How Uganda Love It?

By Lauren Chang

It all started as an ordinary trip to Uganda—that is if you consider moving halfway across the globe to be a student missionary for three months “ordinary.” I used to believe when I was accomplished enough—like when I became more self-sacrificing or developed a skill in medicine, dentistry, or law—then, God could use me. Well, I now know after three months of missionary time my preconceived notions of “helping others” couldn’t be further from the truth. God doesn’t need great people to do great things. He only needs people who are willing to say “yes” and take a leap of faith—something I think people like Abraham, Moses, and many other missionaries realized very quickly.

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I left on September 26, 2017, with fellow PUC pioneers Tom and Mick Borecky and later, my friend Sadie Valentine as volunteers for the Kellerman Foundation. Originally founded by Dr. Scott Kellerman, the foundation was created to help the Pygmy people in Buhoma, Uganda, who were displaced from their indigenous home in the National Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Coming to Uganda was a leap of faith because we knew we were called to work with the Kellerman Foundation, but initially, we had no idea what we were going to do. The only job we set up was to build two simple structures: 1) a banda, which is a community center that also functions to collects rainwater; and 2) a Pygmy house made by mudding bamboo frames. In fact, until we were invited to join research projects by Dr. Kellerman and Dr. Jean Creasey, a dentist in Nevada City, this was all we had set up to do for three entire months.

Expectations

What I expected out of this missionary experience was to connect with the locals, to help others, and to grow and change because of it. All of those things turned out to be true—and to an even greater degree than I expected.

But what I didn’t expect? Generosity, friendship, and warmth like you wouldn’t believe. Downtime, and lots of it. Emotional breakdowns. Success not according to accomplishments and achievements, but according to relationships. Sobbing after listening to Christmas music because I missed home. Things not going to plan. The emotional toll of being constantly watched by everyone because you are a mazoongu or “foreigner” in the local language of Rukiga. And most of all, the feeling of helplessness from witnessing some of the poorest people on earth. I don’t think any amount of National Geographic pictures could have prepared me for the heartbreak of seeing and meeting kids with bloated bellies from malnutrition or people dying from extremely curable diseases. We saw some of the poorest people in the world, and I still struggle with processing and dealing with that degree of poverty to this very day. But despite it all, these people are some of the happiest, most generous folks I have ever met. They invited us in time after time for the holidays or to share meals simply because we had become friends.

Friendship

One of our friends Christine Twasiima (Rukiga for “we appreciate”), works in a tourist shop with mountain gorilla merchandise and crafts. She spent countless afternoons teaching me how to weave baskets. There we would weave with our grass piles and needles for hours at the door of her shop, either talking and laughing with the other shopkeepers or hiding inside from the tropical rain. For many of those afternoons, she shared her lunch of matooke (bananas made like mashed potatoes), beans, and sweet potatoes in a light sauce, telling me that all the locals purposely prepare more food than they need in case of hungry visitors or friends. And the people know everything about everyone. One day, when I decided to stay in for a day of resting, I thought nobody would even notice. Later, I found out that everyone was worried and asked Tom and Mick as they passed by if I was OK and why I wasn’t there. Christine even called me to check on me. What I love the most about the culture is it is relationship-oriented and there is no sense of time at all. People will sit around and talk to you for as long as you’ll let them because this culture is centered around relationships—not productivity.

Another friend of ours named Gemma is the manager of a gorilla trekking lodge. We initially came to buy ice-cold sodas, but we ended up becoming instant friends when I asked her to teach me some Rukiga. Two months later on her off-days, Gemma took us to her hometown via a 4-hour bus ride at 4 a.m. through windy mountain dirt roads (and lots of honking!). After escaping the clutches of death, however, we ended up having one of the best days of our entire trip. We visited Gemma’s house built from the ground up by her father, met the family—seven people were there, and this is not including the other siblings and their kids!—saw the family beekeeping houses, gardens, crops, flowers, forest, and the breathtaking mountain views. The air smelled of pine and a picnic was set out for us in front of the house that was cool and shaded as we ate the most amazing home-cooked meal of stew, greens, and potatoes—all cooked on a clay furnace with three holes and a single fire underneath. Our day ended with loads of gifts sent back with us: fresh honey from their beehives, sugar cane, mangoes, clay pots, and a gorgeous necklace. In my entire life, I have not experienced better hospitality than in Uganda.

