2023 Essay Prompt
Choose two countries you’ve lived in, then compare and contrast the two. How has your experience as a “sojourner” between these two locations impacted your spiritual journey?
Ian's Winning Sojourner Scholarship Essay
In Acts 20:24, Paul declares, “For I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul presents the believer with a timeless message: as believers, our singular mission is to continue that which Jesus exemplified in his earthly work. It is my belief that the Lord presents each believer with an avenue to witness to the world. With my father serving throughout East Africa as a missionary pilot with AIM Air, my experiences overseas led me to a similar call to serve through missionary aviation. This call to spread the gospel to the nations was realized when I lived in Uganda, but I am training for this future in the United States. My spiritual journey continues at Liberty University while I study for a degree in Aviation Technology, a doorway to returning overseas once again as a missionary. This journey, which began in Uganda and opened my eyes to the spiritual need for mission aviation, has continued in the United States with a responsibility to grow in spiritual maturity and train in technical knowledge for my calling.
As many missionary kids will attest, our lives overseas are profoundly impacted by our understanding of the need around the world for the hope of Jesus Christ. My experiences from living in Kenya and Uganda were no different. My spiritual growth has had its peaks on the occasions where I would fly with my father to his destination, whether that be seeing missionaries returned to the people they serve or African pastors returning from seminary to their villages. Looking back, I recall the trip that inspired my call to missionary aviation. I worked with my father in Central African Republic for six days, flying into the Congo to aid the dispersed church with necessary provisions. I saw the missionaries selflessly at work, pouring their time and money to further the spread of the church and the gospel message. My faith was vitalized through a passion to be a part of the kingdom like so many servants I have seen. These unique experiences impacted my faith so incredibly because I caught a glimpse of what it meant to serve God wholeheartedly. To go to the nations where roads don’t lead and serve a people that I am bonded with by the love of Jesus is a mission to which I was called. There is a burden of responsibility in this calling as well because my actions and choices in all matters directly impact my ability as a servant for the kingdom. Because I know that my mission is overseas, I bear a spiritual responsibility to those people I will reach and must rely on the Lord throughout my spiritual journey. James 4:17 elaborates this idea: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (English Standard Version). I have been blessed to know the trajectory of my future from a respectively young age, but this vision comes with the challenge of all aspects of myself being compared to the missionary I should be in ten years. Whether I am envisioning the future or looking at where I came from, Uganda began my faith journey as a representation of the need for the gospel throughout the world.
My spiritual journey has continued in a unique way after returning to the United States from living in East Africa. Living in the U.S. and studying for missionary aviation at a university is an entirely different perspective in my journey. Rather than seeing the need for servants overseas, I see the opportunity for workers to reap the harvest right among my own acquaintances and friends (Matt. 9:37, ESV). Around my school, I see countless peers who feel called for Christian missions but have no perspective to help with their pursuit. My faith is strengthened, and my walk is confirmed as I encourage these potential workers in their own spiritual journeys. My faith is further strengthened as I study for the future that the Lord holds for me. It is worship when I devotedly study and prepare for my calling for God’s kingdom. Every sincere endeavor to do my best in preparation worships God, and this realization has been a building block in my journey.
Looking at my experiences in both countries lends a generalization: my life in Uganda was an observation for what the Lord held in my future and my current life in America is training me to return overseas. They are different in their cultures yet similar in their need for salvation. Ugandan society is not as consumeristic as American society. America thrives on opportunities for wealth and prosperity; in comparison, Uganda is home to many have-nots. Uganda is a collective culture that is noticeably more receptive to the gospel, compared to America and its individualistic culture that is indifferent the gospel. Oddly enough, it is more difficult to physically receive the Word in Uganda than it is in America. All these differences indicate varying needs in each country regarding evangelism. The countries do, however, have one similarity: they are both desperately in need of the light in a world of darkness. No matter if I go overseas to the ends of the earth or across my own campus in America, the truth of the gospel is needed in all places. As cited before, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. It is for the sake of Christ that there are those willing to dedicate their service at home or abroad for something of eternal significance. Throughout my spiritual journey, which begun in Kenya, grew in Uganda, and continues to grow in my training, I am constantly reminded of the blessing to serve a purpose that is eternal in importance and rewarding in Christ.