Posts by WilliamMcCauley

Hamburg team two: anticipating growth.

August 26th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Hamburg team two: anticipating growth.”

Photo by Jeremy Cooper

There have been times in my life when I’ve realized that something needed to change. It’s easy to go through the motions, but living in communion with the Lord leaves little room for doing things halfway.

In early high school, I started asking God for a more genuine, life-changing relationship with him. He answered that prayer, I stand sure of that today, but the transformation process was anything but comfortable. I can remember the winter of eleventh grade as I tried to make sense of my life in light of my first trip to Zambia. Again, God carried me through it, but those were some of the hardest, most confusing days I’ve seen thus far.

When I think back on the twelve Americans who joined us for our last week in Livingstone, I envision a group of friends dedicated to seeing growth in their own lives, no matter the cost. These guys covered the spectrum of backgrounds you might find on a trip like this, from a few who are still trying out the church thing, to pastors who have spent thirty years in ministry, and just about everything in between. What brought them together, though, was a desire to see the Lord do a new work in their lives. And while total transformation is a process that happens over the course of years, it was clear that many on that team in particular were set on a trajectory to grow in ways they never could have anticipated.

If my endurance and your attention span could handle it, I would happily pour thousands of words into this post to tell you all about how each of these people grew and impacted my life during their short stay with us. Instead, I’ll just touch on a few of them.

My spiritual brother, who I’ve mentioned twice before during this project, has been to Zambia a few summers in a row. In preparation for this trip, he and his wife, Amanda, were honored by being asked to come alongside our outreach pastor as team leaders. Sadly for all of us, Amanda had to pull out just days before the trip due to medical restrictions. But I was so impressed with and encouraged by Matt all throughout the week. He realized that both Jesus and Amanda wanted him to pour everything he had into the week, and that’s just what he did. When Matt wasn’t leading worship or remembering literally everyone’s names, we had many chances to sit and talk like we hadn’t in a long time, sharing our hearts in ways I’ve learned are both valuable and necessary.

Growing up in our church’s youth group, I was surrounded by legendary role models, one of whom was Pastor John, who’s currently the family pastor at Hamburg. At the time, John’s sermons didn’t make much difference in my life, but I found that once I got serious about walking with Jesus, I had an enormous amount of wisdom already passed down from him. Pastor John hadn’t been to Zambia before, but the summer he seized the opportunity to join his son for a final adventure before college. We weren’t always in close proximity, but I was near enough to see the Lord working in his life, even after decades of ministry. Between speaking to crowds of students at camp and going on home visits that made the world’s poverty a little more real, it seemed to me that John was rejuvenated by his stay and ready to face whatever season may come next.

This is one of my favorites. It’s a story with a gripping chapter that’s just beginning to be written, but it excites me too much to leave it out. For most of her life, Sarah has been running hard after success in the form of perfect grades and a Division I golf scholarship. On this eve of her senior year of high school, I got to watch God step into her life and go to work at redefining her aspirations. Hearing her speak about her frustrations with elite culture and the hope she sees in the prospect of a life with God fills my heart more than anything. Her time in country looked a lot like mine the first time I went, and what God’s doing in her heart is impeccably similar to my experience. Of course, this is just the beginning, and we may need to come back three years from now and tell a more complete version of what he’s done, but seeing another on a similar course to mine is one of the most encouraging things I’ve come across recently.

There’s a lot of uncertainty and controversy surrounding short-term missions, and the summer has enabled me to see how influential a brief stay in a different context can be. Equally important, though, is the need for regular follow-up and discipleship after the team returns home. These kids and adults have encountered the Lord in powerful ways, and it’s up to the Church to fan that spark into a flame that will last longer than a high. If you have a relationship with someone on this team, or anyone else who’s gone short-term this summer, then make an effort to sit down and (really) listen to them as they tell how God worked in and through their hearts. I think you’ll find that it builds you up while giving your friend a chance to share and process a significant life event.

Here’s a personal update. You only have to read it if you want to.

I arrived safely home just over a week ago, and have since been moving into an off-campus house in Wheaton. Most is well around here, and it’s been a joy reuniting with the friends I left behind. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced much jet lag or culture shock – I was well prepared for both. Classes start Wednesday, and while I would like more time to rest, I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of peace that I’ve made the most of my summer, and that good things are ahead. Speaking of, I’ll be doing my best to keep up with this page. It’s been a blast putting it together! The jury’s still out on what that will look like, but I’ll keep you posted.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Program Ten: being all here.

August 24th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Program Ten: being all here.”

