Breathtaking Peace

Jamayca Whalen

Part of a series retelling the stories of the Josiah Venture trip to Latvia in June

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“Peace will meet you in Latvia.”

These were the words our team heard from a member of Knox before we departed. These six words, all wrapped up and unassuming, were our parting gift.

We think of peace as calm, soothing, and quiet. We think of peace as gentle, but sometimes finding peace is a little like running full-tilt and faceplanting. Hard. Sometimes peace knocks the wind out of you.

My peace arrived on the fourth day of camp, delivered to my door (literally) by a camper who had hardly spoken a word all week. I heard a quiet knock and turned to see the girl peeking at me timidly around the doorframe. She darted inside, pressed a folded up piece of paper into my hand, and then ran back outside without a word. A little confused, I slowly unfolded the slip of paper and tried to make sense of the broken English that was neatly handwritten there. As the message began to take form, I noticed that my hands were shaking. I was working hard to fight back tears. This letter, riddled with spelling mistakes, was a response to the story I shared on the first day of camp. It had been my own story, one of self-hate and depression and giving up and finding hope again. And now here, clutched in my hand, was a letter of encouragement from a camper who wanted only for me to be happy.

“Don’t stop smiling! This will help you to manage everything,” it read.

She was still there, peeking around the doorframe, watching me read the letter. I beckoned her inside and gave her a hug, and she told me, “I am happy when you are happy, but I am sad when you are sad.

Those words. They were spoken by a camper, but they belonged to someone else, someone who rejoices when we rejoice and grieves when we grieve. The Prince of Peace delivered those words right to my door, just when I needed them.

Four days later our team was saying our final goodbyes to the Latvian youth who had touched our hearts. I hate goodbyes, but I made it through them all without shedding a tear and then quickly rushed inside the church where we were staying for the night. As I leapt up the stairs and rounded the corner to my temporary room, I nearly slammed into one of my team members. She looked at me for a brief moment and then asked, “Are you okay?”

And then I began to sob. I cried like you can only cry after perfect peace comes along and knocks the wind right out of you.

Peace did indeed meet us in Latvia.

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