———This past week I had the pleasure of joining the Bless team and News Release Basketball in hosting a basketball camp in Slovanski Brod, Croatia. It was a fun filled week packed with lots of basketball, worship, salami, bipolar weather, warm afternoons at the pool and late night races down the street. We got to learn a little bit of Croatian and build relationships with lots of amazing local kids! ——— liveforothers #newsreleasebasketball #croatia
Often we forget the impact it has to sit, share a meal and just talk to someone that you don’t know. No distractions… just enjoying each other’s company and genuinely getting to know each other. Jesus displays this perfectly many times but I was reminded of this as I read Matthew 9:9-13 earlier this week. We often forget that just because we are in the vicinity of someone often doesn’t mean we truly know them.
One night in the town’s main strip we were hanging out with the kids and Miriam and I were talking to one of our favorite kids (our biggest helper and just the sweetest dang thing ever). She asked him if they would still be friends in a few years time… That if she came back and they ran into each other would they still be friends? He responded “No, you don’t know me.” We were both taken a little aback, “Fair enough.” She said, “I don’t know you that well.” And he clarified..”No, no… I mean you won’t know me…you won’t recognize me! I am only 12 now. I will look different.” We laughed about it and she was sure that despite the difference in his appearance that she would still have that connection with him and would recognize him.
Both Miriam and I both thought that by his first response of “You don’t know me”, he was pointing out that yeah…we are only here for a week so we don’t reallyyyyyyy know them. We just know what we see of them within that week. He may have meant something different but it still stuck in my mind that in reality this IS just a short term mission. Our time spent there is short and even though we would love to get to know each kid on a deep and meaningful way…those kinds of relationships take time…time that we don’t have.
His comment got me thinking that we may be having a blast and spending hours with these kids playing games but we aren’t spending quality, get-to-know-you kind of time… I asked our leaders if we could have a girls/boys picnic after the last day of camp to sit down and spend some quality time getting to know them. Time to be intentional with our relationships with them and show them that we aren’t just there to put on a camp and have some fun and then pat ourselves on the back at the end of it. We want to sit down and have some quality girl time. So that’s what we did!
After the last day of camp we had a picnic and split into groups! We gave the girls opportunities to ask questions about anything. Basketball, family, life, body stuff, boys, sex… anything they might not be comfortable enough to talk to older women about. We had our pack lunches and time to kill. I wanted to focus mainly on our worth as girls and women. We need to have a strong sense of self worth but more importantly we need to know our worth in the eyes of our Creator. I wanted to make sure that these girls knew that they were absolutely beautiful and valued in God’s eyes.
"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious." — 1 Peter 3:3-4
We split up into older and younger groups and Kristina and I took the older girls. As the conversation went from clothing, to hair, teeth, and weight….we, of course, finally landed onto the topic of boys. (Don’t we always?!) They asked questions and we all got to share some experiences. Good ones…bad ones. Times we felt pressured, times we cherish. We talked about values we should look for in a guy and what our standards should be. Once more, driving home the fact that they are worthy of a man who respects them and loves them. BUT no matter what realizing that a boyfriend should not be the main focus in our lives. I wanted them to leave with the understanding that, despite what they might think…a boy or a relationship with a boy DOES NOT define you. The most important relationship we can have is with Jesus Christ. He is our defining factor…He is where we find our worth. Boys will come and go but God will be a constant companion throughout your life. He will never leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
At the end of our picnic I made them do one last exercise and that was to fill out a piece of paper with a word that they have connected with so far that week or with their relationship with Christ.
"Ja sam" …
Ja sam means “I am”… I left it to them to fill in the blank. To fill in what Christ can mean to them…can be for them…in this stage of their lives.
I realize that our time spend in Slavonski Brod was short lived but our prayer is that the impact will far exceed the time spent. That God will use this week as a step in the lives of these boys and girls so that they will come to fully know Him and give their lives to Him. That they will see their value and worth and dream as big as they possibly can so that God can fulfill His purpose in their lives in amazing ways. Please keep Slavonski Brod and all these amazing kids in your prayers!