Photo by Jeremy Cooper

One lesson I’m constantly learning is to savor experiences and foster contentment in every situation. For years, thankfulness has been a prominent anthem of my life. I want to encourage others to keep their eyes open to the reality that we all have so much to be thankful for, and to carry out daily lives full of joyful gratitude that bubbles up in response. While I’ll surely be writing more on this as I transition back into life in the States, I’d like to focus now on one of my favorite results of this approach.

The more I realize the grandness and vastness of God’s affections for me and for every other living soul, life becomes ever less mundane. I see his love and care in the little things, and that makes me want to get as much as possible out of every moment I’m alive. But what does that look like? If I’m in the classroom, I want to realize what a gift it is to learn and be as focused as I can. Or if it’s on me to clean the toilet this week, then I hope I’ll realize how that chore blesses others and honors God by taking good care of what I’ve been given. This carries into everything I experience in life – from giving my time and attention to another in real conversation, to working my hardest in the swimming pool, to accepting the unexpected with positivity and grace. The Apostle Paul worded this idea nicely when he encouraged the Colossians to do all things, words and deeds, in the name of Jesus Christ, but I personally love the quote from legendary Wheaton Alumnus Jim Elliot:

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

Exhortations like these have challenged me to be present and engaged in each stage of my three months in Zambia. During the first few weeks, I missed my friends and family almost unbearably, but the Lord helped me realize that the community around me was gradually becoming a family, and the more I pushed into that development, the tighter the bonds became. As the experience progressed, I saw more clearly how it was beginning to fly by and concentrated even more on savoring the experience. When things approached their end and I questioned why God would bring our group so close only to disperse us come August, I continued to make memories that I’ll have forever instead of pouting over my lack of insight. I obviously wasn’t as perfectly present as I would’ve liked to be – there’s room to improve next time – but I’m so thankful that I went into things hoping to cherish each moment. This whole practice was more of a challenge than usual during the home stretch of my internship.

A few weeks ago, the last time I had time available to sit and write, we traveled to the Northern Province to work alongside FCE. Upon our return to Livingstone, we spent a week debriefing the summer and celebrating our time here. This process was beautiful and incredibly helpful as I begin to look at life after the Elijah Experience, but it wasn’t the end of our story. Debrief week and EXP graduation was administered because two of our American sisters needed to return home and fulfill previous commitments (read: they have grown-up jobs). Once the excitement of graduation had passed, those of us who remained turned to our last hurrah: Program Ten.

Program Ten is a ministry vehicle that delegates leadership responsibilities for the purpose of accomplishing a ten-day project. My fellow EXP-ers were in charge of departments like finance, accommodation, emceeing and several others while I was deemed the worship leader and storyteller of the project. If you know me, then you know that this put a big ole smile on my face. Program Ten can be applied to any kind of project, but ours was putting on a camp for students at David Livingstone Secondary School.

Following the conclusion of Beat the Drum at David Livingstone over a month ago, those of us still in town helped the students who really wanted lasting transformation to form a club called Reach 4 Life, where they meet weekly to share their sexual struggles and encourage one another to pursue righteousness. Those who consistently attended club meetings were invited to attend camp, where the Lord did astounding things. As we had been during Beat the Drum week, we were blessed by the presence of yet another contingent from my original stomping grounds, Hamburg Wesleyan. Those guys are seriously unbelievable, and I’m hoping to do another piece only focusing on them. But despite providential preparation and the rush accompanying that, there was no getting around the reality that we EXP former-interns, the ones primarily responsible for the Hamburg team’s week-long visit and the three-day camp, were running on fumes. I sure am thankful that we serve a God who works through our weaknesses!

Throughout our final week, both at camp and serving alongside Hamburg in our local ministries, there was a constant temptation, at least for me, to put my head down and power through the return journey, where I find myself now. I probably could’ve done it, too – the tasks would’ve been accomplished had I merely gone through the motions. I praise the Lord that there are just too many good reasons to do nothing halfway. That said, it was hard, often times exhausting, both bearing the inevitable reality of approaching goodbyes and still pouring my heart and energy into God’s people. This was the case even though they had so clearly been placed in Livingstone or at camp so that they could continue their own stories of transformation – the same kind of inner change I’ve been exploring with this project all summer. Can I show you an example?

