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.

* * *

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.

Worship and Bible Study Resources at PUC

By Andrea James

When we have questions about God or want to discuss the Bible with other people, it can be difficult to know where to go and who to talk to. However, there are a multitude of resources available at PUC. Of course, you can always talk to our campus chaplain Jonathan Henderson ((707) 965-7191; jhenderson@puc.edu) or any of the pastors at the PUC Church (their contact information is on the church’s website). Then there is PRSM, which stands for peer-led, relevant, small-group ministries. You can contact the student chaplain Amber Sanchez ((707) 965-7190; alsanchez@puc.edu) about joining or starting one of these groups. There are also dorm worships every week, both for your hall and your specific floor (you can go to other dorms’ and floors’ worships too). You can look at the worship calendar on the PUC Ministries website to find out what events are coming up and what groups are meeting soon.

However, you’ve probably thought of or heard of those resources before. What might not come to mind immediately is our library. We have great commentaries, biblical encyclopedias, and other research material. There’s a whole section in the library with great worship and Bible study tools, plus those in the main stacks. Some suggestions for places to start include devotionals and biographies of Christian missionaries and theologians (e.g. C. S. Lewis or J. N. Andrews). Another resource you might not think of is the library’s website where you can find links (like under “SDA Resources” in the sidebar) to online tools such as:

This is just a small selection of what’s available. There are also things like bibliographies compiled on church history, theology, etc. to help you with your research and the Adventist Archives containing everything from General Conference Committee meeting minutes dating back to 1975 to a slideshow about the Millerite movement to Adventist periodicals from around the world. This is a Christian institution of learning—research on religious topics is PUC’s specialty! And if you don’t know where to start, ask a librarian for help. They’re there for a reason.

However, studying the Bible shouldn’t feel like studying for your classes. Your relationship with God can be enriched by a deeper understanding of the Bible and theology, but there are many other ways to get to know God better or to strengthen your relationship with Him. Pray to God for guidance and do what works for you. That could involve being part of a small group, asking a pastor questions, talking with your friends, researching ancient Hebrew culture, spending time singing hymns, or a thousand other options. It could also involve combinations of activities. Your relationship with God is deeply personal and works in a way specific to you. God is your friend, not an exam for which you need to prepare. However, you come know Him better and more intimately is great and should be pursued.

Hearts of Service: PUC’s Summer 2017 Mission Trip to Kenya

PUC Student Association President Megan Weems spent her summer a little differently than the average college student: she embarked on a nearly 30 hour trek to Maasai Mara, Kenya with others from the PUC family for several days to serve the community there. We asked her to talk about her inspiring experience learning about a new culture and giving back to those less fortunate in our world. Here is Megan’s story.

Our team was comprised of 15 people. We had two doctors, one nurse, one professor, and 11 other people, all who had hearts for service. We left on a Monday afternoon to embark on a long journey from small town Angwin, Calif., to the middle of the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It took one 15 and half hour flight to Dubai, a six hour flight to Nairobi, and then an eight hour safari car ride from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara, our final destination.

We arrived on a Friday, the next day we went to a Maasai Adventist church. On Sabbath afternoon and Sunday we went on a safari around the Maasai Mara, with beautiful views and plethora of animals. After resting up for the few days on the Mara and shaking off the jetlag, the team was in preparation mode for the week to come. We were separated into bush clinic teams, a Vacation Bible School team, and a painting/construction crew. Our group was small but all very driven and excited to be doing our part to help the Maasai community.

We set up five bush clinics while during our time in Maasai Mara. The bush clinics consisted of a team of doctors; Dr. Jonathan Wheeler and his wife, Dr. Julie Perry Wheeler; nurse Francis Aho; and recent PUC nursing graduate Elizabeth Shown. Each day they packed their lunches, put on their scrubs, piled into a safari truck, and drove to a surrounding village in need of medical attention. They offered basic medical checkups,eye checkups, a pharmacy, triage station, and lots of prayer for each Maasai native seen. On a typical day the bush clinic team would see as many as 70 people.

Upon arrival our VBS team first met with the headmaster of the Olosonin Primary school. We discovered the school had over 700 students enrolled and only eight teachers overseeing them. Each morning began with song service led by recent PUC grad Kelly Siegel and myself. Following song service, Dr. Peterson, adjunct professor of music at PUC, would give a Bible story complete with puppets and various instruments. Each day closed with an arts and crafts section which allowed each child the opportunity to create something they could take home. Towards the end of the week the children were excitingly awaiting our arrival at the beginning of each day. At the end of our weeklong program, the children showed their thanks by treating us to a traditional Maasai tribal dance, grabbing our hands and making us join in.

