If someone were to ask, “What has been a life-changing experience for you?” what would you say? When I think of various experiences I’ve had in my life, one of the most life-changing for me was the opportunity to be a missionary teacher in Uganda, which was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
From August 2013 to December 2014, I lived and taught right in the heart of Africa in the beautiful country of Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa.” I taught in a Christian school for the local African children in the busy and growing suburbs of Kampala, the capital city. To summarize, here are three specific areas of my life that were greatly affected by my African adventure.
One of the greatest blessings was developing lifelong friendships with the Ugandan people. My heart became knit with theirs. As a single American lady (and the only American teacher in the school), many times I needed assistance, and God always provided the right person to come alongside me, whether that was a companion for security, a car mechanic, a fellow teacher, or just a friend. I love the following quote by Miriam Adeney: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” I call Uganda my “African home” because it is, and it always will be. I still communicate with my friends and students, and since I left a few years ago, I’ve actually been able to go back and visit three times. What a joy it’s been to see my students grow and to continue investing in my friendships! To know that you have friends on the other side of the world loving and praying for you is a wonderful gift.
Living in a third-world country will automatically strengthen your faith, and there were several specific instances in which I needed to trust God more than I ever had before. I remember leaving my passport at immigration (to wait for them to approve my visa) and watching the secretary just put it haphazardly into the huge pile of other passports; I wondered if I would ever see it again. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road was an experience in itself, as was riding on a taxi-motorcycle weaving in and out of crazy, impossible-to-describe traffic. Being on constant alert because of thieves also was something I had to get used to, as well as living inside a compound with high walls and a locked gate.
My faith also grew as I saw God continually provide specific help for me. Countless stories of people just “showing up” when I really needed them will always humble me. One of the stories I love to tell was when Dr. Ian Clarke, an Irishman who was the mayor of Kampala and the founder of the International Hospital Kampala (IHK), just “happened” to be across the street from where I was involved in a car accident and had hit my head. He was able to attend to me right away and give me peace of mind while people swarmed around me. That, my friends, was just one of the stories I could tell you that helped grow my faith.
When we stop to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see how they live, it changes our perspective. Our world needs hope. Whether people live in America, Europe, Asia, or Africa, they are all seeking hope. Lasting, eternal hope can only be found in Jesus Christ. Yes, I was there to teach my students math, English, and other subjects, but my most important reason for living in Uganda was to teach my students about Jesus, because He came to earth to die for the people of the whole world, including them. I wanted them to truly know how much Jesus loves them, and that He has an exciting plan for their lives. Living in Uganda challenged me to stay focused on serving Christ and to show His love to those around me, because that’s truly what matters most. Living in Uganda changed my focus on how I view the world. It’s a big world out there, but at the same time it’s also small. I encourage you to consider visiting different countries and experience different cultures. Believe me, you will never be the same.
Author: Grace Coulton
Grace Coulton is a faculty member at Valley Forge Baptist Academy serving as the grade teacher. Grace has a Bachelor’s of Religious Education with a focus on Elementary Education from West Coast Baptist College and has served for the past 7 years at VFBA. Before coming on staff, Grace served as a missionary to Africa reaching children for Jesus Christ.