So, my boy and mentor Eyram Kpodo moderates the Reach 4 Life club at David Livingstone, and therefore he made a lot of the calls when it came to camp. For some reason, he assigned me the task of waking the campers for a six AM wake-up excerise. The original suggestion was pots and pans, but if you take a look at Eyram’s story, you’ll remember that my experience with that method didn’t bear much promise. Instead, I enlisted my Hamburg brother, Matt, and we sang at the top of our lungs this ridiculous, soulful, down-to-the-river-esque Sunday School song outside each tent and cabin. We had a blast acting twelve, and instead of being greeted by irritated teenagers, the students came pouring out of their quarters laughing, singing and eventually running in a giant circle without being told to do so. As a particularly slow waker-upper, I was astounded and couldn’t help but gape with unbelief. The best part, though, was that this goofy morning set Matt and I up to lead camp in an unforgettable night of powerful, passionate worship. We started our set with our silly little call and response from the morning, and that was enough to get every student up and more than ready to follow us into God’s presence. Neither of us were able to speak the next morning, but that was a small price to pay for such an amazing encounter with the Lord and his people.

No matter where we are in life, no matter how content we are with the big picture, there will always be times when we have to do things we probably wouldn’t choose to do on our own. Most of the wise people I know, though, agree that while your circumstances have a small influence on your life, the attitude with which you receive each storm and each celebration makes almost all the difference. Personally, I want to be so overflowing with contentment and thankfulness in any circumstance that nothing can shake me. If you haven’t taken much time to count your blessings, big and small, then give it a shot! It sure beats complaining, if you ask me.

PS. Here’s a real nice video of the EXP interns telling the story of this summer.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Rope swings and a glimpse of home.

July 30th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Rope swings and a glimpse of home.”

To risk stating the obvious, this summer has been absolutely, entirely different from any I’ve seen before. I’ve always grouped these months together with days of relaxation and play in the sun, quality memory making with my closest friends and even a few family vacations through the years. Even those seasons when I’ve worked have been lifeguarding on a beach and chaperoning children on top-notch field trips. Days before embarking on this journey, Micah from Poetice described what we’re doing as giving up our summers. I would respond that the trade off, everything we’ve seen and learned over the past two and a half months so far, has been more than worth it. Yet there’s truth in what he said – I haven’t had a chance this summer to swim or spend time with my friends back home in Buffalo. I’ve missed my parents and the opportunity to make some extra money for the upcoming school year. Again, this is the decision I made, and I don’t regret it one bit, but everything we choose to do means there’s something else we’re not doing. The other day, though, our team was blessed with an outing that closely resembled the treasured, carefree days of my memory.

Our first week here in Kalungu was very busy, and we had arrived at the conclusion of our weekend in the village totally exhausted. Actually, as I described in the last post, Prince and I were totally rested and rejuvenated, but the other pairs hadn’t been so pampered. Perhaps to balance out the hard work put in the week before, this one has been relatively light. We’ve had to be present for five forty-five AM prayer walks, and we put in an hour or so of children’s or sports ministry per day, but we’ve also gotten to have a bit of fun. This Tuesday was especially full of play and adventure. FCE has a farm in Isale, the village just North of Kalungu. While we got a workout relocating endless fifty kilogram sacks of maze last week, we returned to the property Tuesday for a day on the river. James the farmer had prepared several team-building activities for our group, most of which involved creatively crossing the river using bridges or swings made of rope. I felt like we were at summer camp, and the feeling of completing a challenge as a team is so rewarding!

After the structured stuff, we were showed another rope swing that launched you into a deep section of water. This kept us entertained for at least an hour, encouraging one another to face our nerves and try something new. The swing reminded me of the zip line over my dear friend’s pond, where we spent some of life’s best days. I even tried (and face planted) a backflip like we would do back then.

Like everything else here, there was a little something more to this happy time to make it unique and authentically African. Almost all of our team members who didn’t grow up in the States couldn’t swim. One would think this would produce an unconquerable fear of water and divide our team. Thankfully, to my surprise, this wasn’t the case at all! Knowing that I grew up swimming all the time, these friends of mine literally put their lives in my hands and went flying into deep water. The lifeguard in me was paralyzed with fear at all the possibilities for something to go wrong, but there was no stopping their simple trust in my ability to prevent any of that. By the grace of God, I was able to meet their confident expectations, and at the end of the day I was so reassured that our family had become just that – a body of brothers and sisters who trust one another, even in the most dire circumstances. It’s hard for me to express how thankful I am that we’ve reached this level, and that I get to be a part of something like this.

