.” and as I was offering a hug, a camper finally used the water balloon and hit me on my back. It was a moment that a camper and I would talk about the rest of the week.

Camper who was very excited and happy to tell me that we both dressed up as cactus or cacti.

The love, grace, support and encouragement that I got from the team throughout the summer and teaching me what it means to be a follower of Christ.

A stranger that I met at a gas station and praying together in the middle of a parking lot. A special camper who played a drum with the worship band as we led worship service and camper gave all that one could give for God. Another special camper who read scripture using electronic device for the voice. I still vividly remember the joy on their faces as they led worship service. They have brought joyful tears to many of us. I was reminded that we are meant to use our gifts and talents for God in the best way we can.

What a life-changing summer in a new way!

At the beginning of camp, I was homesick but now, I am camp-sick because of all the wonderful and amazing ways that I encountered Christ alongside an awesome team. I’ve come to fully understand that ministry is about people and people are the closest thing to God. As a conclusion, I believe that I now have a better understanding of what it means to live my life to the fullest. I don’t think words can fully describe my whole summer experiences. I would like to end this with a question that was used at camp frequently and also that made me really think about my life and faith, “What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious?”

Grace and Peace,

Samuel Lian

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