Summer Camp Reflections–From Kari H.

November 12, 2009


Thanks for writing your thoughts from the summer Kari.  It was really encouraging for us to read about your time here this summer. For everyone else, I hope you enjoy reading another perspective on the events of the summer.  The post that follows is really exactly the same as the note Kari wrote here on Facebook (so don’t feel bad if you don’t understand the inside jokes :)) We are so excited for where God has been and is continuing to take us! Enjoy!

“Oh Holland, How I Miss You”

By Karinna Hagelganz

I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to actually finish this… but here is it. My thoughts and stories from the second half of our mission trip to Europe, located in my favorite country.

Sorry it’s so long… I tend to get pretty detailed 🙂

Paris was grand…the sights and sounds (not the smells, those were pretty wretched) and the culture wrapped up into a few days time was a necessary experience. I wish we would have had more time with Pastor Mike, but the trip was a fruitful and beneficial one. We arrived in Holland late that Friday night, our friends waiting at the airport to collect us in case the Parisian influence jogged our memories on how to get home. Madison, Heather and I headed home with our Dutch Dad, and as the house came into view, breathed a sigh of relief at being home. I realized the irony of that thought- seeing the Dutch house that we had spent only a few nights in before Paris as being home. Traveling makes you seriously question what home is, and what makes it a home. I wouldn’t necessarily say that home is where the heart is, because it can be somewhere your heart wants to be and at the same time where you currently are. A person’s heart can be split into however many homes it needs, and every time a new home enters the picture it makes room.

Saturday after returning to Holland, we spent the day in Amsterdam. Only three of us had been there before, and the whole team was looking forward to it, each for a different reason. Some were excited to shop, a few wanted to check out the tattoo/piercing places, others were interested in the architectural/tourist spots, but I was just glad to be in the city. There were a few spots that I most wanted to go to, and by the end of the day was glad to say I saw most of them.

Getting off the train at Centraal Station was like a small homecoming again. I recognized the buildings instantly, and my eyes looked everywhere just wanting to walk through the streets and recall the emotions I felt the summer before. The plan was to take the team to Vondel Park, a place our team had spent a lot of time in last year. Ryan and I divided up the team into pairs and everyone walked around the park. We had spent the week in France centered on evangelism, and now it was time to try it out in Holland. I loved being back in the park. I have so many memories there, and smiled each time one came to mind. The pairs walked around doing prayer walks, and each was encouraged to be on the lookout for people to talk to…

Madison and I spent most of our time in the Park praying and stopping now and then to read our Bibles. We also may or may not have spent some time with the infamous Admiral Ackbar, who had been so recklessly left behind by his owner. After meeting back up again, our team walked back to the train station to meet Ryan and Jeri who had returned, complete with the best meal one can get in Europe- Doners! The smile on Curtis’ face was priceless to say the least. The rest of the team who had yet to have one in Holland were more than satisfied, and I was so happy that we were halfway through the trip and I felt comfortable enough financially to spend money on them. We spent the rest of the day walking around, shopping a little, and finally getting home (very, very late).

After church on Sunday may have been one of my most favorite days of all. Since we had been gone so much, Madison, Heather and I decided to forego an afternoon with our team and spend time with our Dutch family instead. They had been so kind letting us stay with them, done our laundry when we got back from Paris, helped us pack before we left, fed us, and always made sure we had everything we needed. When we arrived home, our Mom was out on the back patio working on a bracelet she was making with beads, with my dear little roomie Mirthe sitting with her. They had seen our bracelet making (using string/thread and lots of knots to make patterns) and so we offered to teach them. Pretty soon, all the girls in the house (Judith, Mirthe, Kirsten, Romy and us three americans) were out back with thread spread out over the whole table, and everyone happily working on bracelets. It provided such a unique opportunity for us to bond with our family! Not long after the bracelet convention began, we found ourselves easily into conversation with our family, laughing when we couldn’t understand one another, laughing at each other when someone said something ridiculous, and finally getting to a point where we really, truly felt like it was just an afternoon like any other with our normal, every day family. Our Dutch sisters picked up on the bracelets very fast, and even the littlest Blom child, Nathan, came out to sit with us. He was absolutely adorable. Loved being around us even though he only really knew about 6 words in English, literally. He even made sure that we remembered him when we got home from Paris. This kid seriously melted my heart!