Once we finished swinging, we cooked up a picnic featuring genuine South African food, courtesy of James’ wife, Lindy, who’s from there. After that, as we packed up and prepared to return to the base, James casually instructed me to climb to the top of the tree supporting the rope swing in order to untie it. Now, I don’t have a huge problem with heights, but free climbing into the thin branches on a blustery day was a rush of its own. It wasn’t until I completed my task that he suggested that I scoot a bit further over the water and hop in. Momma, you would love this guy! Unable to turn down such a storytelling opportunity, it was with slow movement and shaky breath that I made my way out and finally worked up the courage to plunge twenty-plus feet into the cool, refreshing river. My heartbeat quickens just thinking about it, and it’s a memory I get to hold on to for the rest of my life.

Exciting, memorable days like this don’t epitomize or cover the fullness of life on mission. Some days are intensely hard and painful. Others are just plain boring. Each side of this life is worthwhile and makes it what it is, but it’s so life-giving when our loving, caring God feeds our soul with a fun day like this one. This post doesn’t have a dramatic, transformational narrative or a deep lesson to take away, only a reminder that we’re being taken care of and look forward to our homecoming. As difficult as it will be to leave this environment, it will also be so good to return to life as I know it and to put into practice everything I’ve learned here, especially when it comes to loving my people. Until then, though, I continue to savor every moment I’ve been given with these friends and in this place. See you soon!

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Mama Veronica: teaching me to receive.

July 28th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Mama Veronica: teaching me to receive.”

My entire life, I’ve been taught and immersed in the values of loving, welcoming and sharing with others. My mom has personified the esteemed virtue of Southern hospitality, even way up in snowy Buffalo, and Dad has consistently told and demonstrated to me that generosity is not merely an action, but an attitude that gradually shapes a way of life. I’ve watched my family utilize a home that’s laughably too large for the three of us, looking for every opportunity to host our friends and acquaintances who could use a treat. This environmental mindset has rubbed off on me, so that I find it easy and natural to go out of my way to make others feel loved. I do this using the resource that’s most valuable to me – quality time – and my best friends know that I love a good conversation more than any other form of blessing. Yet there’s a surprising drawback to this approach, at least in my experience. This summer, I’ve been realizing time and time again that as much as I love to give, serve and invest in people, I’m downright bad at receiving any of that from someone else.

One of the most noteworthy, adventurous aspects of our two-week stay with FCE – indeed maybe of the entire summer – has been the opportunity to spend three days and three nights with a host family in Kalungu village. I have friends who have done mission work in contexts where they only ever live among local families, but the entirety of my African experience since the very beginning has been on some sort of ministry base with most or all of my team. Needless to say, I was both impulsively excited and horribly nervous for this launch out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends at home, even my future sons and daughters, about ‘that time when I lived in an African hut and ate bugs n’ stuff,’ but I also had real, intense anxieties about how much and what kind of food I would eat, how I would begin trying to speak or otherwise communicate, as well as what might be waiting for me in the spiritual climate of this indigenous community. For reasons like these, I was vocally enthusiastic in preparing for the weekend, but I dreaded it inside.

A major theme of our program this summer has been ‘expecting the unexpected’. As I’ve said before, there is occasional material tossed into the bustle of our responsibilities, purposefully designed to test our patience, but the real face of this is seen when things are truly unanticipated. For the record, the latter has been far more frequent for our group, as well as much more impactful. So in order to clarify the unexpected we ought to be expecting, we had an orientation meeting immediately prior to our stay in the village. The FCE base’s program director, as well as a pastor from the community, encouraged us to keep our eyes open for every opportunity to serve or otherwise bless our host families. We learned some basics of Namonga, the local tribal language, in order to show our new friends that we valued and actually wanted to experience their way of life. All of this was right up my alley, and I couldn’t wait to get out there once I heard what an opportunity this would be to serve. I was paired up with Prince Sinyangwe, who’s become a brother to me, and directed to the house of Mama Veronica, a widow who used to be the cook at FCE’s Kalungu base. And that’s where my hard and fast expectations began to shatter, one by one, like glass into a million little pieces.

Mama greeted us with a warm smile and reverential curtsey, responded politely to our local greeting, then took our bags out of our hands and showed us to our sleeping quarters: a private room with two beds covered in fresh beddings. Next, she led us into the sitting room, sat us down soft couches and asked, in near perfect English, if we were tired from our week working on FCE’s agricultural projects. We admitted that we had seen some early mornings, but that was no matter; that we were there to serve her in any way possible. Mama smiled that signature warm, ‘I run this show’ grandmother smile and said, “Not today. Maybe tomorrow. I know how busy they are at FCE. You will rest while you are here.”

