Waffles and World Changers
Life at the SSI office revolves around a single ritual…
I had just begun my first day of work, my spirits high, mind focused, and expectations set. Sitting at my desk, elated to finally be where I’d wanted to be since age 15, I thought I was prepared. My fingers had no sooner started to familiarize themselves with my new keyboard than a call, “Is everyone ready?” drowned the sound of the clattering keys. Throughout the rest of the room, echoes of “Yes!” and “Ready!” peppered the air as well. “Emma, are you all set?” asked Katie at the neighboring desk. In utter confusion, and not wanting to seem ignorant, I volunteered an enthusiastic, “Sure!” I then watched as, all at once, the staff abandoned their workspaces and followed one another out of the room. Baffled, I hastily jumped up and followed them down the hall, up a back staircase, and into a room where chairs surrounded a small table. However, my thoughts plunged further into confusion upon noticing the object of everyone’s attention—a plate of waffles in the center of the table. Much to my astonishment, my new coworkers took a seat and proceeded to divide the breakfast food amongst themselves. After a few minutes of laughing and talking, the waffles had all been eaten, and the room got quiet as Mr. Muffett asked, “Well, who’s going to start?” Gluing my hands to the bottom of my chair, I glanced around the table apprehensively. To my relief, someone else volunteered first and promptly began to spout compliments to Aimee. The next person in line followed suit, and then a third, until I found myself telling Aimee everything I loved about her. The most I could conclude, up to this point, was ‘What an awfully strange sort of meeting.’ When the celebration finally came to a close, I mustered up my courage and addressed the table. “Um… so, what’s going on?” The room erupted in six different shades of laughter as the rest of the staff realized my total oblivion. A seventh shade of laughter joined the chorus when I finally understood that this “meeting” had been a celebration of Aimee’s birthday.
Little did I know that this kind of surprise would prove to be a common theme during my time at the office. Just a few weeks later, Joslyn paused from her work to inform me that select staff members celebrate a certain holiday known by very few as “Calendar Flipping Day,” the day when it’s time to flip the calendar to a new month. In a mysterious undertone, she conveyed to me its importance and told me to come in an hour early to work the next day, adding, as she walked away, “Just be sure not to wear anything too nice… And come in through the back door.” On the ride home, my thoughts explored, in anxious curiosity, endless possibilities for the strange and terrible activities which might await me the next morning. 8am rolled around, and I took a deep breath as I turned the doorknob on the back door. Seeing and hearing nothing, I crept up through the back room into the kitchen, to be startled by Aimee and Joslyn’s loud, “Happy Calendar Flipping Day!” Looking around the room perplexedly, an all too familiar sight caught my eye. There, on the counter, sat another plate of waffles. “We flip waffles to celebrate Calendar Flipping Day,” explained Joslyn, chuckling, “That’s all.” Flooded with relief, my heart attempting to regain its natural rhythm, I grinned and shook my head in bewilderment. Over the next few months, I would encounter more waffles than I ever thought possible, but I’m proud to say that I have survived to tell the tale.
Aside from initiation by waffle ritual, my time at the SSI office has proven to be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences of my life, so far. My desire to work here began nearly five years ago, upon my completion of the LEAD summer program’s House track as a first-year student. Before coming to LEAD, I had always felt a desire to use my life to effect positive change in the world somehow, but frequently became discouraged by this quest. The world seemed an awfully big place, and I have to confess that I’m not a person of very significant stature nor position. In addition, I’d grown used to hearing adults muse, “Oh, remember those days when we were young and thought we could change the world?” They’d laugh afterwards, as if they thought they’d been foolish to ever even hope for such a thing. I endeavored to accept that maybe my hopes had taken root in ignorance and attempted to orient my aspirations toward lesser things, but this led to a sort of asphyxiation as my spirit rebelled against resigning itself to complacency.
