Why am I here? Why did I pick up and leave American teaching, great friends, a promising future, to be in a third world dust bowl? In a place where the courts have no power and “might makes right”? Where revolts are what get things done, where education is limited, and where you have to hire an AK47 guard to protect your house every night? Not exactly the kind of place you want to hang around.
To answer that, you will need a quick introduction to who I used to be. To be blunt about it, I used to be a person controlled by fear. I used to be insecure about who I was to the point that I couldn’t smile in pictures. Have you ever been there? I wanted to be noticed, to know that my life had purpose and it mattered. So I looked to people for that purpose. It mattered that others thought I was different, but actually I wasn’t different at all. I was a follower, not a leader. I tried to identify myself through hipster reputation: the things I wore, said, and had accomplished made me who I was. I lived for the weekends. I was self centered, only thinking about what others thought of me, and I couldn’t see that I lacked a real concern for other people. I was marked by anxiety about social situations. I had a fear of failure, which led me to never take risks. I wasn’t bold in my opinions and convictions. I even had small episodes of depression. But God helped me overcome.
When I was 21 I started to figure out what God being in my life actually meant.
I am the product of a church-going family and a youth group and a generally churched-out childhood. I went to all the trips. I went to all the events. But that wasn’t good enough to protect me from myself or from my curiosities about the world. When I went to college I followed my curiosities. Through parties, bad friends, bad grades, and a near arrest with drugs, I realized that I did not have the strength to discipline myself into a strong life. I reached so many lows where my journal kept reading: “I failed again. I’ll do better next time, I promise.” 24 hours later I was back in the same cycles of destructive behavior.
I came to the point where I knew I couldn’t fix myself. I signed up to work at a Christian summer camp, although I hardly knew one bible verse by heart. I was not a model christian: I was a failure even here. The next three summers radically changed my life. It was nothing to do with the camp, but everything to do with a life of purpose presented to me for the first time.
Many books and scriptures reached me in my struggles. I learned the bible was not an ancient textbook to be studied intellectually for smarts in the classroom. It was a living, active book that still knows whats going on in 2011. It spoke with direct relevance to every situation I had already gone through. My mind was revolutionized. I started to let go of things that I had wanted out of life and receive better goals instead. Some of the things that I wanted most out of life were killing my soul. I was forgiven. Nothing was held against me, and the old me could die. I didn’t have to be that person anymore. I didn’t have to earn anything anymore either. I stopped caring about people’s opinions of me. I started to find more will power for self discipline. Everything changed.
Now out of gratitude for what God has done for me, I am following the voice that was in the back of my head all along: keep getting involved. The purpose of life is a life of purpose, not having the most fun you can before you die. Where your deepest joy and your deepest talent meets the world’s deepest need: that’s where you will find the purpose. So I asked, where does the world need what I know? I came to Uganda. We will see what is next.