By: Sarah Hundley, Global Mission Fellow in OKC
I have always had that thing they call wanderlust. Ever since I knew what another country was, another state even, I wanted to go see all of it. That desperate desire to travel, to see the world, is what led me here to Oklahoma City. I found out what another country was at the age of four, so naturally, when adulthood and a life without school was on the horizon, I looked into ways I could see that world I was always desperate to see and to have some kind of impact. With some help from my father, I found the United Methodist Global Mission Fellow program. It could send you anywhere in the world, including the United States, doing mission work for two years. My only thought was that as long as it wasn’t Virginia, I wanted to go there. When I got the news that I was going to Oklahoma City, I was shocked. Oklahoma City was never on my bucket list, not even on my radar. It didn’t feel like a place I’d really learn anything. It didn’t seem like a place where I’d grow. Everything I had ever heard about Oklahoma was that they had a lot of tornados and they all lived in the middle of nowhere, none of which I was interested in experiencing. What purpose would I have in Oklahoma? Who needed me there? Couldn’t they send someone else? Now here I am, six months into my two years here in OKC, and my perspective has, of course, shifted.
I am the director of an after-school program for both OKC public schools and Putnam City public schools. Every Monday through Thursday afternoon, from about 3:30 to 6, I spend two and a half hours with some of the best elementary schoolers in the world. They’ve opened my eyes to so much and helped me to grow as a person. Without them, I don’t know if I would have stayed. Here’s the thing, I’ve never had any training in education so the transition was extremely difficult. I didn’t feel like I fit in Oklahoma City and, on top of all that, I severely sprained my ankle three days before The Gallery began, which landed me in crutches for a month and a half. The volunteers expected me to know what I was doing, the kids wanted their old director back, and I was at a loss, partially my own fault because I’m terrible at asking for help. Instead, I kept asking myself why God had brought me to a place that felt like no one wanted or needed me, especially when there were places all over the world that I wanted to see. What a pointless question when the answer is staring you in the face!
Over time, I became a little bit confident in what was supposed to be happening and I changed a few things with help from volunteers which made things easier on everyone. That was when I started to notice little things that would answer that pointless question. I started noticing smiles on the volunteers faces. I started noticing my kids getting to know one another and getting excited to do certain things. I noticed grades improving and the kids having confidence in me. They started asking for applications to give their friends because their friends wanted to come, too. All that frustration and anger I had had about my situation began to vanish. I have purpose here, I just had to give it a little time to figure it out.
That’s the whole point of this post. To tell you, dear reader, that you’ve got purpose. You’ve got purpose wherever God sends you. If you choose to do a volunteer program, I promise it will be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done, but it will be worth it because you’re there for a reason. You will grow and change because it will push you to be things and do things you never thought you would. I went home for Christmas and was told by several people in different ways that I had “blossomed,” that I was a version of myself they had never seen before and that version was one they were happy to see. I’ve only been here six months. I’m interested to see what they’ll say after a year, then a year and a half, and finally the full two years. I’ve “blossomed” because I know my purpose in Oklahoma City. My purpose here is to show my kids that someone cares. My purpose here is to show them that they can go to college one day. My purpose here is to do everything in my power to give them the bright future that every child deserves. My purpose here is to give them a fighting chance. I love my kids with everything in me. They test my patience and find different ways to make me go home worn out, but they also give me a reason to come back every day. Sometimes it’s being told that I’m their favorite (yes, I’m easily charmed), sometimes it’s the little comments they make about themselves or things in the world that crack me up. Usually it’s their smiles every afternoon when I pick them up. No, I may not be changing the world or seeing the places on my bucket list, but I am helping to change some worlds and that’s enough for me.
So, what’s your purpose? Where is God calling you?
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” – Philippians 2:1-4, The Message
If you’re ever looking for volunteer opportunities and you live in Oklahoma City, please consider volunteering at The Gallery. That’s my shameless plug for help. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. I wrote it with a fever so if it’s awful, please forgive me.
For more information on applying to become a 2-year Global Mission Fellow, click here.