My summers with CAST | Peter Kochanek
Any account regarding one’s experience as a part of The Eastern Territory’s Creative Arts Service Team (CAST) is likely to be filled with anecdotes about growing as a team, working hard, and conclude with discussing their spiritual growth while performing throughout the summer. My experiences with CAST certainly had all of these things, but they also had something that I think we (as believers in Christ) don’t like to talk about; deep feelings of separation from God.
The first thing that I want to mention regarding the past two summers is that CAST is hard work. In fact, it’s some of the HARDEST work I’ve faced in my lifetime. I saw the opportunity to perform during the summertime and took it, knowing it would be a great opportunity to tour and grow as an artist. Upon arrival at Hershey Lodge, to present the opening number of a show with castmates I had just met hours ago, there was already little time to rest. Ultimately the few moments of rest in between rigorous rehearsal and performance schedules were often partnered with very intense periods of reflection. Thankfully, we always had devoted fellowship and prayer time to generally sort things out spiritually. But, I would still wrestle once I was on my own in a hotel room or camp lodge (which is one of the perks by the way- you’ll always sleep and eat well on CAST).
In the moments of alone time, I would hyper-focus on my ongoing doubts about my faith. Being constantly surrounded by others also working to be their best selves for the Kingdom often had that unintentional effect. In CAST, you are always entrenched in discussions about the Gospel and your salvation, as a big part of the job is ministering and serving along the tour route. Of course, this isn’t an inherently bad thing – in fact, it’s great! But as someone who consistently struggles with poor self-image and depression, this would often let the questions of doubt cycle even faster.
Eventually, it hit me that I didn’t FEEL God’s presence like the others around me had said they had. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting a similar emotional response to moments of intense worship or fellowship. Then, one day, my teammate Tabea looked at me and says, “But Peter, God is not a FEELING!” This really hit me. It made me realize that, of course, part of the reason I was feeling so distant from God was that I was placing Him inside of a box of what I thought He was. I was preventing myself from experiencing His love because I had built up these imaginary walls to create MY perception of Him. This helped me to grow to understand the value of the individual’s unique walk with Christ. Going forward. I’ve been really working to see God in those serving the Kingdom around me and in this world that He’s created. I learned that I need to make a conscious effort to pray and be open to His presence in however He reveals it to me – not in how I expect it.
My experience on CAST for the last two Summers has given me a lot to continuously reflect on. My time with the group has grown me as a person, an artist, and a Christian. At the end of the day, though, it was God who had shown that He was reaching out to me. With His help, that can be received by anyone, anywhere. So, even if you don’t plan on ever running around the northeast with a bunch of young adults pretending to be pirates and Brave Kids, take the time to find out exactly how God wants to reach you. It may look different than the person sitting next to you, but that’s a good thing. Through our individual experiences, we can see the true, personal love of Christ.