Mission Immersion, a ministry of Nazarene Missions International (NMI), is held every two years in a different country for high school students from around the globe who have a definite call to serve in a culture other than their own.
In July 2012, 42 youth from the U.S., Canada, Europe and South Africa met in Kenya for more than a week of mission simulation and learning within the cross-cultural context. Several youth wrote about their first-hand experiences for Engagemagazine.
These were the opening words of the final worship service for the 42 high school students who participated in Mission Immersion 2012.
"It is tough. But the tougher it is, there are more blessings from God,” continued Professor Leah T. Marangu, vice-chancellor of Africa Nazarene University, which hosted the two-week mission simulation trip.
Though no one knew it, her words foreshadowed the students' upcoming adventures as they attempted to travel to their homes in four nations: United States, Canada, the Netherlands and South Africa.
Throughout Mission Immersion 2012, participants were repeatedly reminded to "be flexible." As one of the leading missionaries, David Cooper, said, "It's no longer your agenda. It is God's agenda, which means it's probably not going to happen the way you planned it."
When the students and four adult sponsors arrived at the Nairobi airport to depart for home, they were faced with a daunting obstacle: Their flight from Zurich, Switzerland, to the John F. Kennedy airport in New York City was cancelled. A few of the students prayed that God would give them peace and allow them to "be flexible" and have good attitudes.
When the students and sponsors arrived in Zurich, they had no idea how they would be flying home. After they landed, airline representatives said they would find individual flights for all of the participants directly to their home airports or with as few layovers as possible.
As soon as the airline found a flight for a student or group of students, they said their goodbyes and hastened off to their gate. Consequently, no one knew who would need to leave the group next. Students had to hug each other goodbye one by one, at only a few minutes notice. This was hard on the students because of how they had all bonded together.
"We all became so close so quickly, and I feel like I've known them all of my life," said Cierra Nestor. "It is sad to think I won't see many of them for a while."
The fast goodbyes added emotional intensity to the 46 individual flights that had to be re-scheduled. However, within five to six hours, all but 14 of the group were on flights or waiting to board their flights.
Despite the bedlam, God still worked blessings through the obstacles and stress. For example, 14 students were privileged with an overnight stay in Zurich. While there, the students were able to visit downtown Zurich. Five of these students’ journeys ended up taking more than 60 hours to get home; however they did eventually arrive home safely.
All of the students involved were given the gift of extended time for developing their new friendships.
As Marangu said before the havoc began: "There are a lot of challenges in the world today; however, with God's grace, anything is possible." The students learned to be flexible with God's plan and to place their agenda at His feet. Hopefully, they will continue to apply this lesson for the rest of their lives.