“I don’t know if this program is for me,” May said to Jan Lo, a staff member at Trailblazer Camps in Dajia, Taiwan. “I’ve heard all of this before.” May, a young woman training to be a pastor at a local Christian college, was smart, skilled, and already had many leadership abilities.
It was the first week of training for Taiwanese nationals at the Trailblazer summer internship program, started in 2009 to equip college students for future ministry. Interns serve as the primary staff during the summer camps for children aged third grade and up. During the six-week program, interns work at the camp during the week and then return to their home churches over the weekend to implement what they’ve learned.
During that first week of training, May told Lo that she didn’t think the internship program had much to offer her in the way of spiritual growth or learning new ministry skills. She was planning to leave the program, but Lo asked her to stay on for at least the first week of camp with the kids, and May agreed. One week later, May came back to Lo with tears in her eyes, physically and emotionally drained from the hard work, not sure if she could continue. Interns live in the cabins with the kids, 24 hours a day for each four-day camp program. They do everything from playing games to cleaning toilets to leading worship and small groups. Interns have to resolve conflicts, negotiate with staff members, share their faith with children, and participate in physically demanding (albeit fun) activities. May soon learned that camp ministry was no easy task.
With Lo’s guidance and support, May continued the program and came away from her time at camp a different person. May told Lo that she had wanted to be a leader and pastor because of all the things she could do – she wanted to be someone important. But now May could see how her pride and need for admiration was getting in the way of her spiritual growth. May learned humility and how to persevere in difficult circumstances while working at the camp. With a new appreciation for the difficulties of ministry, May returned to her pastor training with a teachable spirit and humble heart.
“It’s exciting to see the change the Lord can make in the lives of these young people, and to see it happen in such a short amount of time,” TEAM missionary Ron Heinsman said. “We see how these young people experience God differently at camp and grow in their walk with Him.”
The internship program has hosted around 50 interns over the past four years, and many of them come back as volunteers each summer. They enjoy helping run the camps and also provide excellent training to the new set of interns. “We can’t do the camp without them,” Heinsman said. “These interns are the next generation of leaders for the Taiwanese church.”
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos provided by Ron Heinsman