Going on a vocations camp for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you aren't really sure what to expect. For me, it was my first time going on one. It had been three years since I went on a church camp, and I had never been to one in Malaysia. So many questions were going through my mind. I struggled to think. I couldn't focus. My heart was filled with anxiety, especially knowing that if my parents had found out what kind of church camp this was - a vocations camp - all hell would break loose at home. But, I trusted God, and I took the risk, because I felt His gentle tug at my heart, asking me to go, and just to be open to Him.
For me, I needed the time and the space away from people I was too familiar with in order to stay open and discern. I was afraid of my decisions being swayed by those whom I care for very much and know well. So, it was good that I didn't know most people, and those whom I did know, I wasn't super close to. That gave me the ability to just allow myself to breathe, and to "sunbathe in the presence of God". I use that term because it helps me to describe the deep contemplation within my heart, for which no earthly words can express. The silence spent in the presence of God is important, because it allows Him to speak to us, directly into our hearts. One of the other girls on the camp, S, said, "I went to the chapel just to sit down in silence.That silence was great peace. To me, silence speaks of God's love for us and also He speaks within the heart". That observation, that reflection, is just so beautiful. Here, when we speak of silence, we're not just speaking of the exterior absence of noise, but the interior silence. In a sense, we calm our minds and hearts to be able to focus truly on God, and be totally mindful of His loving presence. This state, however, can only be achieved by God's grace, and it is not easy to just "be" with God. The world offers many distractions that can detract our focus from God. Thus, a piece of advice given to me as a Candidate in the UK was this, "To imagine putting all my worries, fears, anxieties etc. in a box, and leave it in the corner of the room with the lid open. Then, knowing it is there, but at the same time, knowing that it is to come back to later, after I have done what I need to do with God in the silence, I can then concentrate".
During the camp, we had the opportunity to interact with several priests and Religious - from different congregations, and also diocesan (priests). We were also taught about the vocation of auxiliaries and that of marriage. We were exposed to much - to give us a full picture of the options open to us. I think that was great as it allowed us to truly learn about each of the vocations that God calls us to. However, it is important to note that although some of us may share the same vocation, we are all called in a unique way. Each person is called to do some work that only they can do. Nobody else can fill their place for them, since God has made us each for a specific purpose.
So, where does that leave us? Some may have gotten their answer already. Others may still be searching. But, all will be done in God's time, according to His will (Ecclesiastes 3). The only one who will know is us ourselves, and of course, God, Himself knows too. The concluding factor though, is that camps like these are meant to open us up to question our meaning and true purpose in life, and to learn how to discern God's will, that we may be open to it when He calls.
So, as Samuel said, "Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening" (1 Samuel 3:10).