Do not fear, we are still here in South Africa. It has been a whirlwind since we last checked in. We hosted the Ultimate Training Camp(UTC) and it was undoubtly an experience and a week, that all of us won't soon forget. It's Katie here andI have to say, as I sit and write this and reflect on what God taught me over the UTC experience, I have to admit that it could easily be defined in one word:unexpected.
Africa has been a continent that God laid on my heart long ago. Nine years ago, I sat in a church service listening to a missonary surgeon preach and teach. I don't remember all of what he said or even the main point of his message, but I vividly remember God wrecking my heart for that place and leaving with an overwhelming desire to go to Africa. Life happened and circumstances changed. That dream in my heart went from a bright firey passion to a small flickering flame. Honestly, I let that dream go because as the years passed and i didn't see it come to pass, I gave up on God ever making it happen. Luckily though, God had put the right people in my life , who spoke life to that dream, fannned the flame and prayed for it, even when I didn't. Before i knew it, he had orchestrated every piece together for the promise to come to pass. I still pinch myself to think that I'm writing to you from South Africa That promise did not come how I expected it, where I expected it or when I expected it, so it shouldn't surprise me that God chose to use this experince and the UTC in particular to grow me, stretch me, challenge me and wreck me in ways I never expected.
Even before the UTC started, God began a work in me that has been uncomfortable. It has been clear that as I celabrated my 28th birthday, I am in this transitional season. I feel like i'm operating in this "middle season." I'm not a college student or younger twenty something fresh off graduation, but I'm also not a settled down the way I see my future ultimatley being. I have struggled to find where I "fit." There is somethig about being 28 and single while most of your firends are getting engaged, getting married and having kids. It can be hard, frustrating and sometimes painful. If I'm honest, it is what felt for quite a bit of the UTC. It is truly a dichotomy to be an athletic trainer in that circumstance. The UTC special is meant is to break the athletes down to the point where they see that they cannot do it in their own strength, that they need God. My first instinct as an athletic trainer however, is to fix the broken down immediately and take that pain away. It was hard to stand there and not rush in and come to the rescue in that capacity, like I normallly would. It is hard to see that truly what I needed to do in those momemts was let those athletes realize their need:Jesus and the strength and power he gives them. I had many moments where I felt like I didn't always know where I "fit." Many moments where i felt like I didn't know what I should be doing. In thiose moments however, God began to do an incredible work for me in my own heart. As, I heard the athletes declare outloud truths like, "I am worhty," "I am accepted," and "I am never alone," God began to remind my heart that he feels the same way about me; in those moments when I feel alone or like I don't fit all I have to do is press in to him. James 4:8 says," Draw near to God and he will draw near to you." Pslam 37:24 reminds us that the Lord holds our hand. That is the truth you have to hold onto in the valley, on the mountaintop and even in the middle.
I have to admit that although my role was difficult at times to not operate in my normal athletic training mindset, it gave me the incredible opportuinity to have a front row seat to the athletes being a window for Jesus and who he is for me and for you time and again. I watched as my friend Allie had a contagious joy throughout the special and was a constant voice of encouragement to her teammates. I watched my friend Nate, slow down and wait for his teammates behind him, so he could come alongside them and encourage them to not give up. I watched me friend Emma, despite an injury continue to find the strength in Christ to not give up. I watched my friend Caroline literally worship all throughout the special, regardless of her outward circumstance. I watched my friend Maggie, choose to ran alongside her injured team captain, even when she didn't have to because she knew he needed the encouragement of a friend. I saw my teammate Callie get down in the mud and army crawl next to an athlete, who just wanted to quit. Time after time, I watched tangible examples of Jesus right in front of me. They reminded me that being a servant and laying down your life for our friend is what Jesus calls us to because that is what he did for everyone of us; we show his love to others when we do the same. Most importantly, they reminded me that it isn't always easy, it's usually messy and sometimes it hurts, but it is always worth it.
If I'm honest with you, I'm still processing alot of what God is working out in my heart and for my life through this experience, I do know that along with my big takeways thus far, I can rest in the fact that God knew this trip was exactly what I needed. I have had a rough few months and I honestly forgot the love and passion I have for athletic training. He has rekindled that in so many ways and I cannot wait to unpack what that looks like in regards to the next steps he has for me in that. I don't know if I will have that all figured out by the time I land stateside, but I do know that God is right there with me on this adventurous ride and my favorite parts will probably be in the moments that I least expect. One of my favorite christian speakers/authors always encourages you to "pray scary prayers because if your prayers don't scare you they don't scare the devil either." I hope you find encouragement in that today like I do. Pray big prayers. Pray scary prayers and expect the unexpected.