1. Why am I doing this? I feel that this is where I am being called. This is where my passion is. My heart goes out to the orphans around the world. My heart breaks for them. (more on this throughout the post).
2. What kind of education/training do you have to think you can make a difference? Well, my first response to this is I truly do not believe that any education/training is necessary. A basic understanding of the culture is always helpful as to not offend the people. The children and youth need to be showed love, to know that someone cares. The love of God is a gift in and of itself. One young girl always says, "Jolene, thank you for loving me." during every facebook chat that we have. That melts my heart. Giving $90 to pay the rent for one man, three summers ago changed his life. He is still living in that home in the slums of Kisenyi scrounging up the money monthly to pay rent. But he has a place to call home and a sense of accomplishment every month. He just needed that boost to get started. There is clean water in the village of Kiboyo and 2 widows have houses to call home because of Bridge Connections teams that I have been on and the gracious support from families and friends back home. God can truly use anyone to make a difference, if they are willing to go, pray, financially support, etc.
3. How did you get involved in international missions? Well another long story. But, 8 years ago (I believe) Beth Railing asked me to go to Romania with her. I was to tight with my money at that time and could not imagine parting with $1500. The following year, she and my mom convinced me to go. It has become, can I use the word, addiction since then. I traveled to Romania 4 times in 3 years. Then the "new pastor" at our church, Nate Kilgore, was having a meeting about a trip to Uganda. My brother, Dustin said that he would go. (Now for years of trying to get him to go to Romania with me and all he would say is "crappy Romania") I was excited about the possibility of sharing this experience with my brother. (I stayed an additional 3 months without him and the team). The following year I traveled back to Uganda with Bridge Connections again this time with my other brother Michael. (There are certain people that I get really excited for when they commit to these trips. Micheal was one of them.) Then last summer I led my first Bridge Connections trip. I was really excited that my best friend Kelly McGaw joined me and can finally share in my joys. Annnndd little did I know at the time (but God did) Julia Adams would become a great friend and she would also have the desire to serve long term. (Numerous other friendships have been made because of serving together. I can't put everyone here. YOu know who you are!)
There has never been a day that I have stopped and regretted any of the time or money that I have put into missions. I have received so much more than I have given. There is so much you can learn about yourself while serving others.
4. Why must you go the whole way over there to serve? This is a favorite question of mine and one that is hard to explain to those who have yet to experience an international missions trip. I believe that I was created in God's image. Traveling cross-culturally has given me a better understanding of what that "image" is. I think that I can better understand the strengths and weaknesses of my own culture by experiencing others. I can better appreciate what blessings that I have because I have lived among those who have much less. And there is also something about being taken completely out of your comfort zone and having to rely on God to provide. I can't think of a single country in the world that is not worthy. To have people come and love "the forgotten ones". It doesn't have to be Uganda for everyone, but choose SOMEONE and YOU will be better because of it.