A stretch of nearly four months lies between the Spring and Fall semesters at the Institute. In 2013, twenty families and ten single individuals traveled during this time to their respective regions, for varying lengths of time. Those who did not go abroad were by no means idle, as our Nashville headquarters hosted hundreds of youth in service projects throughout the city. Others prepared not just for a new semester at the Institute, but also the launch of the G.O.D. elementary school. For us, summer is a time to be productive, work hard to develop skills, raise funds and serve, both locally and abroad. This busy season came to a close at the end of August, 2013, when the G.O.D. community gathered for one week to prepare our hearts and minds for a new semester and the many opportunities it holds.
Over the years, this week has taken place for different lengths of time, at varying locations. Our experience this year, held at our organizational headquarters, was hashtagged, instagrammed, tweeted and retweeted as “CDW2013” – Community Development Week, 2013. “I am so excited about Community Development Week! It’s like Christmas morning…” gushed Megan Fleeman prior to the start of the week. Maria Pratt, who tuned into sessions from India, reflected positively on the time, even from a distance. “I was so thankful for Community Development Week. The sessions I’ve heard so far have been good reminders that the spirit of the one, living God truly unites us. I was refreshed and energized.” Pratt will spend the fall semester completing a six-month stint serving in the National Capital Region of India.
Each day of Community Development Week proved busy, from start to finish. We worshiped, prayed and studied the Bible, enjoyed meals together, discussed pressing issues such as “How do we train occupationally in the first world for a future in the third world” and “How are we more than a school?” We evaluated our current ministry opportunities, welcomed new students, heard formal updates from each region in which we work, and got our hands dirty in work projects to maintain and improve our facility and property. Each morning found a newly impassioned group of people, ready to spend time investing in one another and our future as an organization.
For me personally, community development week quickly became a time to refocus and remember the Lord. I reflected on God’s faithfulness over the years--seeing how he has led me to this time in my life, and acknowledging that my response must be one of faith. I was challenged to think about my moments in the classroom, as I am daily given the gift of education that will teach me to be a prudent person--one who thinks critically. I was invigorated to press on in developing an occupation that will be useful to the world. I felt the weight of the importance of my relationships, and how they can affect my holistic development.
It is possible in academic institutions and organizations for people to suffer the experience of believing they are not seen and don’t matter. Thus, the amount of work they invest, or even more importantly, the amount of themselves they invest, makes no difference at all. This is something I have observed in numerous work environments, from the admissions office of a highly ranked University to a Hollywood post-production house. Here, at G.O.D. International, we do not believe that. We acknowledge that we are building up people, and to do so takes time, effort, education, training, and commitment.
Taking time like this, to develop as an organization, is what propels us forward. Our success, collectively and individually, depends on how well we can work with those around us. And so, we take this time to gather, believing that moments like those we had in Community Development Week will make us strong. As we embark on a new semester, I am rejuvenated in hope and confidence, excited for the great things to come.