Alisha encapsulates this year's Summer Language Institute theme, "There's a Hero in You." Ironically, students learned superpowers and capes aren't what makes a hero.
Having exited our third Summer Language Institute (SLI) at the end of last month, sometimes I find myself challenged by the notion that three weeks is enough time to have any meaningful impact on the lives of students who, not so long ago, were total strangers.
I consider myself a pretty rational thinker and I know that, from the moment a person wakes to the time they go to bed, they are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of messages.
"You want more."
"You're just a few purchases away from happiness."
"Life is a ladder that must be climbed -- if you're not advancing, then you're not doing it right."
"Everyone is confident (except you)."
How do I, a mission worker on a modest budget, compete with advertising machines that pay millions to convince our students they aren't "good enough?"

By spreading a different message.

"Beautifully broken things can be made from the dust."
"Maybe life (and faith) are less about who's 'in' and 'out' and more about what you do to make things better for others while you're here."
"Let's consider the journey."
"You can experience freedom now, in this moment, if you want."
"You are a child of God. So is every person you meet. Consider that before you dehumanize them."
An OCD nightmare.
I know someone well who has many OCD qualities and she'll tell you it's the thing that's different than the rest that gets noticed the most. So, while none of the ideas in the second group of messages are original, they certainly stand out. 

If these can be the ideas that I both articulate and live out at both SLI and during the regular school year, then maybe that idea will plant itself in the mind of one of our students. And over time that idea grows and sets its roots deep in the essence of that person. And the person will bear new fruit with seeds that can be planted in others.

I feel confident this can be possible upon reflecting on my own life. The seeds planted in my mind and heart that have allowed me to grow into a Jesus radical today have come from the most unexpected people and times.

And the great thing about young, fruit-bearing trees is they can produce fruit while they keep growing and changing. Like us. Like me. I recognize I am still developing but I pray my fruit is finding itself as a blessing to others.

So back to the original thought: "Is three weeks enough time to have a meaningful impact on the lives of who were strangers not long ago and will become strangers again?"

My hope is that, by the grace of God, the answer can be "yes."