50 Stories: Part of the journey

50 Stories: Part of the journey Cover Image

"I wanted a way to travel abroad. I wasn’t that keen on being an au pair. I thought Time For God would be an interesting way to get abroad and do something that is meaningful, for me and the people I meet. I wanted to do something exciting before I decided what I wanted to become in my life.

I worked at a retreat centre, for young people and school children. I did kitchen service, cooking, and also cleaning after the groups. It was very practical stuff. Sometimes I helped the groups with some of the leisure activities that we provided, like board games and crafts. Sometimes I joined them hiking. I liked doing practical work. I finished school, and that’s about books and writing. So I did enjoy working with my hands and not so much with my head.

This was a Christian centre. Most of the groups that came were Christian. That was the purpose of my year—being amongst these people. The staff took very good care of me, and they showed me I was a part of the local community and congregation. They invited me to join Alpha courses, to help out in the confirmation group. I also joined an art class in the local school for adults.

Living in a rural area was a new thing for me. I’m not from a big city, but I never lived in the countryside, either. My last couple of years at school in Sweden had been really intense, doing lots of volunteering, travelling with my church, and meeting a lot of people. So even though I wasn’t over excited when they offered me this placement, I realized that it would be good for me, to be in this small place.

I was very young, I was 19 and I learned so much – about relying on myself, how to interact with lots of people, both younger and older.

The year turned out to be really exciting. Living abroad is as magical as you imagine it to be. It’s exciting to be a part of another community, and you learn so much about yourself and your home country. All the friends you meet, other volunteers, the people at the placement, it’s fantastic. It stays with you your whole life.

It was scary as well, but that’s just part of being young and doing something for the first time. I didn’t know if I could rely on my English enough to get by.

I also learned a lot about faith, in the way that there are lots that we have in common, and also a lot that is different. And it’s okay. You don’t have to be afraid about different ways to express faith.

It’s just a part of the journey."

--Catarina

This post is part of '50 Stories,' a year-long series of personal accounts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Time For God.