The last week of Europe for our team was to be spent with the Dutch youth group at a camp, similar to summer camps we have here. Only this one was structured much, much differently.

Late Sunday night, the whole of the upstairs house was in packing mode- three American girls and two Dutch girls all headed to camp!! We woke up early enough to make sure everyone could get ready, then drove over to Joey and Kate’s with our Dad’s trailer to pick up some final necessities for camp. The drive to camp was beautiful-we had finally made it into Dutch countryside. Real windmills with acres of land, canals with small houses and farms nearby, sheep and cows roaming freely across grass and keeping out of the way of duck families near the smaller streams… it was perfect.

The house that had been rented for our Youth Retreat was perfect too- It must have been a tavern or a pub at some point, because it had a dining area with a full bar, a kitchen off to the side, and dorm rooms on either side of the dining area. Don’t worry; one was for the girls and one for the guys. After piling our luggage on our beds, the gang headed back downstairs to begin the process of merging cultures. Dutch and American Christians, all there for a common purpose. Our goal was community- how to make it work, what does it look like, and where do we start? Even though most of the Dutch kids new a decent amount of English, the older ones would take turns translating for the others making sure that everything was communicated effectively. It took a bit of time for introductions and getting to know who each other were, but honestly, our two groups became one in no time. We quickly learned our differences and how to laugh at each other, and even though the Americans had plenty of ways to keep occupied, the Dutchies were able to integrate in. Whether the boys joined in playing football (or as Americans call it soccer), teaching more people the bracelet making ways, discovering similar and not-so-similar tastes in music or playing games that could cross cultural lines, camp became camp and not just two strange groups from different countries and backgrounds.

Joey introduced probably one of the greatest rules of all time, which turned out to be less of a rule and more of something we looked forward to. Dinner time was strict servitude- no one was allowed to serve themselves. Not anything. When dinner was put on the table, I was not allowed to instinctively grab the plate or bowl and put the delicious food on my own plate, and even if I was thirsty and saw a satisfying beverage on the bar (the juices are to DIE for. Literally.) I had to wait until someone else noticed my need, asked if I needed it, then wait for them to take my glass and fill it for me. And no cheating either, like saying “gee, I could really go for some more salad…” This was serious business, which forced us to pay attention to others and their needs, rather than keeping to ourselves. It’s not that getting our own food is bad, but this way we learned to put other needs before ours in one area, which always gets you thinking about other areas of life. Sometimes someone would serve everyone, sometimes we would all ask other people and it became chaos, but it always resulted in each of us serving our brothers and sisters at camp. There were three tables that sat 8 people each, so we had the chance to change up where we sat and who we sat with, always learning how to read people and see their needs. Breakfast and lunch were not required service, but often people would make the choice to ask someone what they needed, and the desire to serve each other spilled into everything else by the end of the week. I watched as high school boys gladly served each other, noticing needs of other people and honestly willing to go out of their way. The girls, a few of which are normally pretty quiet and shy, broke out of their silence and vocalized the needs they saw. The pride I felt for these people grew every minute- I found myself just staring at them now and then and smiling at how much I had seen them grow. Not even just on the American team!

Our days during camp were spent discussing our identity in Christ. It’s not enough to just serve each other, but in Christ we are very specific people: We are Learners. We are Priests. We are Servants. We are Family. We are Missionaries. Our identities in Christ, identities we already are and were designed to be, were explored and discussed in practical ways each day. At night, we combined forces and spent time in worship with our musically gifted group. Each night we were blessed by talents from two countries, multiple instruments, and even though it started out rough it ended with a beautiful picture of the body giving glory and praise to our Lord and Savior. At first, I don’t think any of us really knew what was happening. Learning how to be family, servants, missionaries, and be learners the way Christ created these roles to be can be a difficult and confusing process. Our studies were done in true study fashion- not just a monologue from one guy. We had questions given to us and were encouraged to interact and answer these questions together. The initial meetings were much quieter than the last few, and once we became more comfortable with each other the discussions opened up and we went deep. We also broke into small groups, trying to mix Dutch and American, old friends and new friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better small group. Seriously! I wouldn’t mind spending time with Kate, Heather and Katie at our little table by the front door, pondering our group discussion and realizing the deeper truths as they applied to us individually. Even though there were times where we sat in complete silence just thinking over the questions and trying to come up with an answer, we all knew that we weren’t alone in wrestling with what it looks like practically to live out our lives intentionally. Strange how just because we were created to be in the image of Christ and to live as He lived doesn’t mean that we will naturally be able to.

