“How do you feel about Africa?” The question that started this whole journey for me was asked by my sweet friend Betsy. Little did I know that such an unassuming question would result in me leading a mission trip 9,000 miles away, falling in love with east Africa and ultimately walking away from a blossoming career to answer a call that had been quietly beckoning me for years.
If you haven’t yet heard: I’ve accepted a position with International Justice Mission and will be moving to Uganda in January. Yes, that Uganda. . .
The last few months have been kind of a whirlwind, so let me back up a bit. After not being accepted into the Fellows program back in January, I took a step back from my pursuit of Africa because I thought maybe God was saying that wasn’t where he wanted me to be. I feel like I’ve always received answers to prayers in absolutes: “Yes, this experience is for you. No, this person isn’t in my plan for you. I would never leave you in this moment.” So, an outright rejection led me to believe that this opportunity was not where I was supposed to be. I grieved it, gained a lesson and began to move forward in the situation where I’d been placed. In March, another friend mentioned the IJM Benefit dinner in Dallas and I knew I had to be there. IJM was in need of volunteers and I jumped at the opportunity to serve. In attending the benefit, I met so many people who are living out God’s call to seek justice. I walked away feeling hopeful about the work God is doing and wholly capable of serving with IJM. So, I applied again at the end of May and on June 23, 2015 I was officially accepted into the program.
My year in Africa will be in Gulu, Uganda. Here are the things you need to know and are probably wondering:
- Uganda is in east Africa between, Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan & Lake Victoria. Gulu is in northern Uganda, a couple of hours from the Sudanese border.
- No, I’ve never been to Uganda. I went to Kenya in 2013 and have been praying for opportunities to return to east Africa ever since I came home.
- Nope! I do not know anyone in Uganda (yet!). I’ve spoken with a few of my team members, but I will be walking into an unfamiliar land to serve and build community with people I’ve not yet met.
- Is it safe in Uganda?
- Uganda is a post-conflict zone (25 year Civil War), that borders nations who are currently experiencing conflict. These conflicts generate an influx of refugees to the area. While, there have been no direct threats made against Gulu specifically, various governments have issued travel warnings against other areas in Uganda. The intrinsic risks of living in a developing nation and in a place unfamiliar to me are no greater in Gulu than any of the other places IJM could have assigned me.
- What will I be doing while I’m there?
- The office in Gulu, Uganda focuses on Property Grabbing practices that affect widows and orphans in the area. Read about the amazing work IJM has been doing in the region here . As a fellow, I’ll be supporting the team in Gulu as well as building partnerships with the other NGOs in the region to help advance the mission of justice.
- Am I ready for the change/opportunity/unknown?
- Ha ha, no. Of course not, but I know that I serve a God who goes before me, plans all things better than I could imagine, and uses all obstacles and opportunities to bring glory to His Kingdom. Until my departure, I’ll pray he equips me for the journey ahead and trust that he knows better.
There are many more questions to be asked and answered over the next few months. I promise to keep you in the loop as best I can until I leave.
Last, but certainly NOT least, I need to say thank you to the prayer warriors who prayed for me and supported me through the first stages of this journey. There is nothing like seeing God move through the actions of the people He places in your life. It’s just a testament to His goodness and commitment to lavishing us in unending love. Thank you all for being my calming presence, cheerleaders, sanity, delightful distractions, voices of reason, endless supply of hugs and laughter. I will get around to naming you individually (for a later entry), but for now, I love, love, love you. I’m excited to walk this journey with each and every one of you.