Closing

I talk so much about these experiences because really, besides the research and two days of helping to build the banda and the house, this was what we did. The research took a lot of time and effort to conduct, it’s true. We spent many days going out into the communities and conducting focus group interviews and surveys or recording data at the hospital for our research. Additionally, I have grown much closer to my friends and family who were a fantastic support system as we worked through all of the struggles and hardships we encountered together. But sometimes, I ask myself: “Why did God bring us all the way to Uganda if what came out of it was personal growth, strengthened and new friendships, research, two structures, and the witnessing of terrible poverty?” The answer? I am unsure, but at the very least, I have a renewed commitment to helping and loving others as God calls. I believe God uses ordinary people who are willing to say “yes” to do great things, and even though I am unsure of what that entails from my time in Uganda, I trust what He has set into motion, nobody can stop.

A panorama of our view.

Dr. Kellerman and I with a new friend.

Sadie and I’s room.

A Polaroid of Gemma and I.

Me making a basket in front of Christine’s shop.

Me with Gemma’s family.

Mick (L) and Tom (R) talking at Gemma’s house.

Me with guest house employee, Diana.

Monkeying around.

Batwa school kids.

Conducting a research surveys in a church.

My Year Studying Abroad in Spain

By Stefaan Dick

My name is Stefaan and I spent last year studying abroad in Spain, through the Adventist Colleges Abroad program at the Escuela Superior de Español de Sagunto (ESDES). As a photography major with a love for sharing the world around me, I’ve been asked to share some of my adventures here on PUC’s Admissions blog, for anyone interested in the ACA program. Here are 11 of the most representative shots from my year in Europe. To see more of my favorite photos, visit stefaanconrad.com.

Mountain biking from the Norwegian highlands down to the end of a fjord.

Cliff jumping on the school camp meeting weekend in Central Spain.

Abandoned wreckage on a black sand beach in Iceland.

Sunset over the small coastal town of Rovinj, Croatia.

Riding camels on the school trip to Morocco.

Reppin’ PUC above the most powerful waterfall in Europe in Northern Iceland.

Wandering through the April tulip fields near Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Camping in the hills above the ACA campus in Sagunto, Spain.

One of the top 10 lunch spots in the UK in the dunes near Bamburgh Castle in England.

Group photo of ESDES (the ACA program in Spain) on top of the Miguelete in Valencia, Spain.

Students on a school trip and locals passing by in the square underneath the great aqueduct in Segovia, Spain.

What it Means to be a Resident Assistant

By Andrea James

Many of us have probably considered being a resident assistant at some point, if only briefly. But it’s hard to tell what the job will actually be like without experiencing it for yourself, so I interviewed two current RAs about their experiences. Desiree Breise, a senior majoring in early childhood education, has been an RA for two years in McReynolds, and Alexandra Smith, a senior majoring in marketing and communication, is an RA in McReynolds for the first time this year.

Alexandra Smith, a senior majoring in marketing and communication, is an RA in McReynolds for the first time this year.

How did you come to be an RA and why?

Desiree: One of the previous RAs recommended me, and I was a desk worker my freshman and sophomore year, so I already kind of had my foot in the door. When the RA asked if I wanted to apply I didn’t at first because I think, I was really nervous about the responsibilities and all of the work that comes with being an RA, but I applied. I did my interview—it was so great, I was so nervous. Then I got the job, and I’ve loved it ever since.

Alexandra: So winter quarter of last year there was kind of a scare we were going to lose one of our RAs because she was going to graduate in the middle of the year, so I heard through the grapevine our dean might be looking for an RA. I thought, “Oh, maybe that would be a thing I would want to try out.” So I thought about it, and I talked to my RA friends, and they told me more about it. I thought, “That’s kind of cool. Not really sure I want that much responsibility in my life.” Then the dean didn’t need an RA at the time because the RA stayed. But, at the end of the year, she did graduate. Then it was application time and I was like, “Do I really want to do this? Do I really want this much responsibility?” I thought about how big an opportunity it is to reach out to all kinds of girls who live in your dorm, and to get to know them, and to know they have a friend and someone who does care about them and who does check in with them—especially the younger girls. It was like, “That’s a really nice thing.” So I applied, and I dressed up, and I did my interview and I got the job.

Desiree Breise, a senior majoring in early childhood education, has been an RA for two years in McReynolds.

What are some of the challenges of being an RA?

Desiree: My biggest one is being an RA all the time because you want to be there 100 percent, but you don’t want to give all of yourself. You want to be able to help others, but also help yourself. That balance is one of the hardest things for me because I tend to give, give, give, and then I don’t have anything to give to myself. If I’m not giving anything to myself, then I’m not going to give 100 percent to the girls. That’s the biggest one, or maybe not getting as much sleep as you want. Yeah, definitely less sleep, but in the end, it’s worth it.

