Before beginning her current role as Intern and Apprentice Coordinator for the Serge team in Bundibugyo, Uganda, Ann Kieser spent ten years working in outdoor education, helping, teaching, and pushing people out of their comfort zones through rock climbing or high ropes courses. Now, five years into her missionary service and half a world away, Ann continues to help people surpass their perceived limits as they navigate Central Africa and explore the world of international mission work through the Serge Apprenticeship Program.
“There’s a two-fold purpose for the Apprenticeship,” Ann explained. “One is to provide needed short-term workers for the field who can assist long-term workers in their different areas of ministry. The second is to help prepare people who are interested in missions for lifelong ministry, to give help them gain a solid foundation.”
Recent Apprenticeship graduate Jeff Hosan came to Bundibugyo for the first time as an Intern in the summer of 2013, just before his senior year of college. That eye-opening two-month stint stoked his interest in international missions and brought together his twin passions for evangelism and engineering. After finishing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Jeff returned as an Apprentice.
“The Internship was a wide-ranging exposure to Bundibugyo and what the whole team is doing,” said Jeff. “The Apprenticeship is more about equipping you for a future life of ministry, whether you continue with overseas mission work or not.
“The Apprenticeship has significant value in that, while it’s a relatively short-term commitment, it gives enough depth and exposure to missions that, for me, it solidified the desire to continue in long-term overseas mission work,” he added.
Week to week, around half of an Apprentices’ time is spent focused on a particular ministry area, such as water engineering in Jeff’s case or teaching missionary kids. Additionally, Apprentices attend weekly classes in which they study topics like cross-cultural living, reading the Bible with a missiological hermeneutic, and discipleship–all subject matter that can be directly, practically put to work in their context.
“There were aspects of the apprenticeship that were more academic than I expected, but I found them really helpful,” said Jeff. “Having a class on discipleship, and then being able to disciple Ugandan guys that same week – it’s immediately applicable content. And it’s so valuable being able to learn and discuss what that looks like Serge Apprenticeship staff who are older and more experienced than me.”
“One-to-one mentoring is a significant part of the Apprenticeship,” said Ann. “Apprentices go through the entire Serge Sonship course on the field and meet with a mentor every week. The mentor prays with them, checks in on how they’re doing and how they’re growing. And then all Apprentices are involved with discipling others in the community.”
Apprentices are guided and then sent to guide. They are taught to think deeply and intentionally about the divine narrative so carefully orchestrated and set out in Scripture, and then they are pushed headfirst into a world that is unfamiliar, messy, and confusing. The experience can be challenging, but for those with hearts and eyes open to the ways God works out his grace in our lives, it can be an incredible opportunity to grow as a Christian servant leader.
“No matter what, living cross-culturally is going to be a life-changing experience,” said Ann. “They’re getting out of their comfort zone. They’re going to see and hear things in Uganda that they would never get to see or hear living in the States. That perspective is going to affect the way they relate to the world around them and the people they come in contact with.”
Ideally, apprentices will leave (or stay!) with a broader toolbox for how to process and move forward in their Christian journey and mission in the world, whether that ends up being in Africa or U.S. It’s also common for individuals to go through the Apprenticeship experience in one country and then relocate to another country where Serge operates for long-term service. The intentional mentorship aspect of the program is key, giving Apprentices the opportunity to talk through their experiences, whether personal struggles or dealing with the intense economic disparities in the world and immediately surrounding them
“I really do love this program,” said Ann. “I love helping people get out of their comfort zone and navigate another country and new situations with God. I love the deep one-on-one conversations with the Apprentices. It’s been awesome to see people grow. I think about Jeff and how he came as a summer intern years ago. He’s grown into one of the most outgoing missionaries that I know, who is loved by so many Ugandans.”
Jeff’s apprenticeship in Bundibugyo shaped the way he thinks about his identity as a mission-minded Christian, and perhaps even shaped the course of his life. And that’s the idea. The Apprenticeship surefire way to watch God’s grace in action as it plays out in your life and the lives of those around you.