By Jessi Bullis
Over the course of the last two weeks we have had the opportunity to lead the kids in three different shaping and training simulations!
The first was the Airport Simulation. This gave the kids a chance to experience what the travel process is to go overseas. They had to do everything from getting a medical examination and applying for visas, to exchanging their currency and going through customs control on the “other end.” The teens were each paired up with a preschooler to create their own little “family” units so that the preschoolers would have help throughout the process. We knew sending in a four year old to fill out a visa form on their own would not have been very effective! It was also exciting to see how this helped the teens take more ownership, seeing them step up and protect or provide for the younger students, while even giving them an extra challenge of keeping the kids calm while they waited to board their plane.
The majority of the teens said later that this has been their favorite part of XTrack so far because they were excited to spend time showing off their travel skills (especially since many MKs feel very at home in airports), but also that they felt challenged in taking care of their “younger siblings” which even gave them respect for their parents in dealing with them as they travel!
The Second Simulation was done throughout the course of the week rather than one one day experience. The elementary and teen rooms were challenged with dreaming up their own mission trip and then spend the afternoon walking around to Cru apartments to have support conversations. By the end of the week they had to “raise” the full amount of money needed in pledges. We had multiple kids come to our own apartments throughout the week and it was so encouraging to hear the excitement in their voices grow as the idea of getting to serve the Lord in a capacity that they have passions or heart ties set in.
What started out as “no I don’t need to come in, I just need to ask you for money so I can go rock climbing in Montana” turned into “would you be willing to partner with me by financially supporting me to share the Gospel with kids who like to rock climb in Montana.” Clear presence of the Lord’s growth in their lives!
After giving a “thank you” note to each supporter, they then also had to close out the week by distributing an update letter to their supporters. I have kept those thank you notes and support letters and look forward to seeing how the Lord uses these young dreams in their futures!
This week’s simulation was called “A Meal is a Meal.” A group of children would enter a room and have to observe the “cultural norms” of the room and try to pick up on them. Once they understood they could partake in whatever food was offered in that room, then they would move to the next room for a different food and “culture”. In my “culture” room we could not look into each other’s eyes, we always talked about the sky and one had to wipe their mouth after each bite. When the kids understood what was happening we would exclaim “Wow!” but if they weren’t quite there we would say “Oh boy!” It was definitely a fun exercise to help them understand what culture shock feels like and how different some customs might be (we even had one room which served the boys double the portion what the girls got, and would only talk to the boys, which led to interesting conversations afterward in debrief about the possibilities of sexism overseas).
There were children who broke down, particularly the ones who had not been overseas before. But what a joy to sit and have talks with them about their fear and confusion of going overseas, and to then see them perk up as they were not only heard but also suddenly could see the patterns of the “culture.”
Though we enjoy putting on the simulations, there are instances when it is difficult. We can see in the children’s eyes the reality of their fear in moving to a new country and their confusion at experiencing culture shock. There are days when it hits a little too close to home when I also remember those fears and confusions. All I want to do is take away their pain! But I realize just how important it is to get preparation, and how grateful I am to be a part of helping these children experience and express these emotions in a safe place.
- Perseverance and strength for the team
- For God’s wisdom and guidance in conversations
- Healthy and safe avenues for the kids to express their grief and fear