Humbled By Experience

“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”
Titus 3:1,2

My sister Michelle and I wanted to travel. Michelle had heard about working in Canada, and how Australians (as part of the Commonwealth) had no trouble obtaining visas. She found the “Work Canada” website. We applied for working holiday visas to commence in September.

We discovered an information session was being held in a nearby city. The advice given was helpful. Visas were limited, but since God wanted us to go, ours were granted in time. Michelle and I had to supply bank statements to prove we had 4,000 Australian dollars each in our accounts on the Work Canada visa. Money to start out, and money in case we needed to fly home suddenly.

During our year abroad, we ended up working at four major locations: Severn Lodge in Ontario, Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia; a kid’s camp in Ontario (again) and Blueberry Acres in Nova Scotia. Each was different, and our jobs varied. A teacher by training, I worked as a kitchen hand, a waitress, a part-time receptionist, a camp counsellor and ropes course instructor, and a 249 blueberry factory employee. Outside of the comforts and confines of my profession, I experienced both laborious work and incredible freedom. A working holiday visa opens up another life. I was no longer a teacher, but a student of the world.

Some situations were humbling. Being told what to do by apprentice chefs in a resort kitchen. Being yelled at by the manager in a demanding restaurant setting. Being twenty-six and having eighteen-year-old university students asking me what I was doing working in a camp. Standing alongside a moving belt of somersaulting blueberries…

The Word says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6). God will grow your character through your working holiday. The people grading blueberries alongside me in the factory humbled me. Some of the women were in their fifties, and they did this job for six months every year. One lady would drive a couple of hours to work, then go home after being on her feet all day to massage the chest of her grown son, who suffered from cystic fibrosis. I was amazed at her strength and endurance.

In my journal, I recorded places, life-changing experiences and future changes. At Severn Lodge, I evangelised on a daily basis. Big White Ski Resort was a valley experience, but I did share my faith with the restaurant manager. At spring camp, I endured living in community but loved the ropes course and the kids. And I had my stamina and mental strength tested while berry picking and grading around Blueberry Acres. Look forward to and enjoy your unique working holiday experience. Plan carefully. Trip-related expenses may include passport and visa fees, travel insurance, airfare, organisation fees, luggage, new clothing, cameras and so on. And as you travel, be sure to be challenged and humbled.

Thoughts to Ponder:
• Are you leaving school, university or a profession behind? How do you feel about this loss?
• Are you a humble person? Which areas of your character need work?

Dear Father,
I am embarking on an amazing adventure away from the comforts and confines of my previous life and community. I know there will be challenges and humbling experiences. I expect to face people and situations that are unfamiliar to me. Please work on my character, and help me to accept whatever jobs and places you have prepared for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

“Humbled by Experience”, by Nicki Jeffery [Excerpt taken from “Faith-based Travels: A Devotional Guidebook for the Faith-filled Traveller”, published by Ark House Press and available on Amazon here:

Nicki Jeffery – is an Aussie country girl who has travelled the world and now lives at the beach. Her passions are teaching, writing, and caring for her husband and sons, and she is a member of Faithwriters. Her first book, “Faith-based Travels: A Devotional Guidebook for the Faith-filled Traveller”, was written to help Christians stay close to God whilst travelling.

God’s provision in Ontario

The bright lights of Toronto welcomed me as I gazed out the train window. Earlier, I had stuffed my Bible study and journal into my already bulging backpack. I breathed deeply, equipped for my next adventure with God.

Summer camp counselling in the States had been exhausting. But I was coming from a couple of week’s recuperation, one I’d spent at Arthur Ashe stadium in NYC, watching US Open tennis matches.

My skin tingled with excitement at the prospect of seeing my sister again. My other half, my best friend. She was flying from our homeland, Australia.

A couple of hours later, we fell into our bunk beds at Global Village Backpackers on King St. We were in a new country, tired and fearful. We needed good accommodation, jobs, friends, home-cooked food and somewhere to lay down our luggage. Would God provide all our needs? We knew we should trust Him and not doubt.

I adjusted my position on my pillow and read Psalm 4:4,

“Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.”

I slept well that night.