And friends, if that didn’t set the tone for the entire weekend, then I would be writing fiction. Prince and I were literally treated like royalty the whole time we were in this woman’s home. We were fed some of the best, most plentiful meals I’ve had since getting here. Seriously, this might be the first time in my life that I’ve discovered any sort of fat tissue around my ribs – it’s so cool! Every time we would try and wash our dishes, or really do anything else that might be considered service, we were reprimanded and shooed back to our couches. Saturday, after a late, leisurely morning complete with homemade rolls and strawberry jam, I walked outside to ask how I could help. Mama looked up from her massive pile of maze that she was just beginning to shell with great force and said, “We don’t have any work to do today. You go rest.”

After a few more confusing confrontations like this one, I began to realize the game that was being played between us. Both of us had viewed and prepared for that weekend as a chance to love, serve and provide for the other. I felt like a failure if I wasn’t completing my mission, and she felt the same way if she wasn’t carrying out hers. I occurred to me that denying Mama the room to live out her heart’s passion for hospitality wasn’t just doing disservice to her – it was causing her pain by keeping her from doing what she loves. As much as my upbringing caused me to reel with guilt, I spent the rest of the time allowing her to have her way, that is, sitting on her couch while she fattened me up. And in the midst of that, I found a marvelous time full of meaningful conversation with Prince, writing for the first time in at least a week, and praying for my friends and the home I was in. I was also reminded of how this tendency of constant outpouring is something I do in most every other aspect of my life, especially when it comes to faith.

This summer, I’ve been convicted by the story of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15. The younger son, the one we tend to see as the focus of the parable, gets it into his mind that while he isn’t worthy to be called his father’s son, he might as well go home where he can earn a decent living as a hired servant. In the same way, I convince myself that God’s grace an blessing can’t possibly be free; that I need to be constantly proving myself to him and others, convincing them that I’m worth their attention or love. Little do I know that all this time, God’s been wrapping me in his arms with immeasurable love and rejoicing over my return to him. I don’t need to prove to him or anybody else that I’m enough – he already knows that I’m absolutely insufficient on my own, but made totally clean and acceptable in Christ. This kind of love is so far beyond anything I’ll ever be able to grasp or understand, but he calls me to receive it with joy and walk in it nonetheless.

Hospitality and service are amazing forms of love that God created and calls us to do in his name. Yet if you’re at all like me, then we so easily get caught up in trying to give of ourselves that we forget to bask in the love and grace offered freely in abundance. This weekend, I learned to open my belly and allow Mama Veronica to fill it with nshima, vegetables and other wild delicacies. May we learn to open up our hearts and let the Lord fill them with his ever-satisfying love.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Pastor Bugota and the realities of suffering and hope.

July 25th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Pastor Bugota and the realities of suffering and hope.”

In our world full of disasters, fallouts and conflicts, it can be difficult to know quite how to respond. A ten-minute perusal of a news website’s ‘World’ section can have people, at least me, totally overwhelmed by everything that’s going on. Where does an individual begin to pray or do something about all of this? Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of charities compete for our attention, loyalty and resources. They use everything available – clothing, media, even blogging interns, to make you aware of their cause and why it’s worth your precious time of day. There are certainly exceptions, but I have to believe that most of them go to such great lengths because they truly have been given a passion and drive for the work that they do. They believe in the cause enough to commit to and sacrifice for it – easy money can be made elsewhere.

My first semester at Wheaton, I wrote a research paper exploring how rhetoric is used in documentaries about third world Africa. It probably wasn’t very good, and I still have room for improvement, but I put in what I thought was a lot of time and effort uncovering how filmmakers use their craft to convince an audience that a certain issue matters enough for them to get involved. Think along the lines of Kony 2012. One of that film’s strongest attributes was that it made the viewer feel like he or she had a personal, relational connection to the violence in Uganda, and therefore a responsibility to get involved and ‘stop’ it. While we must be wary of those who would use this device to manipulate us on a large scale and misuse our allegiance, it’s tough to deny the truth in their message – that we as members of the human race, and privileged ones at that, cannot turn a blind eye to the pain and injustice experienced today, even if it’s far off or doesn’t directly impact our lives. It’s precisely that distance which softens our response and prevents us from acting on what we hear about, and it’s for this reason that activists try to bring issues close to home.

