A Former Next Intern Reflects on a Meaningful Friendship
One of the first big events during my internship was an English Camp reunion party. I was out of my comfort zone with it being one of my first weeks there. I felt so overwhelmed because there were so many people I didn’t know, and many of them didn’t speak the strongest English. Shortly into the event I was introduced to a girl named *Emily. We chatted for the rest of the event and stuck together because she also felt overwhelmed. Little did I know, that was the start of one of the most impactful relationships of my time in the Czech Republic.
I reached out to *Emily a few weeks later, asking her to get coffee with me, so I could get to know her more. I fully didn’t expect the conversation to go that deep, because she had previously told me she doesn’t open up to people often. We met at a cute coffee shop and started diving in. We shared stories of life, personality and growing up. At one point, I started sharing a story of hardship in my life which had led to some of my first real experiences with anxiety. She quickly responded to my vulnerability and began sharing stories of her struggles with anxiety. We both sat there at the end of our coffee date saying, “Wow, we didn’t expect to go that deep.” That was the moment I realized that no matter the cultural differences or personalities, vulnerability breeds vulnerability.
The next time we got coffee, *Emily told me she had signed up for counseling and discussed her anxiety with her parents for the first time. Her experience with counseling and working through her struggles began because of the conversation we had.
Shortly before I arrived in the Czech Republic, *Emily had come to know the Lord. She shared with a teammate that she reached a point of struggling with her anxiety so much, that she asked the Lord to give her a sign if He really was real. She said she experienced a peace from her anxiety that she had never felt before and that night she gave her life to Christ.
*Emily isn’t a girl who goes unnoticed in her school and community. *Emily is part of the
popular crowd and anyone that knows her, gravitates toward her. So, when she gave her life to Christ, she had to ask herself how she would now be set apart from her peers. That isn’t always very easy, because sometimes doing so leads to the loss of friendship and status.
When we met up for yet another coffee date, *Emily began to tell me that during her year in high school they can take dance classes with their classmates after school. Typically, these classes are followed by everyone going to the pub (keep in mind the different cultural norms). *Emily went along and when a peer saw her cross necklace, they asked, “So you’re a Christian?” She said yes and the peer proceeded to say, “Funny, because I actually love debating with Christians on their faith.” *Emily said, “Have at it, ask me anything.”
By the time the conversation was over, the peer said, “Wow, you made a convincing argument.” *Emily shared this story with me, and we got to celebrate together that just a few weeks into her faith, she had defended her faith for the first time in her life and was already evangelizing to her peers.
Through this relationship, I learned to take advantage of the time I have with people. To dive in and be intentional. People desire to be known and if you are vulnerable with them, you typically find that others are struggling with the same things. *Emily is already impacting her community in ways that will go beyond my three-month internship. This is what short-term mission work should look like — training up local people to go out and evangelize to their peers, because they are able to leave an impact in ways that we can’t.
*Name has been changed
Are you or someone you know interested in a 2-4 month mentored cross-cultural immersion internship? Check out gponline.org/NEXT for more!