Possibly the Most Exciting & Difficult Adventure I’ve Ever Taken On

“Who died for your sins and saved your life?”

The crowd was bursting with flashes of light and I could make out the tail-end of my name through the stampeding hands and raucous cheering.

“Jesus Christ!”

“I baptize you in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.”

The first view I ever had of the inside of the church was from the little baptism pool inside the wall, looking out on a crowd of Christians I do not know, my family, and my other family, the sophomore class of the church that I had met for the first time a week ago. I rung out my hair as I stepped into the back hall from the pool and embraced Nick, who was baptized right before me and one of the sophomores I had spent the week at Hume Lake with. How is it possible to become family with someone whose favorite color you do not even know? Whose parents you have never met and whose name you have known for less than seven days? It may sound impossible and that’s because there’s only one way: through God.

So why get baptized there? Why then, with those people, whose existence I’ve been aware of for a mere 140 hours? Is it ridiculous to do something so monumental so last minute?

This is a travel blog, so yes, I’m writing this post to tell you about my trip to Hume Lake. But people who have spent a week at the lake know that it is not just a journey up the mountain and down again in six days’ time. It’s a spiritual journey above all else; a trying trial that only a strong heart could take on. I am always up for a challenge so in the past that has strayed me from God, but I never realized that the most difficult journey anyone could take on this earth is the test of following Him.

On Monday I woke up in a cabin with a group of sophomore girls I had just introduced myself to with a counselor all the girls called “Mom”, so I called her that too. I woke up at five am and went for a run, eager to find an older group that I could connect with better. Out of the thousands of high schoolers at Hume for the week, there was bound to be a circle of kids that would become lifelong friends. The day passed quickly, the teens shaking out into a natural order of jocks and everyone who isn’t a jock, much like a sieve. That night I played volleyball on the lake past the time when the night crawlers of the marsh hum their baritone choir and the mosquitos whine like tinny piccolos. The game was a blast, and it made me realize why Mum had loved the camp so much back when she went: there’s a volleyball court, basketball court, and a field. Mum is the bomb at those sports so it’s no wonder she kicked butt and made a lot of friends. I am decent at volleyball, but I was really looking forward to playing the sport I can run circles around people with…

Lucky for me, that happened on Tuesday. I was with friends on the field when I noticed a particularly good-sized egg-shape of boys. And what were they doing? Futbol!! I called out some sassy quip about the World Cup and started bantering with the boys, and before I knew it we were splitting into teams, six on six. After we began the field seemed to clear out until it was just my new friends and I, a soccer ball, and two pairs of shoes serving as the goals. It was an epic game. I scored the first goal and my team (metaphorically) took on the Netherlands jerseys, since two players from my team were straight from Holland. I had previously Sharpied our family sports number- eleven- onto the back of my shirt, so I was Robbin. We zipped and zagged and turned and did so many step-overs and scissors it was probably illegal, but my team creamed our opponents. Two hours in, we called for a water break and I bonded with my team, the boys who were to become one of the most profound aspects of my Hume trip. Our team had shrunk to four: Reinier and Daan, the Netherlands boys, and Karl, a Huntington Beach-ian who was an old friend of Daan’s and was housing the boys during their stay, plus me.

That night in chapel, I sat with my new friends. I had learned that Reinier is not a follower of Christ and God put it on my heart to reach out to him. During the songs, Reinier did not sing and he claimed to have a difficult time understanding the Pastor’s English. But when chapel was over, we sat in the pews and I prayed for him while he cried, and it was evident to the entire congregation in the way that Jesus had moved in that room on Tuesday night. It felt as if my whole being was giddy with adrenaline- the fact that I could maybe bring someone to Jesus was thrilling, challenging, and different than I ever imagined it would be.

I have always believed in God, and I have been a Christian since I was seven, when I prayed the prayer with Mum and teared up a little and life wasn’t hard yet so the meaning was lost a bit on me. Six months ago, I was reborn again, after the time when my blog posts were raw and racked with too many jumbled emotions and not enough quality prose. I felt Jesus’ guiding hand on my shoulder more than ever in these last six months, but it wasn’t until Hume that I realized what I was doing wrong: He was not first in my life. By blessing me with Reinier and the World Cup to bring us together, I was able for the first time to have a relationship based purely on our Savior; one where I had to lead by example, and one where I felt the awesome weight that I could possibly be used by God to save a life.

Wednesday I learned that I don’t have to bear the whole burden of bringing Reinier to Christ in such a short time. I had had my doubts- but Wednesday’s seminars confirmed them. We were able to choose two to attend, and I ended up at Sexual Integrity and Defending the Faith. I have always prided myself on my arguing, but my nightly discussion with Reinier- who had educated non-follower defenses- actually made me realize that I suck at arguing about God. Defending the Faith put me at ease: I was not going to bring Reinier to Christ, first of all. Jesus has to do the work in his heart that bring him to the Lord. All I have to do is throw a pebble in his shoe, a phrase Daan and I used the rest of the week. With that in mind, I continued to wake up while the sky was still dark to meet Reinier at the dew-covered benches by the lake, where I read him scripture and we talked about God in our lives. I continued to eat meals with him (where we mostly screwed around, sorry God), and go to chapel with him, where he gradually throughout the week began to sing, cry, and raise his hands to the Lord. After chapel we spent nights talking, and he prayed for me.