Alexandra: I’d definitely say coming out of your shell because I’m an introvert, so I don’t always want to talk to everyone, and that’s okay, but also as an RA you kind of have to, especially at room check. When you’re going into people’s rooms you can’t be cold to them. Also you are there to help, you are there to be a part of something. So it’s kind of hard to make that initial jump into it but after you start, it’s fine.

What are some of the advantages or perks of being an RA?

Desiree: Well, oh my goodness, community—you get to become friends with amazing people; you get to know the girls in the dorm. I look forward to going to the dorm to say hi to all the girls, to greet them, to make them feel at home. Especially the freshmen who feel like they don’t have anybody, but you’re that person for them. That’s really important and I really love that. And truthfully, I feel like I get to have a more spiritual life being an RA. My walk has been very hard. It’s been a struggle, it’s been difficult just questioning and not understanding what I want in my relationship with God, but being an RA has helped me find level ground in regard to my relationship with God.

Alexandra: We went on an RA retreat at Albion and I love Albion. That was really nice. Also just getting close to the girls. It’s getting the opportunity to talk to girls who you may never have spoken to and they would have never spoken to you otherwise.

What advice would you give to students thinking about being RAs?

Desiree: I would say pray about it and, honestly, go for it. It’s such an amazing experience to get to know different people and different stories because I think we stick to what we know and stay pretty close-minded. It’s such a wonderful thing to be open-minded and see and hear a bunch of different things that you get the opportunity to hear because you’re an RA. Be open to getting to know girls (or boys, whichever gender) and hearing their stories. It’s a full-time job; it’s 24-7. So knowing you can handle that, but do it. Do it! It’s worth it! Being an RA is great!

Alexandra: Just apply and see where it takes you. When we were at RA retreat, the deans gave these beautiful, creative testimonies about how they became deans. A lot of them didn’t think it was in the cards for them at all, but the opportunity just kind of revealed itself. It was almost like a divine intervention.

While I’ve never felt the calling to become an RA personally, it was a great experience to see what a blessing the position has been to some of my friends. If being a desk worker or an RA is something you’re interested in, reach out to your RA or dean to find out more.

My PUC Story: Taylor Pittenger

By Andrea James

Taylor Pittenger is a recent PUC graduate who earned a degree in religion and returned to the college for her secondary school teaching credentials. However, she was initially drawn to PUC’s excellent journalism program. In her words, “I absolutely adored doing journalism and writing for the Campus Chronicle, and felt I was really excelling, but I had a big moment where I felt God was calling me to do something more.”

Taylor felt God wanted her to help people spiritually, but was torn between pastoral work and teaching. She thought about which path would allow her to make the greatest impact on students. “I felt if I became a teacher, I would be able to make a bigger impact on them and see their spiritual growth happen on a day-to-day basis”

Taylor interned with the youth pastor at the Loma Linda University Church in the summer of 2016. The experience helped her realize how much she loved to work with youth and talk about God with them. “It was life-changing. Before, I felt a little insecure about going into this field because I felt I was not qualified; I felt I wasn’t good enough. I would look at my peers in the department of theology and I would see them preaching, I would see them doing Bible studies, and I would see how smart they were when it came to Biblical ideas. I felt like I was inadequate. But when I was in that room with my students—actually in that space—and when I’m teaching, I felt like this is exactly where I need to be. I have an opportunity to disciple young people. I think what’s lost in our church is we keep saying the youth are the future; they’re the future of the church; but I think that’s only half true; they are the present of the church as well.”

Taylor finds comfort in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (NIV).

“That one verse is something I really believe in. It makes me think, ‘It doesn’t matter what age you are, what ethnicity, what gender you are.’ I think we are all children of God and everyone should have an opportunity to experience God’s love and God’s grace. I think it’s easy for us to shut people out because we disagree with them. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, on the religious spectrum—no matter where you are on that, it’s easy for us to say ‘Oh, you’re one of them? I’m not going to listen to you. I really want to make an effort to listen to other people because I think when we take time to actually listen to what other people have to say regardless of what their views are, you get a sense of humanizing them and you create an empathetic relationship with that person. For me, even though I might disagree with somebody else, I still want to know; I still want to learn what is on their hearts. I feel like I’ve really grown as a person because I learned and took time to listen. It’s better—I think it’s important to not just hear people, but to actually listen to people; I think there’s a big difference with that.”

