My 2018-2019 Ambassador League Experience Report: A Yearlong Journey of Learning and Growing
By Pamela Guillen
It was July of 2018. I was at Friday’s closing session for LEAD’s third week campers. Excitement was high as the campers entered their final session and as anxious parents waited to hear all about what their little darlings had experienced while away from home that week. Then, partway through the session, I heard it—the promotional for Ambassador League. Hmmm… I knew my daughter had a great experience at SSI and LEAD and thought to myself, “This sounds like something Camille might like to do.” I dismissed it at that moment and decided to put it on the back burner of my brain. I half-heartedly mentioned it to her about a week later. Surprisingly, she too had already been considering it after hearing about it at camp. She had also already been praying to God about it to see if it was the right path for her for the upcoming school year. Everything pointed in a very positive direction. She saw that this is what God would like her to do, and she had the blessing of her parents to pursue it. Although, I was oblivious as to what this meant for me.
Thus, our Ambassador League journey began.
Camille has participated in several Bible studies, been a devotions leader, and is an avid reader of old and classic literature. Her reading and comprehension, and writing skills are exemplary. I was quite confident that the reading assignments and reports would be a breeze for her. She tends to be a people-person, so I was also confident that the shadowing and interviews would also be a breeze. This appeared to be an easy-squeezy, great, but challenging, experience to add to her high school curriculum. One thing she did have a problem with was calling people on the phone, but I’m sure that was going to be minimal, so no worries. What could go wrong?
The reading assignments and Bible studies proved to be challenging, but in a positive manner. For me, this was wonderful watching my daughter read, study, and grow in her faith and convictions even more. She would share with me often and would suggest that even I read the books. The first out-of-home volunteer assignment she got involved in was for the Republican Party for the up-coming elections. I was nervous about just dropping her off with complete strangers for an entire day and going door to door in the city. However, this was the assignment she chose, and I needed to let her go for it. She went in to the campaign headquarters with every thought that she would be shadowing a bright young woman, happily going door to door and handing out literature and flyers. How fun! Well, it didn’t happen. The original plan was foiled by the absolute deluge of wind and rain that day. Upon retrieving her after a very long day, she got in the car, reclined the seat, was very quiet and stared, almost comatose, for a while, then proceeded to explain to me how she had been sitting in a cubical, making phone-soliciting calls all day with a head-set and a script! Yes, this was a safe environment, but this was my extremely phone-shy daughter who, basically, would have something just shy of a panic attack whenever she had to call someone on the phone at home, even her grandparents! I listened to her story of how she was thrust into learning the process immediately and made almost 400 calls in one day. I also listened to how passionate she was about what she was conveying, how she remained calm enough to answer any questions accurately, and even how she, over the phone, prayed with a woman who had just lost her husband. I thought I was listening to a different child in the car… and I was. This was a ginormous step for Camille… a leap directly OUT of her comfort zone! Phone calls were still a challenge for her, but from that point on, the task only became easier. Wow! I watched as a “phone call anxiety” wall was torn down in my child that I thought I’d never see!
During the wintertime, Camille also started driver’s ed, which was a big step for her. However, since she was still only on a permit for the next months, it seemed that almost weekly Camille would, at some point in the day, approach me with, “So, Mama, tomorrow I’ve scheduled a meeting with (fill in the blank) and I need you to take me there.” Sigh. Now, let me paint a very important picture for you: We live way out in the country. I, personally, grew up in a small village, way out on these quiet, country dirt roads. I attended a small school of just over 100 students. We currently attend a very small, quiet country church. Any errand running I do in the bigger towns, I strategically plan my stops so that I, most likely, never have to make a left hand turn crossing over a four-lane highway. I suppose you can say that life seems to change very slowly out this way where there really isn’t a lot of traffic—and I like it that way. I, Pam, have something just shy of a panic attack when I have to make quick decisions while driving in bigger towns and cities, ESPECIALLY downtown Lansing, on one-way streets, not to mention everyone else’s NASCAR approach to driving on Lansing’s expressways! With Camille joining Ambassador League, there were the mentor meetings, shadowing, volunteering, interviews, observations of trials and government meetings, etc. These new journeys to the big city, for certain, were getting me, Pam, out of my comfort zone right alongside my daughter. Today, I will drive to just about any location in Lansing without anxiety.
Probably one of the greatest growth experiences for me, as a person and as a mother, was to watch my daughter choose and research the topic of Banning Dismemberment Abortion and then also how she scheduled her own training by Right to Life Michigan on how to get out there and petition for the ban. As Camille delved more deeply into this topic, she became more passionate about it and would become outraged at the constant attacks from the opposing side. I watched her be confronted about her stance on Dismemberment Abortion by some women three times her age. But I also watched her confident rebuttal to the opposition, in a way that I questioned if I would have been able to do under such pressure. As I watched this, I realized that as a 55 year old woman, I have never really been this involved in government, politics, nor anything so controversial as abortion. My daughter was growing in her faith and beliefs, and not allowing the angry comments to affect her stances. She was less afraid to do these things than a woman (me) who had almost 38 more years on her! I was now feeling compelled to become more involved in local government. My eyes were opening.
I must point out that Ambassador League is NOT for the weak or lazy. It is a wonderful but difficult challenge beyond what I ever imagined for her as far spiritual and educational growth goes. As the months of the school year skipped by, there were often times when I would hear heavy sighs coming from the next room where Camille was experiencing writer’s block while writing reports, being transferred on the phone while scheduling meetings and interviews, or even having her submitted reports labeled as “not accepted” at the first try.
Now that our Ambassador League journey has come to a close, my husband and I cannot say enough about what SSI, LEAD, and Ambassador League have done for our family, as a whole. Even Camille’s sister and grandparents have been involved somehow, and they too have been enlightened and are excited to see what God has planned for her and our future. I realized that as I was forced out of my comfort zone, it wasn’t so hard after all. If Camille could do all of this throughout the year, then so could I! Isn’t this what God would want us to all be doing? Do not be fearful… Be anxious for nothing… Be Ambassadors for our community and for Christ!
Pamela Guillen is the mother of Camille Guillen who completed Ambassador League as a Special Agent in 2019. The final assignment all Ambassador League students must complete is a report reflecting on their experience throughout the year. Pamela said that after her experience as a parent in the program, she felt “compelled to write this.” The SSI staff is honored to have the privilege of sharing her “report” as a guest blog post.