This year marked the first year that several Sahel Academy students under the leadership of Roslyn Barnes participated in the ACSI Student Leadership Conference held in Zanka, Hungary. The following is a letter written by Roslyn and her students sharing some of their experiences and the lessons they took away from the conference.
We had a great time at the Student Leadership Conference in Hungary! Since many of you were praying for us we would like to now share with you some of the things we experienced and learned during the conference.
The theme of the conference was “More of Jesus, Less of Me”. The Bible talks were all based on passages from the book of John, looking at what it meant for Jesus to be a servant leader and how we can live this out more in our own leadership. After each talk we had the opportunity to discuss what we had heard in student-led discussion groups. We also participated in workshops on various topics and spent time talking, eating, praying, singing and playing sports with students from other schools. Towards the end of the conference we developed our school “action plan” and had the opportunity to present this to some of our new friends.
Here are a few reflections from each of us…
I was blessed in so many ways by this trip. I cannot express how grateful I am to all the people that made this a reality for me. I was drawn closer to God in several different ways, but particularly, I was reminded of a valuable lesson in unity. I was reminded of the forces that unite, the same forces that transcend the barriers that stand between us, as Christians, as a school body, and as the human beings that we are. I also see the spiritual potential of young people at my school. Currently, I am working with our Youth Pastor, to start mentoring young people who will be able to in turn, disciple others. Thank you for investing in my future as well as, hopefully, to the Kingdom of God.
Blessing Oluloto (Grade 12 student and Community Outreach Team leader)
I was privileged to be a vocalist on the worship team this year. At first I was a little nervous about joining the team; “Will my voice be good enough?” “What if I think I sound good, but really I am not that good?” Aside from that I was also thrilled to see what being on the team will entail.
When we landed in Hungary my body was not prepared for the sudden change in weather and I fell sick. I never fall sick, so this was surprising for me and to add on top of it all, I lost my voice. I was not too worried at first, so the first day of the conference I did not sing. Then the reality hit me, I could not sing!
So that night with a large dose of vitamin C, sore throat pills, and tea, I begged God to have mercy on me and restore my voice. I woke up the next day hoping I’d have a clean voice to sing with. My voice was worse than the day before. Practice time came around, and the realization that I will not be able to sound my best in front of all these people dampened my spirit. “I’m going sound like a dying toad in front of all these people…” At that moment Bill our worship leader turned to me and said “Blessing, we may have broken voices and broken instruments, but God hears the heart. That’s where the worship comes from.”
Those words did not magically take away my sadness. But as I sang it suddenly occurred to me … “I am not standing here to entertain the audience. I am here as a creation exalting the creator, the savoir, and he is mighty. I am nothing but a reflection of his beauty.” And I sang, didn’t matter what I sounded like, I lifted my hands to him and sang. It was a glimpse of heaven, the raw worship that happened in that theater. One day we will all sing together for our God, no pain, no sin, just God. Worship goes past voice quality, language, gender, class, and race. Worship is a tool that unites us all simply as sons and daughters of God, children of the kingdom. My role as a worship vocalist is to reflect God’s sovereignty, and lead people to worshiping God.
Caleb Cain (Grade 11 student and Youth Group leader)
I was excited to hear that I would be able to go to the Student Leadership Conference. It was an incredible time, and I’m very grateful that I got to go. Of all the wonderful things I learned while I was there, the biggest one had to be openness.
Openness isn’t heard of much, and people get ‘congratulated’ or ‘rewarded’ for stepping out to say something; to speak against the problems of this world. However, while it is good we acknowledge these achievements, it’s also rather frustrating, because we should all be able to express ourselves or share something deep without worrying about looking ridiculous.
So that’s one of my goals now, working on how to figure out a way to get people to be more open, or sharing things that hurt them they shouldn’t have to keep internal. There are many barriers, each of which are rather tall, but I am determined to bring this idea to people in some form or fashion. I have had a really tough past, and my testimony is rather difficult for me to share. On a whim, I decided to tell my small group everything though; interested in seeing how God would use it. As soon as I was done I watched several hands shoot up as the people who went before me asked to retell their stories. No one wants to share the hard parts of their lives, yet when they do, it is ultimately beneficial, because several other people could be going through the same thing, and you can show them that they are not alone.
Roslyn Barnes (Teacher)
In the lead up to the conference I enjoyed connecting online with the student discussion group leaders to help prepare them for the task they were taking on. It was a privilege to support them, and they did a great job. The greatest joy for me was watching Caleb, Blessing and Brian meet the challenges that came their way and engage with opportunities to learn, make new friends and serve. I was so proud of them. I am excited at the possibility of seeing more groups of Sahel students participate in coming years.
I also really valued the opportunity to network with other teachers who are investing in developing young leaders in their schools. Since most of these teachers serve in Europe, the opportunities and challenges they face are in many ways different to mine. However, like me, they are seeking to live out the truth of the Gospel in the context where they live and serve. Sharing and praying with them was very encouraging.
As you can see, participating in SLC has been a significant experience for each of us. Thank you so much for your prayers and generous support! We were blessed by your partnership with us, and hope that what we have shared will be a blessing to you.
Brian, Caleb, Blessing and Ros.