After spending the mornings with the children, we began painting the staff quarters of the first all girls high school in Maasai. Each afternoon we teamed up with a Maasai native, our very own Fabio Maia, the service and missions coordinator at the college, along with five other PUC students. Our crew scraped, primed, and paint the walls. Once school let out, the students would come and dance, sing, and play along as we worked. A great memory for me will always be the Maasai children teaching us Swahili songs, as we taught them English.

Our group was extremely fortunate to have amazing American native hosts. The Aho family are the owners of Mara West (accommodation) and African Missions Services. They run their own community clinic and led our bush clinics. We were blessed to be able to serve the community in the capacity we did and then come back to safe and comfortable accommodations. The Maasai Mara area is blessed to have them and we are blessed to know them.

This trip is something each of us will never forget, and it will stay with us throughout our lives. The PUC missions office strives to create lasting relationships around the world and hopes to return to Maasai Mara soon. The PUC family is expanding from Angwin to all over the world, from Brazil to Fiji and beyond. Now we have just added more beautiful souls, the people of the Maasai Mara.

The group was fortunate enough to go on a safari in the Maasai Mara. We were able to experience and see firsthand the animals of Kenya in their natural habitat. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

Each day a part of the team went out to the primary school to lead a Vacation Bible School program. The team would sing songs, pray, put on puppet Bible stories, and make arts and crafts with and for the kids. It was a great way to really get the children involved with the members of our missions group to learn and swap stories about faith, love, and life. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

While distributing donated water filters to community schools on the Maasai Mara, students would charge the truck to see what was happening. Each filter will provide 70,000 gallons of clean water. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

Dr. Peterson putting a performance to the children during church service. The children were amazed and bewildered at the violin and the sounds that came from it. (Picture by Dylan Turner)

Dr. Wheeler with a patient at one of the clinics hosted with African Missions Services. Dr. Wheeler did general patient checkups while his wife Dr. Julie Perry, an ophthalmologist, did eye checkups. Praying with the patients was one thing Dr. Wheeler made sure to do. There was a translator present for every checkup. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

Every day at the Olisonoon Primary School, all 705 students eat the same thing for lunch, a corn-based porridge. They stand in line with a cup ready to receive their daily portion. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

This is the crew that helped in the construction site. Each day this group would prime, paint, and work hand in hand with the local construction workers to finish the new faculty housing for the only all girls high school in the area. (Picture by Esau Gonzalez)

Returning missionaries Kelly (Brazil, nine months), Cristina (Brazil, nine months), and Megan (Fiji, nine months) were the leaders of VBS. This was the end of the first day of VBS with the kids. (Picture by Dylan Turner)

PUC Students Share Powerful Testimonies During Annual Student Week of Prayer

By Andrew Mahinay

Pacific Union College held its annual student week of prayer the week of April 10. Student week of prayer is a special time for the students, giving them the opportunity to experience the power of God’s work in the lives of their peers. “It is more personable, more real,” said Jason Bajwa, a senior biology major.

This year’s student week of prayer took place in Dauphinee Chapel, a more confined and intimate worship space, giving students a feel of comfort and closeness with each other. Students spoke of God’s ability to work in the life of a sinner. The personal testimonies had a powerful impact on listeners. Inspirational and uplifting words were usedtransformative, change, willing to use youto give listeners a glimpse into how God works. The speaker series consisted of Lulu Kabanje, Randy Ramos, Daniel Grigore, Giselle Garcia, Milka Saint-vil, Laurant Panggabean, Nic Miller, Jamal Armstrong, Alex Chang, and Andy Palomares. There were morning and evening meetings each day.

One of the week’s highlights was the talk by Andy Palomares, future religious vice president of the Student Association. He ended the evening talking about God as our ultimate defender. His demeanor and style made it easy for students to relate with him. In addition to bringing astounding energy, he owned the stage pacing back and forth with confidence and authority. Palomares touched on a more personal issue. After disappointing his father by doing something he should not have done, he felt guilty and ashamed. At times, he could hardly look himself in the mirror. He felt disconnected and distanced from God and his father. But upon reading the Word, Palomares realized it wasn’t God who was doing the distancing, it was himself. “There’s nothing I could do to fix what was wrong, because Jesus was the problem fixer. He is the one interceding for us,” he said. Palomares realized there was nothing in his power, nothing he could do to right his wrong. However, he realized the importance of accepting forgiveness, which his father provided.

