When I contacted the Bundibugyo team about an opening for teachers in 2006, I really had no idea what I was getting into, nor how profoundly formative that season of my life would become.
I was told about a small mission school where a teacher was needed to teach a variety of subjects to a small group of missionary kids. The work would be helpful not only for the children, but also for their parents who were engaged in other ministries.
Twenty-four years old and enrolled in a doctoral program in nutrition, I was seeking a leave of absence to explore teaching as a vocation, and to gain experience working outside of the U.S.
Although I had no formal training in teaching, let alone teaching elementary school children, the mission team was patient, grateful, encouraging, and open to my exploratory approach within and outside the classroom.
And the children were bright, creative, quirky, and loving.
Although I was living in an intensely cross-cultural setting, the mission school provided a welcome haven for part of my day.
It was a place where I could speak English without altering my accent. It was a place to explore the treasures of children’s literature, mathematics, art, physical education, gardening, history, and Christian education.
Plus, the simplicity of an environment that was not ruled by technology allowed for a beautifully simple and sweet learning environment where we could spend time gardening, reading under shade trees, and using real dusty chalk.
And with access to the internet, printing, and excellent textbooks, we had ample resources that actually made teaching in this remote, rural setting feel relatively straightforward.
But what I did not realize in accepting the role to teach was that I would also be able to serve in many other capacities on the mission team.
The motto of the team was to ensure that each team member fulfilled their given responsibilities while leaving space for other ministries to sprout up organically.
So, I helped lead a small group at Christ School, coached a cross country and track team, and worked with the nutrition program. The latter would eventually serve as the basis for completing my dissertation and launching a career as a professor of global public health!
When I took a leap of faith to “put life on hold” to raise support and move to Uganda, I felt like I was giving up something important, stepping off into the big, wide unknown.
Now, thirteen years later, I can look back and see God’s hand in redirecting in the paradoxical Kingdom way: in losing our life, we actually gain everything.
During one of our first prayer meetings, I recall giving thanks for the laughter and joy I experienced during my days as a teacher. Elementary age children have a way of reminding us about what is important, and how vastly different people can not only co-exist, but become real soul-friends.
Before I moved to Uganda, I imagined fearful circumstances: insect infestations, heat, an unfamiliar diet.
While each of these concerns had some merit, what I gained – living in community with mission-focused Jesus followers in a beautiful jungle setting and developing friendships with resilient Ugandan boys and girls – were gifts beyond what I could have ever imagined.
Those gifts were not only food for the journey in the moment, but seeds that helped me grow into the person I am today by allowing God to make me into something new.
Now, it’s impossible for me to imagine the story of my life today without the Bundibugyo chapter.
Serge mission teams—especially in Africa—are in urgent need of Missionary Kid Teachers. Would you or someone you know be a great fit for the job?—forward this article or get in touch!
Scott Ickes served with Serge in Bundibugyo as a teacher and coach at RMS and Christ School. He also supported the efforts of the Bundnutrition program and has conducted nutrition research in Bundibugyo. He is currently a professor of nutrition at Wheaton College and lives part-time in Kenya. He is married to Jane and has three children.