South Africa

Posted on January 12th, 2013 by


Joe Poblocki ‘14


To be honest, my faith has never been a critical factor in my life decisions. I was raised Catholic, where Christmas mass is 3½ hours long and we sing minor chords and go through the same service every week. My Dad would make me come to church to compensate for having done something bad that week, and I would only ever think about the orange juice and donuts that would be served after the long hour was finally over. In short, I had never really been presented with a form of worship that I remotely enjoyed, so I have struggled a lot with my faith.

I severely underestimated the Christian component of this camp, and I don’t mean that In a bad way at all. Worship comes through passionate sermons, personal stories, and loud, energetic music. This musical component has a huge influence on the effectiveness of the worship, and it is fantastic. Above everything else is the positivity in which faith is encouraged. Where I viewed religion as a form of punishment, embodying “Catholic guilt,” the South Africans form it into something to hope for, and hope is exactly what a lot of these kids need. Dave and I went on a run to see some penguins this morning, and as we returned, we could hear the singers in the chapel from the base of the camp. Today was the first day that I really let myself go during worship, singing and doing my dorky white boy dances that the campers were probably laughing at. The degree to which these kids put their hearts into their faith is astounding, and our group discussions centered around Bible verses have led this kids to say some really profound things.

I was asked to lead my group in prayer today, and I initially thought that it was going to be very uncomfortable. The South Africans I have met have been excellent at coming up with passionate, articulate prayers in front of a group, and I knew that I could not do that as well as them. After a few “umm”s, however, I came up with something decent and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. After that, I found myself having more conversations with my group members, who are starting to shift from their initial shyness to forming awesome relationships with both myself and with a lot of the leaders. Elliot and I could barely get these kids to say anything two days ago, but they are finally starting to warm up, and they have some really incredible things to say. I spoke with two guys from Kayilitcha for over an hour today, covering everything from sports to food to pets, camping, life lessons, and more. The hardships that they have endured and the way in which they carry themselves through it all cannot be described in words. And they do it all in good faith.

I found myself thinking today that maybe the reasons for which I thought I was coming to camp are not the reasons why I am here. I came to serve, but I have found that my definition of service was wrong; I have not done any more for these kids than I have done with them. I thought that I would be getting a break from studying for the month, but I find myself the student of a plethora of knowledge that these kids have to teach me about faith. They live and breathe their faith to God, and I cannot pretend to understand how much it means to them. I will keep an open mind to whatever comes along this week, and I might just grow in a way that I would not have expected when I applied to be a part of this trip.


One Comment

  1. Deb Kind (Maren's Mom) says:

    Joe —

    Thanks for sharing your blog entry. As I told the other bloggers, lots of us are reading the entries and I want you to know that your efforts are appreciated. I am quite confident that you and the rest of the Gustavus group will grow from your South Africa experience in ways you never expected.