Over what’s become a little more than two months, my heart has gradually come to see Livingstone, Zambia as home. That calls for a disclaimer. The rush I feel when I imagine being reunited with my parents or my people at Wheaton is enough to show that I’m in a season of life where I have several homes, and it’s perpetually difficult only ever being able to be in one physical place. But even as we spend two weeks doing outreach work in Kalungu village, close to Isoka in Zambia’s Northern Province, our team is recognizing how our return to the base in Livingstone will feel like a homecoming. The crazy thing about this is while we’re comfortable at the base, what has really become home for us is our community – this small team of young adults that hasn’t been separated since the summer’s beginning. This will obviously make our rapidly approaching departure and separation all the more difficult. All this to say, my time here has brought issues I used to think of as far away past my doorstep, to the very bunk bed next to mine.

Our outreach in Kalungu Village has been in conjunction with FCE (Foundation of Cross-Cultural Education), a ministry that’s doing God’s work all over Southern Africa. Much of what they do involves sustainability and using agriculture to empower communities to attain higher standards. A huge part of this is mission and discipleship education that sends people out to do such work in their own settings. Doing life alongside the guys and girls enrolled at the Kalungu base has been an interesting experience as our EXP team compares their way of doing things with our own. We both have plenty to learn from each other, which epitomizes the value of relationships, especially cross-cultural ones. Because of the brevity of our time together, I haven’t strained myself to bond with each and every FCE student, but I do want to tell you about one of my new friends.

When our bus rolled in at three AM last Saturday morning, the welcoming committee had dwindled to three for obvious reasons. We were served dinner and quickly sent to bed. As we tossed our bags on the floor and sleepily claimed our bunks, Pastor Bugota, an elderly man in yellow flannel pj’s, rolled out of bed and shook each of our hands with a deep sense of hospitality and respect. Following our personal introduction, he animatedly told me how much he had been looking forward to meeting someone named William, and that goofy interaction has been the starting platform for a deep relationship with one of the wisest, most interesting men I’ve come across this summer.

FCE has kept us remarkably busy during almost all hours of the day, but I’ve done my best to capitalize on fifteen minute breaks in our schedule, as well as mealtimes, to sit with Pastor Bugota and gather bits and pieces of his story and the lessons he’s learned along the way. For whatever reason, we’ve hit it off from the start, and his presence has daily provided me with a fullness of life that can only come from Christ in both of us. In a time of life when most of my relationships, both here and at school, are with twenty-something’s still trying to find sense or direction in life, it’s been richly rewarding to be around one whose memories and tales go back decades before I was born.

Bugota has been a pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo since his early adult life. Throughout that time, his nation has been one of violence and civil unrest. Consequently, he shepherds a flock that is intimate with death, suffering and grief. Many have fled as refugees, to the point where it seems like there aren’t any peaceful people left in the country. Yet Pastor Bugota remains faithful to the Lord, patiently waiting for the day when it’s safe for him and his people to return home. It’s the same somber, realistic hope we read about in Jeremiah’s account of a people scattered and longing to come back together. This great, real, living hope is alive in Bugota’s eyes when he speaks of this, so much that, though I’m not adequately informed on the situation in the DRC, I believe my friend when he says that there will be peace. It’s this sort of relational closeness, though, that makes me eager to learn more about that conflict and be in constant prayer for this man and his congregation.

Without the genuine relationships that Pastor Bugota pursues with every moment of his life, this man’s story and advocacy might fail to stick with me or anyone else. I don’t think my calling is to the DRC. In fact, I’m rather sure that I’ll make the States home while returning here every once in a while. But Pastor Bugota has taught me lessons about how I view and interact with the world around me, near and far, that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life, wherever I go. I pray that you share in my learning this summer, but also that the Lord causes your paths to cross with people different from yourself to teach you lessons of your own.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Hannah Watkins and total surrender.

July 15th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Hannah Watkins and total surrender.”

Looking back on the stories that have been told here so far, it’s pretty easy to see that most of them feature people who have struggled against some great challenge or difficulty. Whether it’s been depression, an unhealthy family background or other pattern of poor choices, they’ve wrestled with their lot and have been delivered, or at least have grown closer to God through the battle. But is that really the case for everyone? I believe, as I wrote about the other week, that the more true we are with ourselves and each other, the more we will see that lots of people have serious struggles in their everyday lives. But what if that’s not your experience? Can God use a story that’s not riddled with hurt or disaster? Instead of arguing that he totally can, let me introduce you to Hannah Watkins.