Beyond our studies and worship, we spent some good time playing too Group games, a canoe trip where Nathan forgot his left from right, watching a thunderstorm pass over the Dutch countryside, listening to the Sweat Mix (I’ve got a brand new combine harvester…), learning about Dirty House music, taking Dutch lessons, making Andre laugh (which honestly is not hard at all, the kid will laugh at anything), playing with Jude, making a bagillion bracelets, listening to and enjoying Casper’s beautiful harp playing, laughing at most everything Nathan said, and even nap time are just a few of the things we did during the day. A few of the Dutch girls planned most of our organized activities, including a water balloon fight, the canoe trip and the very memorable and hilarious talent/variety show. King Ooga Booga may have made an appearance, for those of you who are familiar with him. One of the nights we played sardines with everyone, a game which the Dutchies had never heard of, but soon became very good at. We also had an afternoon dedicated to the creative juices within; spaghetti noodles (uncooked) and dozens of candy varieties on each table for us to build the best creation. I made a swingset, complete with little mini gummi bears on the swing, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower were built, and a cute farm with marshmallow animals made the main room decorative and tasty looking.

The weather was deathly hot, making sleep very difficult and our skin prime candidates for my least favorite insect of all time, the mosquito. Those blasted bugs took advantage of my uncovered skin around 35 times, including a few on my face and one on the tip of my finger. Let me tell you, I was miserable at night! Thankfully it wasn’t the first week where I was dealing with jet lag or I would have simply called it quits!I don’t think there are accurate words to describe the week. Friendships were formed, bonds were made, questions and thoughts were answered and left unanswered by students and adults, great food was consumed, laughter was heard throughout the camp, and each person experienced deepening their faith and learning new ways to live out our lives as followers of Christ. Even now, thinking back a few months and the time spent, I can’t explain everything. I look at the pictures and wonder what I would be like if I had spent more time there, if we could translate all we talked about into American culture. It’s something I think about often, wondering what we could change and if we really understood all that took place.

After leaving camp, our Dad picked a group of us up and began to drive back to our home. But on the way, Ryan asked if we could stop at a windmill, just to see one up close. We found one, we stopped, and I took about a hundred pictures! It was probably one of the coolest things I have seen there in the countryside. No one was home, so we just walked around the property a little bit while our Dad explained how the whole thing worked. Reluctantly, we walked back to the car and drove home. The team was to spend some time debriefing and then pack up to leave in the morning.

Each of us in turn explained what God had taught us, and what we thought needed to be changed when we got home. Almost everyone said the same thing- we wanted to change how we do church. We wanted to change how we treat each other, how we view church, what we do while we are there, even down to our small groups and the youth group. The feeling was unanimous though- God had moved and changed our view of church and community, and although we were sad to leave and hated the thought of getting back on the plane and saying goodbye, there was a part inside that was excited to see how God would change things at home.

Saying goodbye to our Dutch family was wretched. Watching little Nathan jumping up and down from the driveway and Romy waving from the trampoline began the first gulp in my throat. Mirthe, my sweet little sister and roommate, had written letters for all us girls, and that began the first wave of actual moisture in my eyes. I didn’t need to be excused to the bathroom to wipe away real tears until we said goodbye to our mom Judith though and I saw her crying a bit. It was a true testament to the body being the body- two cultures and two different languages bonded by love and a common thread of Christ. We had impacted each other, us three girls and that wonderful family. I miss them so much. Sometimes I think about them and look at pictures and it makes me get a little emotional. I waited until their car pulled away from Joey’s house where we had been dropped off to meet the team before I really sat down and just got sad. A few minutes later, it was time to grab all our bags and make our way to the airport.

Our team boarded the plane in disbelief, wanting to turn around and go back, unsure of what feelings we would have when we landed in America. The question now is, three months later, did we change? Have we really been the community we set out to be in Europe? Can the community we lived in for a week be duplicated at home? What are the things standing in our way?

Honestly, I think we are still figuring that out…

I know that this was not my last trip to Holland- I feel just as home there as I do in the states. I have every intention of visiting that country and my family there as much as God and my bank account will allow me. Until then, I continue to pray for my friends in the Netherlands, the work being done, the lives being changed, and for a chance to visit them again soon.”

Thanks Kari!

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