Overall, Taylor has enjoyed being a part of the spiritual, diverse PUC community and is sad to be leaving once she earns her credentials. “PUC is a place where my relationship with God flourished. I had a relationship with God before I was here, but ever since I’ve been here, it’s been a journey where I felt like God always had my back through every step of the way. He called me to different places and showed me different people in my life I needed. I’m just grateful I had this opportunity to be in a place I think God wanted me to be.”

My PUC Story: Dominique Townsend

By Andrea James

Dominique Townsend is currently a junior at PUC, studying English with an emphasis in literature and a minor in writing. Dominique decided to attend PUC after visiting during College Days when she was a high school senior. In her words, “It just sort of clicked. It felt like homesomewhere where I was comfortable.” She applied and was accepted to PUC, receiving the Maxwell Scholarship and entering the Honors program.

DT

So far, Dominique has thrived at PUC. She gets plenty of support from her teachers and classmates. In the Honors program, she gets to “experience a wide range of classes that are taught in interdisciplinary ways” to help her connect what she’s learning with her life and her future.

Dominique sees PUC as quiet yet connected. She appreciates the close, familial atmosphere of the PUC community. In her words, “We might not always know all of the goings-on in each other’s lives, but when something happens to one of our own, we band together to share their joy, sympathize with their sadness, and protect their rights to be who they are.”

Her favorite part of PUC is that “every day [here] is like having [a] mountaintop experience with God. We’re literally at the top of a mountain, and it’s beautiful. I think all of the nature and the scenery up here just points right back to our Wonderful Creator.”

Dominique is a very active and passionate member of the PUC community. She’s the president of PUC’s chapter of the English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, and the secretary and co-founder of Thaumatrope, a club focusing on serving others. She’s also the head editor of Quicksilver and works as a teacher’s assistant in the department of English and occasionally tutors at the Teaching and Learning Center.

Dominique has clearly made use of the opportunities and resources available at PUC. She has pushed herself to achieve, to be creative, to improve spiritually, and to use her talents and skills to help others.

She says, “Looking back on my life, I think my college experience will probably be the period of the most change for me. I’ve made new friends, [I’ve] experienced a lot more things, I’ve picked up some new hobbies, I’ve seen myself grow academically and spirituallyand I think that those are positive aspects I’ll take out into the world when I graduate.”

My PUC Story: Alice Chen

By Andrea James

Alice Chen is a junior and business major at PUC. When she was little, she used to help with her mother’s business—people loved her and her cute smile. Alice loves business because “I get to serve people and get the satisfaction from helping customers.” She believes that everything is related to business. “No matter what you become, you’re going to always have to deal with money, so business is a life skill I think everyone should have and I want to focus on.”

alice-chen

Alice Chen at PUC’s Albion Retreat & Learning Center

Alice Chen transferred to PUC as a sophomore from China. Her family is Seventh-day Adventist and her brother attended the school first. He then recommended it to Alice because of her fervent belief in Adventism and her strong faith in God. She has become a very active member of the PUC community. For example, she’s the president of the Asian Student Association (ASA) and a member of the Student Senate. She recently tried to start up a new club celebrating multiculturalism. She also plays tennis, runs, and sometimes plays intramurals. How does she balance all of her responsibilities, all of the demands on her time?

She says, “I pray a lot … I try to do what I can do and take it one step at a time every day. I learned recently I should live in the moment and not look back at the past or worry about the future but enjoy what I have today … When you see everything all at once and what you have to do, it can be very overwhelming sometimes. Try to do as much as you can and give the rest to God.” She also exercises and tries to take care of herself as part of having a balanced life.

Alice enjoys the events at PUC and the many opportunities for service in the community. For example, she attended FUSION, a retreat for freshmen held during New Student Orientation in the fall despite transferring to PUC as a sophomore and greatly enjoyed it. She met many other Graf Hall residents at the event and generally got to know her fellow students. She also likes that there are mission and volunteer opportunities to help students not only grow academically but also as a person and a Christian.

The people at PUC have made a particular impression on Alice’s life and her PUC experience. Her friends at PUC became her family and her teachers became her mentors. When she was feeling the most down about herself, one professor told her not to focus on the big picture or overthink everything, but rather to break things apart into smaller, more manageable pieces. They recommended Alice “just do whatever you can, at this moment, today.” The speech resonated with her and helped her a lot. In the course of her time at PUC, Alice has gained a lot of confidence and become better able to handle stress and to destress.

“I know that I myself can be courageous. And I can be strong, as well, when I rely on God,” she says.