The other day, I stumbled across a notebook filled with writings that were originally intended to be the basis for the beginning of a blog that didn’t get started until much later than I had intended. A lot of the writing was reflections on my time at Taize, France last summer (specifically July 24-31, 2011). Recently I have been discussing Taize with a number of people, so I felt that it would be good to reflect on my time there and the impact it has made one year later.
I made the initial plans to travel to Taize as the concluding week of my first excursion throughout Europe, and the last week of a month-long trip that started with nearly two weeks in Kenya on a mission trip. Arriving in Taize, I was starting to feel a little drained from travel, and also needing to reconnect with the human race after spending the previous two weeks travelling solo in areas that spoke little English or were not interested in conversations with an American tourist. This was another foreign place, that had taken a bit of time to get to, and I was in a place of isolation having traveled there without any other people.
Luckily, I was saved by the grace of God, who sent me a guide in the form of another fellow Taize traveler (a veteran traveler at that) who I stumbled into at the train station where I was awaiting the bus to take me to Taize. She proceeded to befriend me, and shared with me her previous Taize experiences, and we developed a quick bond which would carry on into the week. Arriving at Taize with still some time to spare before registration, she even gave me a tour of the main areas, and I began to feel much more comfortable, for if the people coming that week were even half as welcoming and inviting as my new friend, then I’d be just fine.
Getting through that first Sunday, with registration, signing up for “work”, and paying, was a bit draining, and I was ready for my first true Taize worship when evening prayer arrived. This was the perfect welcome to Taize in my opinion, because it is very easy to get into the worship (even singing most songs in a variety of languages that are not English) and to begin to open yourself up to simply experiencing God in this holy place.
Throughout the week, I would get to enjoy this worship experience three times a day, coming together with my 4000 newest and closest friends (at least for that week), and then I had the opportunity to explore the community each day in some very interesting ways.
The first of which was my “job” for the week. I was a member of the “Quiet Garden Welcome Team”, or in layman’s terms a quiet keeper in the quiet garden. This task enabled me to enjoy two hours of reflection and walking in a beautiful garden area, while also conversing softly with the really interesting members on my particular team (4 of us total, one from Hong Kong, one from the Netherlands, and one from France). I grew very close to these people, discussing all manners of faith and life, switching off partners each of our daily two one-hour shifts, and also enjoying time to ourselves to think and reflect.
Leaving the garden each afternoon around 2pm, I would venture up to hear the lesson and reflection appointed for the day. It’s amazing to sit and be engaged while simply listening to someone reflect on the word of God for the better part of 45 minutes. Following this, I would break off into my small group of mostly 23 and 24 year olds from all over the world. We would proceed to discuss the lesson, and then delve deeper into what it meant to be a person of faith in this contemporary world and how we are called to live our lives as people of faith back home. I grew to love each and every one of the people in my small group, and they truly made a lasting impact on my life.
Speaking of those that made a lasting impact on my life, the element of Taize that I truly enjoyed the most, and an element that I did not anticipate happening, was the strong bonds of friendship that I formed with certain people while at Taize. The craziest of which would be my brother from England, who I enjoyed all manners of conversations with on life, faith, and also the simple aspects that make us happy. At the end of the week, after becoming good friends, we discovered a crazy coincidence that tells me we were destined to be linked together in that we were both born on the same day and in the same year, he is truly my brother from across the world.
I loved my time at Taize, and hope that I have the opportunity to return once or twice more before I hit that upper age limit for the main campus. I highly recommend the experience to all, and I would never trade my time at Taize for the week of travelling I would otherwise have done had I not gone to International Young Adult Super-Camp.