Meanwhile, things in the girls’ cabin were getting a little tenuous. An index card with something very private written on it had ended up on the floor, and everyone had avoided it until I picked it up and asked, “Ok guys, whose is this?” One of the girls finally claimed it with a shrug off excuse that she had written it years ago. I looked her straight in the eye and came out with my secret: that I had struggled with the same problem, and offered her firm but hopefully encouraging words to evaluate the worth of the struggle in her life. That day it became evident why God had put me in the cabin with that particular group of girls that I had been trying to ditch for an older crowd, where I typically fit in best. Another girl in the cabin approached me in the bathroom and confided that she has dealt with the same struggle I had confessed to for two years. It was incredibly profound to me that she would trust me- a girl she had just met- to guard such information that the girls she had grown up in the cabin didn’t know about, let alone her parents. Later, I prayed for that beautiful girl, now someone I consider a sister, for half an hour while she was overcome with tears. God gave me that struggle to give me the perspective and understanding in a cabin of girls who each secretly and individually wrestle with a consuming internal struggle. God is great!

Thursday’s messages were difficult for me to focus on at the beginning, and I couldn’t understand why. All I felt the whole time was a nagging in my heart to pray to God for Reinier.I stopped singing and sat down, praying for focus and mostly for Reinier. Strong hands comforted me while I was hunched over, and a love swelled in my heart. We were family at Hume, teenagers from different states, countries, and across oceans. I held hands and praised God with the strangers sitting near to me, comforting each other and laughing, crying, and being vulnerable to people who you have nothing in common with as far as you know except for a love of Jesus. If the whole world could give so lovingly, so eagerly like the way we gave in that chapel, then Heaven might really be on earth. The message the Pastor was sharing was a series from Acts, chronicling the life of Saul/Paul. The Pastor spoke about missions and sharing the love of Christ with the world; going out a making disciples, which really struck a chord with me since my family happens to be expatriate globe-trotters. I loved all of the messages, and especially the Pastor himself. An adoption family like my own, I particularly identified with the theme of missions, travel, and a love of people that he stressed. The crowd could not have been any closer to evoking the love the Pastor spoke of.

Friday was dubbed “Fancy Friday”, the day where everyone changes out of week-old underwear and socks, puts on nice clothes, and smiles in idyllic photos for the church. I, deprived of this information, had to borrow a dress from one of the girls in the cabin. Fancy Friday, the last full day at Hume, was possibly almost as amazing as Tuesday. I experienced for the first time the joys of having girlfriends who I can be a girl with, instead of always being a guy’s girl. We tried on dresses, swapped makeup, straightened each other’s hair, and I even penciled in my friend’s eyebrows with eyeshadow, and let me tell you: it looked bomb. (I know what you’re thinking, makeup veterans born before 1980, but believe me, it looked excellent.) I knew in that moment, crowded at the bathroom sinks, that I had made a family.

After photographs with the church I had joined for the week, I went off with Reinier, Daan, and Karl’s church to take pictures for them. They were a small group, but we had all become close friends through mealtime and Tabasco shots. Far down the trail, we did our photo shoot at a small dock protruding into the lake, the majesty of purple, white-capped mountains setting a perfect backdrop. After a couple minutes of shooting, the pastor, Danny, came over to look at the shots with me while the rest of the group horsed around.

“By the way,” he began,” I wanted to say thank you. Reinier has been talking a lot about how you are changing his life back at the cabins.” I would follow God anywhere to hear words like that spoken about how I have touched someone’s life through Him. It is impossible to have the relationships I made with those people in such a short amount of time unless it was through God. The feeling of family, stick-togetherness, and of love, it only comes through Him. Reinier finally asked me to take photos with him, so I ended up in a lot of the church photos, which was alright by me. I even suggested taking an awkward prom photo, and you can see those pictures when they are done being processed in a few days on my Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/maia.jackson.165 ) or right here.

The trip ended much too quickly, but I found myself a little wilted from my five am mornings, paint balling, ropes coursing, soccer-playing, volleyball-diving, lake-swimming, trail-running, race-sprinting, salad-eating week. So of course I had my friend purchase me a Monster Energy Drink for the seven hour bus ride home. But this was not just any energy drink: this had coffee in it on top of the energy part. It was basically meth in a bottle, and for a vegan who doesn’t even eat non-organic things, you can imagine how psyched-out my brain was. To the relief of my new church family, I crashed about four hours into the drive, a time God conveniently used to talk to me about getting baptized.

The day after we returned from Hume, my Granpie was in the audience to watch me get baptized, proclaim my love of Christ, and rededicate my life to Him. I can truly feel His hand on my shoulder, leading me every step of the way. I want to live my whole life like how I felt at Hume, because the Lord knows me better than I do, and he knows where to take me. If I hadn’t let him lead me, I wouldn’t have been shaken in the way I was. He is the way, the truth, and the light, and I want to live every day in touch with Him, like the way I lived at Hume Lake.

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