Firelight reflects from face to face as our laughter fills up the damp English evening. Several of us shriek and scoot our chairs backward as showers of sparks erupt from the blaze, crackling with sudden intensity. Some of the boys, perhaps over-excited by the first bonfire of the season, attempt to pile on every available wooden object, turning our campfire into a towering pyre reminiscent of the pillar of fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt. Our group lines the rough wooden benches, telling stories and catching up on each other’s lives. As talk dies down Michael, our Scottish trainee, strikes up a haunting ballad and we all attempt to sing along. Soon our Ghanaian student changes the tune to a lively praise song and we clap and stomp our feet with animation. Even with the dismal promise of early morning workout hanging over our heads, none of us want to leave the warmth and security the fire offers.
Though it is only the end of our first week at Highfield Oval, we have begun to feel like we have known each other forever. Our team is filled with diversity, from varying accents to differing cultures and families history. Several of us also deal with strange food cravings, summed up well when one student from Texas ended up searching the entire town of Harpenden for hot sauce! Perhaps it is that inexplicable warmth created by hot tea and burning logs, or maybe it is something we share deep within us, for even though each person in our team has differing backgrounds we all are built up by each other’s company.
I have to be reminded of Romans 12: 4-6 NKJV,
which states “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.” Even in the short time we have known one another our views on life and faith have been broadened by the differing strengths each individual brings to the group. Not only is it fascinating to learn about customs and interests foreign to us, but also we can be solidified in our beliefs by hearing about the experiences of fellow Christians. Herman Hesse once said, “It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”
As the fire dies down, we all trek across the field to #9, our adopted home for the next three months. Although several Americans grumble about the lack of S’mores in England, we all have thankful hearts as we look forward to many more such experiences. We all know there will be difficult times, with lack of sleep and emotional and physical exhaustion, but we trust that through them we will grow closer to God as a team.