With the acceptance of grace and forgiveness, Palomares realized God was on his side the entire time. He used a profound quote saying, “God is already wanting you to be saved, and Jesus is your defense attorney. Not only do you have the judge on your side but you have the best defense attorney on your side you can get,” he continued, “And the only thing against you is Satan, and Satan isn’t going to win.” Palomares paralleled his own struggles with that of Jesus, quoting Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one that has been tempted in every way just the way we are, yet He did not sin.” Ending his speech with this, Palomares made it clear we sinners are not to bask in our own mistakes, “You see, Jesus is for us and He’s never going to leave us.”

After a successful week of student testimonials, many students felt a need to reassess their lives and re-accept God as their Lord and savior. By mentioning their past problems, student speakers made it known no one is perfect. Each student’s sermon emphasized perfectness is not a prerequisite to be used by God. Student testimonials were a great reminder of how God can use any life for His glory and purpose of furthering His kingdom here on earth.

To the Pioneers, With Love

A sincere love letter to the students of PUC from a guest lecturer
By Patrick Vogelpohl

In 2009, I drove a dying Honda Civic up Howell Mountain Road to teach my first class at Pacific Union College. I was a former real estate marketing manager and a freelance writer. I lived in a demanding marketplace filled with unforgiving bottom lines and deadlines.

But my first son was about to be born. My wife and I needed the money. Michelle Rai, the chair of the communication department and now a dear friend, needed someone to teach newswriting at the last minute. She took me to a classroom on the first floor of Irwin Hall, introduced me to about 25 young adults, and then left the room. The students and I smiled at each other for a few seconds until I began to lecture.

Strange things began to happen right away.

As I talked, the students paid attention. They took notes. They smiled at me some more. If they talked to classmates, it was about newswriting. At the end of class, some asked me questions about my lecture. Others simply welcomed me to the college. I thought I was being punk’d, but I wasn’t. These students were friendly and sincere. It was, for lack of a better word, weird.

I drove down Howell Mountain Road and thought, “That was the most pleasant work experience I have ever had.” So I kept going back. I eventually served as an assistant professor of communication. I even taught in the English Department. I became co-director of Publication Workshop and was an advisor for the Campus Chronicle. I got to introduce Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder at Colloquy. Currently, I’m serving as a guest lecturer in a public relations course.

Vogelpohl, center, surrounded by four of his most attractive students. Note their dewy skin.

Vogelpohl, center, surrounded by four of his most attractive students. Note their dewy skin.

In my time on the hill, I’ve learned a few things about PUC’s exceptional students. If you are an incoming freshman, here’s what you should know about your peers:

1. PUC students are active members of the Adventist church. Some are conservative Adventists. Some are liberal. Most students, however, regularly tend to their relationships with God. They go to (and enjoy) church on Saturday, as well as residence hall worship or other prayer groups. When a PUC student wrestles with her or his faith, their friends still accept them as a fellow child of God.

2. PUC students have fantastic skin. It’s not even fair! Maybe it’s because of the plant-rich diet. Maybe it’s all the rest on the Sabbath. Every PUC graduate could earn a modeling contract based on their skin alone. Could your skin be healthier? Then get up here. By the time you leave, your skin will be best described as “supple” or “visually delicious.”

3. PUC students are serious about learning. The vast majority of students actually attend class. The vast majority does homework. Group work gets done. Are there some slackers on campus? Sure. Do students work harder in some classes than in others? Of course. This a college filled with young adults, not study-bots. But I would argue that slackers don’t last too long at PUC. Why? See #4.

4. PUC students are ridiculously active. They study. Then they play on intramural sports teams. They play instruments. They double-major. They have jobs. They have internships. They learn to play instruments while at their internships. They have terrific conversations in the Dining Commons. They feed the homeless. They take day trips to San Francisco and the beach. If these kids weren’t so friendly and attractive, they would be annoying.

5. PUC students are very good at dating. First, they are friends. Then they attend vespers together. Nine years later, they have two law degrees, three kids, a cocker spaniel named Gary, and a nice house near the beach.

6. PUC students live long lives. I once met an alumnus that was 177 years young.

And finally, PUC students look out for one another. They even look out for their professors. I have had students bring me food and snacks during marathon grading sessions—students that weren’t even in my courses. When my kids have been sick, other students prayed for them without my asking. They just did it. Stuff like this doesn’t happen often in most jobs. But it can absolutely make the worst days seem brighter.

In short, you will go to school with the best people you will ever meet. Get up here. Fast.