When I came to LEAD, however, all I heard, every day, was that I had the capability to do great things and that Christ had equipped me with everything I needed to accomplish them, for the glory of His Kingdom. By the end of the week, I even dared to believe it. That belief molded my character into one of confidence and ambition, as someone who now understands her true purpose in having been called by Christ. Doubt and apathy have no place in the spirit of a warrior in the Lord’s army. Instead, I ought to echo the words of Isaiah, “Here I am Lord, send me,” and be prepared to support my claim with whatever action my Savior determines for me. Regardless of how I may estimate my own value or capability, His voice is the only one I should choose to hear and act upon. Therefore, instead of laying down my weapon and abandoning my convictions to join the passivity of the bystanding crowds, I have committed my life and my fight to God, trusting Him and surrendering to Him the authority He rightly deserves to determine the extent of my potential (Proverbs 16:3).
My time at LEAD convicted me of the fact that my life truly did matter, and that I had a responsibility to use it well. Being encouraged and challenged by the people there who truly believed I had unlimited potential to make a real difference for good gave me the boldness I needed to accept my responsibility and pursue that goal. Their motivation renewed my sense of purpose and revived my disheartened spirit, setting me on the trajectory to where I am today and where I hope to be in the future. This fall, l’ll be moving to Washington, D.C. to intern for a member of Congress. One day, I also hope to attend law school, but I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store, and I’m so grateful to Him for directing my goals through the influence of SSI.
Spending my summer as a member of the SSI staff blessed me beyond words and will always be named among my most treasured memories. I felt so honored to be teaching and encouraging young people the way SSI has encouraged me for so long, helping them understand their mission as God’s representatives and giving them an arsenal of hope and confidence to draw from in accomplishing it. In turn, the brilliant young men and women I was privileged to meet and mentor inspired me with their passion for serving the Lord and ambition to do so wholeheartedly. I stood continually amazed at their bright minds, kindness, diligence, and the way they excelled at every challenge set before them. I’m absolutely certain that, with these students as the face of the world’s future, the future looks nothing but good. I’m overwhelmingly grateful and humbled that the Lord saw fit to bring each and every one into my life.
To all of the young people out there waging war against the apathy of the culture in which we live, this is for you: YOU MATTER. You CAN make a difference in this world for good. And you have a responsibility to do so, by reason of the very fact that you live and breathe in this moment. God has given you every single heartbeat for a reason; don’t waste such a precious gift by believing, for even one of those heartbeats, that you’re not enough to fulfill His purpose. HE is enough, you are His, and He has called you to be His ambassador. You will never know the ceiling of your potential until you aim your rocket for the stars and blast off. Even if the stars are hidden behind clouds of uncertainty or fear, believe that they haven’t stopped burning, and stay your course, in faith, despite the unknowns. The key to a useful life does not lie in having all the answers or in always doing everything “right;” a useful life is built upon a collection of faithful moments. We may not know exactly where we’re going, and we may lose momentum at points along the way, but in this also, we can rejoice. When we realize our weakness and insignificance, we understand more fully the goodness of our God in choosing to use us anyway. I pray you will trust Him with your life, letting your actions and ambitions proceed only from that trust. Be humbled by your incapability and the insufficiency of your own strength, while understanding your infinite worth to the Lord, vitally unique destiny, and unlimited capacity to make an impact for His Kingdom that will endure for eternity. If you have chosen to follow Christ, the Lord says that He has already judged you faithful by appointing you to His service (1 Timothy 1:12). What an immense joy, sensational calling, and weighty responsibility. You’re alive, in this very moment, for a reason. Live it well. You have been powerfully equipped with all you need to be a world-changer, so refuse to be defined by anything except what the Lord has to say about you. Dare to attempt great things for Him and expect great things from Him, then watch, in awe, as He proves His faithfulness time and time again.
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you…” (1Thes. 1:2-4).
Emma Zeilenga first attended LEAD in 2015 and has been involved with the program as a student or volunteer ever since. She joined the staff of SSI as our Summer 2019 office assistant and has now returned to her studies at Cedarville University. She is interning in Washington, DC for an Ohio congressman as a part of her political science studies.
Disclaimer: The views presented in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the position of the Student Statesmanship Institute. SSI is a non-profit educational organization and provides this blog as a platform for those who have been involved in our program to engage and share thoughts related to current events, issues of the day, and personal experiences, but does not necessarily endorse the content therein.