Hannah grew up in a Christian home. A lot of our stories begin this way, bit the usual disclaimer, at least in my life, has been that we always knew a lot about God without actually knowing him, let alone knowing him. Hannah claims with a sincere heart that she can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t in love with Jesus. Further defying the norm, she’s made it through the dark teenage years without running after the crowd or falling to temptation. Part of this experience that has brought pain, though, is that her closest friends put her in a ‘goodie church girl’ box. Instead of respecting her strength and dedication to holding fast to good values, they stopped inviting her to spend time with them. It seemed they didn’t want to feel judged for their decisions, even though it has never been her intention to look down on them. Anyway, that’s been her life, and she had always assumed that her lack of drama or difficulty meant that her story couldn’t be as powerful as others we’ve heard this summer. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, during Beat the Drum, she answered the call to be vulnerable and stood in front of a lot of people to share her story of purity. To Hannah’s surprise, several of her students followed up with her after class to tell her how powerful this had been for them. The simple fact that it was possible to live out these morals we talk about had blown them away and encouraged them to turn over a new page in their own lives. She found that her willingness to trust the Lord with her life of consistency had been a catalyst for change in the hearts of others.

It’s worth sharing that while Hannah may indeed have things in order in her personal life, her future, to the average onlooker, appears to be rather chaotic and uncertain. She did a year of college close to home, and is taking the semester off this fall. Though unclear as to her ultimate calling in life, Hannah has made herself totally available to God’s will for her. In his faithfulness, he’s called her to Zambia for the summer, even though she hasn’t been away from home before. In a time where Hannah anticipated extreme homesickness, God has continued to be everything he’s promised to be by protecting her from any of that. She’s on the other side of the world with less than enough answers about the future to hold up in a typical small talk interaction, but Hannah’s so full of peace and assurance that she’s in exactly the right place. The Lord has honored her trust by continuing to carry her this far, and she’s more than excited to find out what’s next.

A huge part of Hannah’s confidence in this being the place for her for now is the community in which she finds herself. Our EXP family has grown closer with each passing week, and that’s something we’re all remarkably thankful for. Being one of the younger interns at nineteen, Hannah speaks of us as her older siblings, and loves the way we care for her. I totally resonate with this gratitude, as I’m only a year older than that; I feel so valued and safe among these people. Like all of us, Hannah obviously loves and misses her family and friends back home in East Lansing, Michigan, but it’s that same closeness that makes her appreciate the bond between our crew over here. God speaks through people, and it’s so encouraging to see how he’s voiced himself in us to confirm that he’s doing powerful things through Hannah’s life.

Spending time with Hannah and reflecting on her story this week has reminded me that the Lord really is able and willing to use anyone’s life or story, whether it’s dramatic or simple; whether it belongs to a wretch or a saint. Yes, this truth works in both directions – it’s just as impossible to be too good to be used by God as it is to be too depraved for him. His only condition is that whatever sort of life we bring to God, we surrender it to him fully and without reserve. He doesn’t need our life to be intriguing or in order, just true and available. So whatever you have to offer him today, know that he’s ready for you, to guide you along the adventure of your life for the sake of his kingdom purpose; something incomprehensibly bigger than ourselves. All it takes is an attitude of surrender and a willingness to step out your front door.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Edfy Mudenda for all to know.

July 2nd, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Edfy Mudenda for all to know.”

It’s always good to be reunited with old friends. During each of my first three visits to Zambia, our assigned projects would always interact with Edfy Mudenda, an absolute rock star of a personality who can dance, rap and otherwise perform like no one else I’ve come across in this country. I was always inspired by the way Edfy carried himself – young people flock to his presence. That charm sent me home with stories of the overflowing sense of love and happiness in Zambia. When I graduated high school, he wrote me a heartfelt letter which went into a book that I still treasure today. Coming back this summer, I had not planned on seeing my friend, as he’s currently involved with LXP down in South Africa. But when those fun-loving people drove all the way up here for Beat the Drum this week, he was the first one off the bus and into my joyfully surprised arms. We’ve gotten to spend the hectic last two weeks working alongside each other and picking up where we left off. Except, where we left off was radically different from the way things look today.

As soon as we got the chance to sit down and talk personally, Edfy let me know that he was an entirely changed man. I didn’t quite understand – why would someone with everything together want to be different? Little did I know, I had been looking up to someone who was very different than the front he projected. Throughout the time we had been friends, Edfy had been on staff at one of Poetice’s partner ministries, but he was also involved in a life of frequent mistreatment of women, drugs and alcohol. Mudenda had mastered the practice of covering up this second life, even arriving at work drunk without being found out. When Musa Mwanza arrived as the new man in charge, Edfy could tell things were going to be different. Musa has a passionate dedication to regular prayer, fasting and overall taking God seriously, which we’ve gotten a full taste of at EXP this summer. At first, Edfy and Musa clashed because of their different approaches, but as time went on, he began to see his new boss as one he could confide in. Edfy eventually mustered courage enough to be transparent about his double life, which Musa received with grace and readiness to come alongside him in pursuit of a healing solution.

