The Words of the Hanna Family
UK Kick Off Workshop Reflection
April 6, 2006
I arrived at the Jr. STF kick-off workshop with great anticipation. S. De la Pena was going to be there with many other elder brothers and sisters, as well as many younger participants; many of whom I had not properly met before. It was not only a British kick off, as participants from Norway, Sweden, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic really added to the occasion.
For it was an occasion, the first Jr. STF workshop in Britain. As an application requirement it was an opportunity to really understand the deeper meaning behind the program. A series of great talks from S., Geros and Keimi really taught us Hyun Jin Nim's vision, the meaning of the core values, and our wider role as 2nd generation.
The challenge day was at the core of the workshop; but it was a new type of challenge day, a day which safe to say was the best ever on British soil. It perfectly suited the wide age range, location, and core value education. Major credit must therefore go to Michael Franklin and his assistants for his creation of the ĎX-gení. I transformed into Jean Grey for the day, and with my fellow mutants was led by Doctor Xavier (Anthea). It was the same principle as other challenge days but very different; We didnít feel like we were competing, there was no talk of winners or losers but instead a refreshing focus on core values and overcoming limitations, rather than getting lost and exhausted. Some of the challenges were really smart ideas e.g. washing your team memberís feet. Kaz became a bit more like Jesus, he got off loads of sock fluff and my feet slid back smoothly into my socks. It was ticklish, but symbolic of a deeper meaning; the tasks were meant to represent different aspects of the core values. It felt different, but it felt good. I even tried some new things e.g. grabbed a duck incorrectly, got a strong wing in my face, and slipped over when I threw it into the circle. Bread was far more successful at luring ducks, and even though we couldnít get a pigeon, we tried as hard as we could using lots of teamwork. We learnt parts of the pledge (even though I struggled with part 1), and did press-ups to save Kazís hair. It was great to see reactions and responses to the challenges, with people feeling gratitude for their eyes, voices, coats and friendly company. It was a bitter cold day and it that way it was really impressive that everyone was positive and gained a lot from the experience; overcoming personal limitations through teamwork.
The prayer night reflected the success of the challenge day; there was a really good, reflective atmosphere. It was an opportunity to focus our energies, and for me to make determination for a fresh start and attitude to life. I felt really good. There was also an obligatory interview with one of our elders, which helped connect us with the structure and think about the program, as well as beautiful t-shirts that made me feel like a member of a holy army. It was an army of hugely different individuals of different ages from different parts of Europe, but even in that short weekend it really felt like a real family. There was some really great moments over the weekend which confirmed this: seeing our team skipping up Chislehurst high street and attracting loads off suspect looks from the locals, passing other groups singing holy songs along the streets, seeing Jeremyís team all hold hands as they crossed a busy road (and doing the hokey pokey later) and seeing Maramaís team leaving the rules behind as they ran out of Beechcroft in high spirits -- as Marama said ĎGod must have been so happyí.
The practical guidance for Jr. STF was invaluable, it made me realize how much thought and care had been invested in the program. The vertical alignment was really reassuring; this strong, solid structure gives the best foundation for the success of Jr. STF in Europe. If approached with the correct attitude and investment in accordance with the guidelines then it will surely be worthwhile and successful.
Perhaps the strongest asset to the workshop was the great staff, who ensured good care and balance. There were many really great elder brothers and sisters who gave up a whole weekend of their busy schedules to lead and serve their younger brothers and sisters: Sara, Keimi, Marama, Timmy, Jeremy, Maria, Anthea, Sarah, Grace and Caroline. There was also great emceeing from our field educator Yoshiko, and great support from S., Geros, Ajay, the London STF team, kitchen staff and media staff. I could also sense the workshop parents really helping the atmosphere; they were really nice to have around and made it feel even more like a family. Being a short workshop, it was hard to get to know everyone, but it was really great to get to know some brothers and sisters better. It was great to share the experience with them and see how they were learning and enjoying the workshop; for many it was one of their first so it was important that they had a more than good experience. At many times I felt like dancing, which is always a good sign.
There was a real positive energy towards the program, and a keenness, eagerness and openness to share which was very promising as well as inspiring. Probably my favorite single moment of the workshop was when we were gathered outside the front of Livingstone house, the sun was shining, the air cool and the breeze crisp. Nearly 100 of us wearing our Jr. STF t-shirts, many were chatting and smiling and others were running around the grounds. I was one of the people chatting and smiling and was asked what I felt about the workshop -- and then I saw it. The sight of everyone talking and having fun with each other, some of them running in and out of shot; everyone of all ages in the same t-shirts enjoying each others' company. The sun was shining, the garden was fresh, and there was lots of joyous noise and high spirits. It had been about 5 years since Iíd seen so much energy at Livingstone house, and so many blessed children enjoying the surroundings. That summed up my feelings on the workshop.
Through the workshop I could connect much more to Hyun Jin Nimís vision; the focused education really gave me inspiration to take JR STF seriously and use it as an opportunity to improve my life of faith. I can already see it having a positive effect, as it goes beyond the tasks Iím doing. Keeping a constant connection with the core values isnít confined to set tasks, but really makes you think about what you are doing every day. It is for that reason that I really recommend those in the thick of adolescence to join, as it is at this time when you understand your role and position, but when it is really difficult to motivate yourself and keep spirited because of whatís going on around you. I would like to thank all of the staff and participants for making the workshop a great success, it has really inspired me to take action, do things, and overcome limitations. There is no better thing than to spend time with your extended family, and JR STF will help many others as well as myself.
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