Invited to Serve

There are all different kinds of voices calling you to do all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.

By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to do is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you are bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. –Frederick Buechner

It is official!  I accepted an invitation to teach English in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps!  I will leave June 4 for Pre-Service Training and, in August, will begin my 2 year commitment to teaching English in a community in Ethiopia.  I have very few expectations of the life that awaits me as an education volunteer in Ethiopia, but for now, I think that is a good thing.

As I was seeking final guidance before committing to my service with the Peace Corps, wise ones encouraged me to pursue what I feel passionate about.

“Am I passionate about Ethiopia?” I asked myself.  Tough Q!  The only pieces of Ethiopia I own in my memory belong to encounters with an Ethiopian classmate from elementary school, Geleila, who came to my birthday party in second grade.  Even though she lived a few houses down on Knollwood Drive, Geleila’s family was Ethiopian royalty!  My mom said, then, watching her sheepishly hide behind pink balloons and patiently waiting for her slice of birthday cake, that Geleila was the sweetest guest at my party.  This memory, though, however pleasant, wasn’t enough to sustain the reality of working in Africa for two years.

“Am I passionate about education in developing countries?”  This was the question that clarified my decision to commit to service with the Peace Corps, especially instead of spending time serving and working in very real contexts of educational inequality in the U.S.  Ever since my experience interning with the education department of Seva Mandir in Udaipur, India last spring, I vowed to commit my life, or at least part of it, to engage with  extreme poverty and inequality in global settings.

I spent days on the back of motorcycles in India’s deserts then, meeting drop-out students and their families, drinking chai, observing schools, and asking myself if school even mattered.  This exploration was only the beginning!  The more children I interviewed in India, the more conversations I had with my colleagues and friends, and the more mornings I sat cross-legged on the dirt floor of village schoolhouses, I internalized the value of education.  It doesn’t just provide students with knowledge and skill sets; education protects kids, too.  Education doesn’t just matter, GOOD education matters, for individuals, for families, for communities.  For justice.

My broad, long-term  goals are to increase opportunities for marginalized women in global contexts to receive an education that will prepare them to be agents of change in their communities. I realized, through phone conversations, prayers, and reflection, that to not be willing to take this chance with the Peace Corps could mean losing stock in my own dreams!  I know my term of service will be challenging, but I also know it is right.  I have been called to this very task.

So here I am now…preparing for the most exciting, unique, humbling, scary, and overwhelming 27 months of my life!  Thanks to my friends, who listened to many changing drafts of personal statements and massaged my stressed-out shoulders on request.  Thanks to my professors, who wrote letters of recommendation and reminded me that I didn’t have to settle for anything.  Thanks to my family, who are now willing and brave enough to embark with me on a journey to better understand a place we know little about.

I am honored to be a part of a team of leaders and thinkers and dreamers.  Even more so, I am honored by the opportunity to live within a deeply-connected Ethiopian community.  I have much to learn!

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