Today we're sharing an interview with Overflow team member, Sarah Jantzen, a missionary to Uganda. Sarah has been living in Uganda for eight months. She is an inspiration to our blog team and we want to give you a glimpse into her every-day life as a foster mom to little ones, teacher to many exuberant children, and a bearer of Christ’s love.
When did you first feel certain that God was calling you to Uganda?
I don't know that I ever had one moment that I felt certain God was calling me here, but I do know that Uganda has been the one country on my heart for as long as I can remember. I always ate up any book, blog or speaker from Uganda.
Were there any difficulties in getting to Uganda, or did everything go as planned?
It was frustrating to not have been able to come here until I was 30 years old, but I can look back and see now what the Lord was doing. There were many ways He was preparing me for what I'd face in Uganda that I wouldn't have been ready for earlier... namely helping my family do foster care in the states. It opened my eyes to the pain and struggle so many face and helped me see a mission field in my own country (and home!). Everything comes in God's perfect timing and I can see that the times I had tried to come before were not God's, but my own.
If you had to choose only one, what is the greatest need you see among the Ugandans?
I think most people would say poverty is the biggest issue here, but that comes in all shapes and sizes. There is a poverty of the heart that I believe is way worse than monetary poverty. We can give all the money and education, mosquito nets and health care, but without God, there is no hope. When we throw money at people without teaching and sharing about the Lord, we give it to people who have no problem stealing and lying. Teaching people about our Savior is the greatest need I see here and everywhere... of course sharing the Good News doesn't come without also helping with physical needs as well. They work hand in hand like it says in James 2.
The need is similar in America. People need the Lord to make a country work. Pastors, doctors, teachers, mothers, grocery store owners, cobblers, shepherds, farmers and Chipati men will need to know and serve the Lord before we will see any change in Uganda and other countries.
What advice would you give to someone who hopes to go into cross-cultural missions?
I have only been here 8 months so far, so a more experienced missionary might have more to say or even a different perspective, but I would say just go for it. It's not as hard or scary as it sounds. In many ways, life is no different here than in America. There are so many similarities, they are just done differently. We all eat, wash clothes, work, raise children and go to school... just in vastly different ways. Respecting those differences is key.
I think we need to check our motives in wanting to do cross-cultural missions. If we go into it thinking we have all the answers, expect to see immediate results, think we can end poverty or think we can save all the babies from their impoverished homes, etc. Missions can be discouraging because you won't see quick change and most of these babies would rather be with their families than be taken away to have material needs provided for... they're actually afraid of my Muzungu (white) face!
I highly suggest going into missions to anyone who is interested! It will forever change your heart and mind, but we have to be SO very careful to go with humility and a teachable spirit so we don't leave the people worse off than when we came.
Imagine yourself living in your home where you are content and someone comes in, speaking a different language and looking quite strange. They pick you up and take pictures of you. This person gives you sweets and new shoes, some item you don't know how to use, hugs and kisses and then vanish for the rest of your life. But! Next month another person comes in doing the exact same thing and the cycle repeats over and over and over. This is unfortunately what often happens and it leaves the culture dependent on these visitors. It creates beggars and makes it difficult for long term missionaries to form true relationships - people just want to get things rather than form a true friendship.
So, in doing cross-cultural missions, keep the title in mind "cross-cultural." You are crossing into someone else's culture and can't be expected to know all the ins and outs of how they do and perceive things. Go into missions with a servant heart and teachable spirit... not one who is coming to save the world and hold babies.
What is a day-in-the-life of Sarah Jantzen like?
That's a hard question because all my days look different! You have to be prepared to drop everything at a moment's notice when something comes up... like an abandoned baby being found.
4 days a week I help homeschool 9 kids who live next door. My evenings hold either reading class or Bible study. Wednesdays I visit two different hospitals and visit and pray with the mamas of sick or malnourished children. Saturdays the kids are off school and hang around coloring, reading, singing, football, yard work etc. Every week night I have 7 kids who come for dinner and homework and that is probably my favorite part of my days. Friday night is movie night with the kids and Tuesday night I go to a muzungu game night. Sundays are busy with Sunday school and church, sometimes a meal after, and then youth group in the evenings where I teach a ballet class to some of the girls. Then, there's the typical cleaning, cooking, laundry, lesson plans, budgeting, grocery shopping etc. I have just added a newborn foster son to my household too!
It's a busy, beautiful and blessed life and I am thankful for where the Lord has me right now. I pray I can be sensitive to His leading in all areas of my life and serve Him wholeheartedly!