The morning dawned bright and clear and Michelle and I headed to the SWAP [Student Work Abroad Programme] office. Being country girls, the city wasn’t our cup of tea. We told the nice lady behind the counter, and she recommended Severn Lodge, Port Severn.

God is in the business of writing life stories and directing our steps. The owners of the lakeside resort were Christians. Ron and Cindee were a warm, hospitable couple. Cindee became our spiritual mother. They were at the end of the summer season. We were employed in housekeeping and the kitchen, for three weeks.

Prior to our employment, Michelle and I toured the CN tower and Niagara Falls. The latter was breathtaking. Coming from a dry country, we appreciated getting wet on the “Maid of the Mist” boat tour. Such landmarks are a tribute to our great and majestic God.

We loved experiencing new places, and marvelled at the tall maples lining our drive to the lodge. The place was a paradise. There was a lake, two storey cabins, woodlands, decking, wooden chairs to recline on, and the sun shining down from a blue, blue sky.

Our travels were about connecting with people as well. The Lord gave Michelle cleaners to influence for the kingdom, and myself kitchen and wait staff. We were challenged. My sister faced negativity and jealousy amid her workmates. I contended with a chef and two hurting apprentices.

I determined to speak words of life and make a difference. Just being a disciple of Christ means you are a shining beacon of God’s glory. “Children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” Philippians 2:15, 16.

We were in dorm accommodation with unbelievers. We were different. Neither of us drank alcohol and we didn’t feel like staying up around a bonfire at night while others drowned their sorrows. (We had each done that for four years at university) Yet we did socialize in other settings, and we spoke of our faith.

Prayer walks crunching leaves and bark underfoot were frequent for me. There was a lovely nature trail through the woods, and a mound overlooking a swampy part of the lake. I would sit there in the peace and tranquillity, pouring out my heart before Him (Psalm 62:8). Other times, I found a rocky outcrop and sat with an open Bible, spiritual warfare prayer and journal. Having that one-on-one time with my heavenly father. Lifting my workmates to God in prayer.

I believed one of the apprentice chefs was particularly close to knowing God. One of His lost children whom He was calling back. Being in the kitchen with him gave me great purpose.

Eighteen months later, he emailed me saying he had become a Christian. I made mistakes along the way as I sought to “evangelise” him. But God is faithful. He uses broken vessels. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”
1 Corinthians 3:6.

God perfectly timed our stay at Severn Lodge. We were the answer to Cindee’s prayers, and she was the answer to ours. The bond Christians have is strong. Michelle and I learnt that no matter where we were in the world, there was a loving family to relate to. (We didn’t always find a church of believers to belong to, but inevitably God led us to individuals).

Cindee was the sweetest lady. She had two daughters of her own. A wonderful mother with a caring heart. She epitomised 1 Peter 3:4 with her “gentle and quiet spirit”. Cindee’s generosity gave us free hair appointments as a leaving present, and tickets to a Christian women’s conference the following year. We attended with her and a friend when we returned to Ontario in our own car.

We worked with Canadians, Germans, British, Irish and other Aussies at Severn Lodge. On our days off, we would sit on the wharf, gentle waves lapping beneath us. Once, we borrowed the jet skis and later enjoyed the outdoor pool and spa. Every now and then, a trip in to Wal-Mart to stock up on Hershey’s and chips.

Michelle and I shared our first Thanksgiving with the staff. I went around with the video camera, interviewing people by asking the question, “What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?” We had much to be thankful to God for that day. He had provided us with accommodation, jobs, new friends, home-cooked food and somewhere to lay down our luggage. All our needs were met. And we were helping to meet the deeper needs of others their spiritual state.

Our adventures had just begun in Ontario at the end of summer. Our faithful God organised our itinerary and created contacts for us. He was and is ever our constant companion and guide.

Nicki Jeffery – is an Aussie country girl who has travelled the world and now lives at the beach. Her passions are teaching, writing, and caring for her husband and sons, and she is a member of Faithwriters. Her first book, “Faith-based Travels: A Devotional Guidebook for the Faith-filled Traveller”, was written to help Christians stay close to God whilst travelling.