It’s been a week since I came back from my first mission trip.

I had the pleasure of being a part of Summer English Camp in Budapest, Hungary. It was AWESOME! I was on a team led by my wife, Rhoda. She served at Summer English Camp the previous year and raved about how much of an impact it had on her life. Unfortunately, last year I was unable to clear my schedule to be a part of the camp. This year, however, it worked out.

We had a team of six that came from Crosspoint, our church in Niceville, Florida, to help lead worship and facilitate workshops the students would take part in throughout the week. When we arrived in Budapest, we met the leader of the Summer English Camp, Jonathan Long. As we left the airport and headed to Vác, the countryside we drove through reminded me of the southeastern countryside of Germany where I lived for a few years while in the Air Force. This immediately put me at ease. What a great way to start!

The camp was housed in a bishop’s “palace.” I use quotes around palace because this wasn’t like the Cinderella castle. The palace looked like an average building. The cool thing is that even in average places, great things can take place.

Each day at camp, there was a morning and an evening program consisting of silly songs, games,    worship songs, and announcements. The students learned about baseball, had a pool day, battled in a water war, and participated in camp Olympics. Each English ability level was broken into two conversation groups. My conversation group was one of the advanced level groups and they decided our name would be “Save The Baby Spinach.” The more artistic members of the group created a poster where everyone was a vegetable or fruit. I was an eggplant.

For me, the biggest impact from this trip was getting to know the students on a personal level and seeing what their views of life are. Our conversations ranged from school to family to politics. The most important thing to remember when relating to anyone, but especially teens, is to ask questions and show that you listened and that their opinions matter. What started out as a bunch of strangers, in a week’s time turned into a group of people that had genuine care and love for each other.

Writing thank you notes is something I’ve always tried to be diligent about. We don’t often say the things we think, either because we assume the other person knows already, or we just forget to. I wrote thank you notes to all of the students in our group, thanking them for sharing with me and referring back to something we talked about or experienced together. Being that this was the last day of camp, there were lots of happy tears. It felt good to be able to be a part of that experience with them. It also made me wish that I could’ve stayed longer.

Reflecting on my mission trip to Hungary, it amazes me how a five-day camp can have such a profound effect on everyone in attendance, students and staff alike. It makes me wonder how much better we would all be if we were intentional in connecting with people and getting to know them on a more personal level. I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience and share God’s love with the students and my fellow staff members. I hope that I can continue to share this with those I come in contact with and that I can come back to Summer English Camp next year. Until 2018!

– By Josh Weck, OMS Hungary English Camp Volunteer