I taught at Bryanston School in Dorset, UK in 2008-09.
I taught at Charlottesville High School, VA in 2009-10.
I taught at Ntare School in Mbarara, Uganda 2011-2012.
I trained as a USAF Pararescueman and succeeded through Indoc in 2013. Yet I had to have two surprise heart procedures, and now I’m waiting to retrain.
I am trying to be a disciple of Jesus.
Why am I here? Why did I pick up and leave American teaching, great friends, a promising future, to live in a developing world where there is not trash collection? 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 your mom wants you to move to.
To answer that, you will need a quick introduction to who I used to be. To be blunt about it, in my college years in my early 20s, I used to be a person controlled by fear. Controlled by fear means that I could never rise up above what the crowd thought was popular or what the crowd thought of me. People were my idol, and I never realized that I was giving in to those with power, whoever they were.
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, like we all do, but I was looking in the wrong places for that purpose. It mattered that others thought I was different. By different, I mean that I went against the flow sometimes, that I wore different things, that I didn’t conform, that I listened to music others didn’t know about, or had studied things and knew more about topics that no one knew about. A blossoming hipster. But actually I wasn’t different at all. All of this “different” stuff made me a follower, not a leader. I was following some voice that said “be different,” but all along I was actually controlled by the fear of being rejected.
I started to live for the weekends. Having a crazy time and crazy stories with friends started to become more important to me than my schoolwork and my goals. I was self centered, only thinking about how I could get my experiences of “losing myself” at a party of with a girl, and I couldn’t see that I lacked a real concern for other people. Because of this desire-quest and my fear of rejection, I was marked by anxiety in most social situations. This fear of failure and rejection 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. Like I said, 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 today’s world. 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.
It’s not to say that I can’t revert to the old me and slip into sin, fear, or self-centeredness. Of course I can, but now that I’m free from the flesh and walking with the spirit, God will call me out in many ways and help redirect me to the path to true freedom.
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. I joined the Air Force. We will see which of these plans God will unfold.