Just when you think you’re past ready for a break (or in our case, still waiting for the final week of semester), AFES makes us go to a conference. But, as it was last year as well, it was just what I needed.
The AFES Apprentice Conference is designed to care for and keep equipping and challenging ministry apprentices who are being trained in university ministry (though it’s really being equipped for a lifetime of service). The AFES office team and some senior staff workers lovingly spend the weekend supporting us in our first two years of ministry.
As a first year, I found it so very refreshing and comforting to share my experiences and not have to explain why I was struggling so much; everyone just knows what you’re talking about. Now in second year, it is again the thing that stands out and is what makes this conference so unique.
The best thing about it, I find, is the small group time, where we share and reflect on the year and pray for each other. Last year, every member of my small group (there were only three of us) were quite overwhelmed and really struggling (crying together is a great bonding activity). This year, we were coping far better and were able to see how much we had grown in the last year, and it was lovely to share this with a couple of other girls (our groups had shrunk but were combined).
We still had various struggles; some of mine were things I hadn’t really told many people because I felt so guilty about how I was feeling about ministry. But I shared them and was relieved to find out others felt the same – not that it’s a good thing that we all find ministry hard sometimes, but it’s nice to know it’s normal and it’s a good reminder not to trust our emotions too much.
The conference is also made up of bible talks (the girls and guys were separated this year; girls looked at 1 Peter) and stories from apprentices. Both of these aspects were encouraging and rebuking, particularly hearing stories about the things that others have given up for the sake of the gospel. And I was surprised that, despite how tired I was, and knowing that we had another week of uni to go, I was refreshed and spurred on to continue serving God.
It was also a time to spend with my team (and celebrate a birthday!). Below are some of the fun times we had.