I met Bethany about a year ago when she showed up at my home church one Monday evening. She had such a gentle presence and wisdom, that was obvious after our first conversation.
Last year, Bethany had the opportunity to do a one-year internship in Uganda. It was really cool to see her each week as she worked through “Wait, am I really going to spend a year in Uganda?” and all the emotions and logistics surrounding it.
Well, she went. She chose butterflies in a big way. And I’m thrilled that she agreed to share her experience here. Enjoy!
For the past 7 months I have been living and working in Uganda as an English and computer teacher. The time I spend here will fulfill an internship requirement for my International Development graduate certificate.
I knew from the start that I wanted to go overseas for my internship, but I didn’t know in what capacity. Would it be a local job with a two-week trip, or would it be all eight weeks in a foreign country? A year’s time was not on my agenda, even though a lot of internships are six-month positions. But when I stumbled on the Mennonite Central Committee website through a recommendation of a friend, I found their SALT program – Serving and Learning Together. I immediately thought of the Bible verse that tells us to be a salt and a light to the world, and I knew that whatever the outcome, I needed to apply to this program, despite my reservations that all positions were a minimum of one year’s time.
After I found out it was Uganda I was going to, I had to make the decision to accept or not. I went into a fury of research, emails and google maps, trying to find out where exactly I was going and whether or not I would have a flushing toilet (nope!) or electricity (most days!). It was like I had to be fully in control and fully prepared in order to make the decision. But like most every decision, it isn’t possible to know every detail. That’s what makes choosing butterflies such a beautiful thing. It is the trust it takes in God and in yourself that makes the decision worthwhile.
I didn’t get all the information I needed to make the decision. It took a lot of prayer and a lot of trust to be able to commit myself, and even then my head would spin at the thought of leaving everything I know to go to a place where everything was unfamiliar. I think back now and I see the decision as a trust-building exercise between me and God. He showed me the chasm, told me He would fly with me every wave of the wing, and all I had to do was jump. Trust is beautiful. Butterflies are beautiful.
The hardest part and the most amazing part of being in Uganda for a year are one in the same. It is a very different God-culture here than what I am used to. The community I live is in predominately Catholic. Prayers are recited, communion is restricted, and worship is solemn. I have had to adjust the way I relate to God here in Uganda. Church and prayer time are not the same. But that doesn’t mean that God is not the same. I have just had to look for Him in different ways. Like listening to Him in the songs of the birds on my walk to school in the morning, looking for Him in the lush green of the banana trees and the red-scarred roads of the village, watching Him through the kind actions of my host mother, and relating to Him through the small child who comes to me with tears in his eyes to be comforted. It is in those ways that I feel closest to God.
And I am so blessed because of it. God has an unwavering consistency in who He is and how He loves. I need to be in a constant state of recalibration, re-aligning myself to Him. Like a guitar left in a cold, dark room, I need to be bathed in the warmth of His light and habitually re-tuned to His living word. Learning to do that has been both a struggle and one wonderful discovery after another.
If you are considering a long term mission trip as I was, my advice to you is not to jump blind. First pray. Know that this is not going to be easy. If you will be living in a rural village as I am, know that village life is tough. Try to learn everything you can from the organization you will be working for. At the same time, give up the questions you can’t find answers to. Trust that God has the details in His hand. It will be hard. You will pray more than you ever have. You will miss your family. You will want to go home. But the things you will learn about yourself, about your God, and about life will totally be worth the butterflies you are feeling now.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us Bethany! Can’t wait to see you when you’re back this summer!