‘A UCCF summer team?’ you ask...
Rachel is a third-year student at Bristol University. Last summer she joined a UCCF summer team to Slovakia. Find out what it was like, and then consider going on one yourself!
Just let me tell you about the incredible time that we had, and share something of my adventures as part of the Slovakia summer team.
We spent a whirlwind week hiking through the Tatra Mountains, roasting sausages (špeckačky) over an open fire, losing luggage and gaining great friends. Not only that, we also spent time analysing worldviews portrayed by pop songs in English classes, led Bible studies from the gospels in simple English and sang my favourite worship songs in Slovak.
So how I did end up on the other side of Europe with the title of English Teacher but not a toothbrush to my name for a week? It’s actually – surprisingly – a fairly ordinary story.
I was looking to do something useful in my long student summer. I have loved being part of the Bristol Uni CU, sharing Jesus with my friends. The opportunity to join a team to do something similar cross-culturally sounded fun, important and a perspective-shifter.
My Staff Worker also encouraged me that this would be good thing to do. Trusting God that the finances would materialise, I applied. After a successful interview and a fantastic training weekend we were on a plane to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
From Bratislava we then had a train ride across glowing vistas and tasted some delicious halušky (similar to our mac’n’cheese, topped with bacon). Finally we arrived in a Christian conference centre where prep for the camp was in full swing. The full team was now half British (students and ex-students from around the country, led by a Staff Worker) and half Slovak Christian students and VBH leaders (think UCCF Staff Worker) and we had an excellent briefing and debriefing together.
Days were full of building relationships with those who had come to this week of English lessons, Bible studies and activities. Most of the students had never read about Jesus in the source texts themselves and it was encouraging to be a part of the studies. It was a challenge taking the beginner English group but, by the nature of these things, spending a week studying parables tends to change hearts all around! One guest left with her first Bible and a thirst for reading more of it for herself.
I had mentally readied myself for a tough week of hard graft, but instead I realised what an absolutely joyous time I was having. The hardest work was just to remember not to speak English at 90mph!
It was a great privilege to be able to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ and to share Jesus through the Bible studies and how we lived our lives. Those still in Slovakia are able to actively follow up those who started to really enquire as to what the Bible was saying, particularly about being saved by grace.
Further highlights of the trip included seeing my first proper waterfall during a hike in the Tatra Mountains, learning Slovak dancing and leading my first Ceilidh in return. We not only experienced culture through the local students we met, but saw how much those on the Slovak team loved Jesus, counting the cost to tell people about Him in their universities.
Growing these friendships by living alongside people from a completely different culture was a fascinating and often hilarious experience. Stories shared over meals were a massive mutual encouragement for all of us from our variety of CU backgrounds.
These friendships are continuing to grow, and some of us have managed to meet up a few times already in the UK. I’ve also hosted two of the Christian Slovak students since the summer, and have been able to swap prayer requests and encouragements over Facebook.
Though I am unable to return to help at the camp this year I am still making plans to go back to Slovakia at some point this summer. Learning what sharing Jesus looks like cross-culturally, serving where there is a need and making great friends, all while allowing the Holy Spirit to grow you and show you what it means to live for Jesus in your own culture, it is no understatement to say that Slovakia Summer Team is up there as a ‘life-highlight’!
You can find Rachel on Twitter at @rachelmshannon, where she’ll be glad to answer your questions about her summer team experience.
And if you want to find out more or see what teams are available this summer, click here:
Find out about Summer Teams