Updated: Jun 5
Hello friends, my name is Ron Anderson. I am a student at Walla Walla University and went as a Student Missionary this last year. Having recently returned because of Covid I’ve been trying to share my experience as many ways as I can. I was interviewed for the recent Pathfinder Fair in the UCC and have shared worships and talks with many people I’ve met. I recently wrote this article for the Collegian at Walla Walla University. I’ve been asked to share it here as well, and I hope this small glimpse into my experience as a student missionary will be fun to read, and encourage you to serve more whether abroad or in your neighborhood. Above all I pray that it carries out God’s intended purpose with these stories and thoughts.
Growing up I always looked up to the SMs on campus. Hearing cool stories and how their lives were changed made my mind up by the early age of 10 that I was going to be a missionary somewhere. This last year I finally got the chance. While many factors influenced my decision to go this year, two stood out. The honest answers include; a strong calling by God to serve this year, and a definite feeling in my heart that I needed an environment change as well as a need to find out who I was away from everyone who knew me. But it didn’t happen the way I was expecting! One expectation was that I would be drawn to one specific place and would absolutely know it. This wasn’t the case. I was very unsure of where God wanted me, but knew he wanted me to go. One by one places were eliminated and I accepted the call to be an assistant boys dean at Nile Union Academy in Cairo, Egypt. I had assumed I would know where I was to go. Needless to say, God knew, and that’s all that matters!
While in Egypt I made fantastic friends with many volunteers from Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and more places. I got to visit the Giza pyramids (pictured) and Sinai Peninsula as well as the Library at Alexandria, Greece and Italy! My favorite part however was the people. I became a “father” and teacher to 140 of the most rambunctious teenagers you ever saw, and taught 10th grade geography and government classes. (side note: Arabic has to “th” sound, and thus, “father” became “fazzer.”) One of my favorite memories in the classroom was a geography poster presentation I had them do. (Pictured) Seeing their creativity and helping them research their countries gave some insight into what kids really are capable of when believed in and pushed to do their best. Another favorite memory I have is sitting on the basketball court right before dorm worship drinking a soda with a student that most of us considered to be only trouble. It was dark and quiet, and we just talked for 10 or 15 minutes about anything that came to mind. These experiences were special and instrumental in showing me that I could make a difference.
Living on your own away from anyone you know really grows you. I grew up and matured in many ways last year. Always feeling young and inadequate in my own skills even around my peers, this year pushed me to have the confidence in myself to grow those skills. As I mentioned, my relationship with God also changed. I realized how little I really knew about my church and my own beliefs and I found a desire to explore these things more for myself. I wasn’t expecting to ever be able to read devotions every day, but I do now, and praying has become easier and more meaningful to me. These are only a few of the ways that I grew as an individual, and with God.
Obviously the thing that’s on everyone’s minds right now, Covid-19, has changed my year quite a lot! I returned home on March 21 instead of on June 10 like we had planned. School was cancelled in Egypt and the students went home. Three days later I was on my way back which felt like a short and very inadequate goodbye to my new friends who had become family. I’ll be honest I felt guilty leaving my staff brothers and sisters that I had come to love so much. I still do to some extent. I’m having to trust God in a whole new way. Trusting that he will take care of my students and my friends that I left behind. I also felt like I had a lot more to give to those kids. Once again it goes back to the trust aspect. I have to trust that God can grow the seeds that he planted. It’s not about me, its about God.
Overall my experience was unique and exactly what I hoped for. God knew what he was doing, and placed me somewhere where on my own I was useless, but where he could do his work in and through me. He will always know and do what will bring glory to him. The best part is, we get to be a part of showing how good a God he is!
As recent events have highlighted, we in the church must make it our goal to be Jesus’ vessel in our communities. Let us show the same love, compassion, companionship, care and love that he did. That has got to be our focus, otherwise why are we Christians! Showing Jesus’ love to everyone must be our goal. May he bless you all during this time and give you the strength to step out in faith to show his goodness. Let us all lean on God as we do each other for hope and comfort.