Excerpt from Maria Bayles’ personal blog “Where He Leads I Will Follow.“ Maria is a spring 2015 ASC student from Wheaton College. Reproduced with permission.
It has been so long since I’ve last posted! So much has happened! I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to stop and share what’s been going on. And to be honest, I really shouldn’t be doing this right now.. but I can’t sleep and my mind won’t stop so I figured I may as well process everything here, so here it goes…
Travel: For starters, I have done a ton of travel since my last posts. It feels as though it’s just been go, go, go – but in a good way 🙂 I’ll try and do a short summary of each of my trips:
Cairns/Great Barrier Reef: Bucket list item checked off!!! This trip was just a quick weekend getaway, but it was so much fun! Me and 5 friends flew up to Cairns for the weekend. We took a day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef – visited two locations (one inner reef and one outer reef). I got to snorkel around and enjoy God’s beautiful creation. The boat rides to and from the reef were also tons of fun! We sat out front and got sprayed with water every time we went over a huge wave. Cairns is a beautiful little city, located right on the ocean with mountains surrounding it. So beautiful.
New Zealand: The next weekend, 4 friends and I left for New Zealand. We arrived there on a Thursday night, slept in the airport, and got up early the next morning to leave on a 7 day tour of the South Island.
And I thought I loved Australia… New Zealand was absolutely incredible. I am much more of a nature person than a city person, so New Zealand was right up my ally. I absolutely loved it there and can’t wait to go back! Mountains, lakes, trails, incredible views everywhere you look. Awwww, words just can’t do it justice.
The tour we were with was great! The activities we did (which were a lot of walks/hikes/bikes) were so much fun. The entire trip was incredible and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to explore another area of the world. AND, do it with some really great friends.
The Outback: So the weekend after Easter break (when we were in New Zealand), the program I am here with took a trip out into the Outback! Brisbane is a huge city, so it was so different seeing this other side of Australia. We saw tons of kangaroos and emus, helped work on the farm, swam in some pretty muddy water (and may have had a pretty epic mud fight), and my favourite part – we slept out under the stars!!!
We didn’t shower the entire time we were out there, so we were all covered in dirt and ready for showers when we got back home. It was a pretty incredible trip!
Toowoomba: I’m pretty sure it was the next weekend that I went to Toowoomba with some friends I have made here. We visited their parents’ farm and attended an ANZAC day service. It was great to see what growing up on a farm out in that area would have been like. We also visited some great look-out spots! Such a great weekend!
Mt Tambourine/Mt Warning: Mother’s Day weekend, I spent the weekend with my host family. We visited my host mom’s family one night – had dinner, explored their farm, went in the hot tub, and roasted marshmallows around the fire. It was awesome.
The next morning some of us went and hike Mt. Warning. We left super early in the morning so we were hiking as the sun was rising. It was incredible. It was a really long hike but the view from the top was so worth it.
Sydney: So just last weekend the program I am here with took us to Sydney!! Still can’t believe it! So surreal. It was honestly like coming to Australia for the first time all over again. Prior to this program, I had no idea Brisbane existed. However, I have always known about Sydney as it is a very iconic place.
We spent the weekend exploring the city and learning about the area. On our free time, some of the things I did include: napping in a park in the sun, walking through the Botanic Gardens, touching and taking pictures at the Sydney Opera House, visiting Manly, spending a couple hours standing in the waves on Manly beach watching the sunset, going to Luna Park and riding some pretty sweet rides, and walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (security escort included as we went up the wrong side.. whoops).
Long story short, it was an incredible weekend. So grateful for the opportunity to visit there. *Pictures to come later
Friends: I have been so blessed with the people I have met here. All of the people in the program I am here with are incredible. We all get along so well and are so inclusive. I really feel as though each and every person is a friend. And within those, I feel that I’ve made some really good lifelong friends.
School: For those of you that have read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I have struggled with the differences in teaching styles here. It has been hard, but I do feel as though I’ve learned a lot.
At the moment, I am in the middle of my last week of classes with tons of assignments due, so I am a little stressed. Prayers would be appreciated. However, not much longer now and I will be done – which will be, in many ways, really sad. So, I am trying my hardest to enjoy and appreciate this time.
Homestay: From the beginning, my homestay has been amazing and I am so thankful for that. Since my last post, I have gone through a couple different stages. At one point I was travelling so much that I was barely home, and that was hard. I felt really bad because I wasn’t seeing much of them. Despite that though, we continued to grow closer. And since things have calmed down and I have been home more, it has been so much fun spending time with them.
Although a home stay will never completely feel like home, I’d say it is pretty much as close to that as possible. I love my family here and am so grateful for their hospitality. I feel as though I now have a second family.
What God is up to in my life: So, I’m definitely still struggling with my faith in some aspects, but in other aspects it’s going great, so I’m not sure what to make of it all. :p
For starters, one of my biggest prayer requests as I left for this adventure was that God would start to help me find what my passion is. I’ve been so confused and uncertain about what my future will hold and what track I should be heading down. I wasn’t sure what I really enjoyed and what I wanted to do with my life. Within the first couple weeks of being here, though, that prayer request kind of was pushed to the side/forgotten about. Fast forward a little… in the past couple months, I have become very passionate about health and wellness. I have seen huge improvement in myself and have felt my heart grow in wanting to help others achieve the same things. I am still not perfect and have a long way to go, but I really have a passion for it. Then, the other day I was talking to my dad on the phone and I remembered those prayer requests I had made. I had asked my grandparents to pray about it before coming here, I had written it down in my journal, I had talked to my parents about it, and then I forgot about it. Yet, God has been working in my heart the whole time. It’s really cool looking back and seeing what He’s done. That is just one of many examples of how I’ve seen Him working in me since being here.
So overall, I can see God’s faithfulness at work in my life. I see how He has helped me get through the hard times of being here, and I have seen how He has worked in my heart. Yet, I still feel as though I’m lacking that deep personal connection and still can’t seem to find the answers I need to quiet some of the questions I have. The thing is, I still haven’t made time with God a priority – and without that commitment to time with Him, it’s no surprise I don’t feel that deep personal connection. So, that is something I need to keep working on.
Life – the not-so-specific aspects: The following is in no specific order, just some other random aspects of my life here that I want to share:
My house is within walking distance to the school I attend and the gym I go to. So, I do a lot of walking. At first I wasn’t impressed, especially since there are hills everywhere. However, I have gotten used to it and now really enjoy just being outside and having some time to think/reflect.
I also spend my time crocheting (I’m working on a blanket – almost done!), reading, watching TV with the host family, and exploring with friends. Oh, and homework!
I have tried many times to “put on” an Australian accent with no luck. So, to all of my friends back home wanting me to come home with an Aussie accent, be prepared to be thoroughly disappointed.
Conclusion: If you’ve made it this far, congrats! Sorry for the essay. Also, sorry I’ve been so bad at updating. Less than two weeks left here! Mixed emotions about that! Can’t wait to be home and see the family, but also am going to miss my friends and family here. It’s definitely been an adventure and I am so thankful to each and every person who has supported me along the way.
P.S. Here are two more videos I’ve made. They are both from trips that were more towards the beginning of my time here.