In a matter of weeks, it was determined that Edfy would head down to South Africa to take part in LXP, where he met the Lord in an unmistakably authentic way. This nine-month program was a transformative process, and he came out the man of God we get to see today. He continues to invest in LXP as a mentor to students going through the program this year. This week with Beat the Drum, we’re offered a look in at the need young people have for strong, reliable role models. While fresh outfits and unbelievable dance moves can get people’s attention, it’s now Edfy’s realness that makes him a magnet for so many of these kids.

Echoing Musa’s commitment to transparency, Edfy has discovered freedom in sharing his past for God’s glory. After freely discussing every detail of his journey with me personally, he was the first to volunteer and describe his transformation for our whole Beat the Drum team a few days later. He’s found matchless life in doing this regularly. It’s become so clear to him that the devil’s most powerful move is to force us into covering our pain with shame, and that to shed light into those areas is to experience true liberation. Edfy walks in that liberty everywhere he goes, and the Lord uses it for good on a daily basis. There’s also a level of responsibility that comes with his willful exposure. Speaking to this, Edfy observes, “The more I open up my story, the more it helps me to be accountable for every thought I have in my mind. God reminds me that I have to live these things I share.” Not only is freedom available in being transparent, there’s also protection from slipping back into old ways.

As you can see, both of my pieces this week interact with a theme of vulnerability. God has been teaching me so much this summer about the power of a true story, especially when someone tells his or her own without overlooking the gritty, crucial details. In keeping with this lesson, I read Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly” on the plane here over a month ago. I’ll write a review next time I read it, but it’s all about this idea of getting over our shame and being real with people. So often, each of us is held captive by what we think will ruin us if it’s put in the open. Reality is, though, that while there are unavoidable consequences for each of our actions, there’s also so much liberty in getting these oppressive thoughts off our chest. This week with Beat the Drum has taught me that when we put our stories out for all (or even a few trusted others) to see, we find that the rest of the crowd understands where we’re coming from. More likely than not, they have something about the matter to teach us, just like we might have a piece of wisdom to share with them. But we’ll never know if we keep our secret struggles inside and pretend we have everything in order.

I would be a hypocrite if I spent my week writing two thousand words about vulnerability without sharing my own pains. While I was able to make great progress in this area and open myself to roughly one hundred Zambian students, I also believe in the necessity of trust with this kind of interaction. Unfortunately, I’ve made the mistake of taking trust lightly, both my own and that which others bestowed upon me. If we’re close, then please contact me and we’ll trade stories. Even if we’re not, I pray that you’ll learn from the experiences of Edfy, myself and the countless renewed students of David Livingstone Secondary that there is life, grace and freedom in being open with people about your past and present difficulties. Talk to someone in whom you can confide today, remembering that your heavenly father is the most faithful and trustworthy companion you could ask for.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Drum beats and open hearts.

June 30th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Drum beats and open hearts.”

As many of us have been informed over the last couple decades, HIV/AIDS has caused significant damage all over the world, but specifically in this continent of Africa. We as Americans have a pesky habit of getting very concerned over global justice issues, but moving on to the latest causes a few weeks later. We’ve seen this recently with issues like ISIS, Ebola and citywide race riots. Several years ago, when AIDS was at the forefront of the world’s attention, a well-known American pastor made a commitment to pursuing a solution to this devastating problem. In his research, he was surprised to find that sub-Saharan Africa, a part of the world which statistically boasts to be inhabited by eighty percent Christians – more than any other region – was also the globe’s most prominent hotspot for AIDS. Upon presenting this inconsistency to African leaders, he was faced with a convicting response that went something like this:

“Do you have any idea how powerfully your culture influences us? The rest of the world beholds your comfort and prosperity, and longs to experience it. We read your Bibles and sing to your Jesus, but we also watch your movies and listen to your music, and what are they telling us about how to live and behave? Sir, if you’re really interested in making a difference here, then go make a quality movie that speaks to sexual issues while promoting values that line up with your Christian message of hope.”

So he partnered with a South African ministry called LXP and set out to create such a film. While the pastor was quickly sidetracked and backed out of the project to pursue other opportunities, LXP didn’t have this option. Their people were dying, whether they chose to look at it or not. They finished the film and called it Beat the Drum. I believe it’s streaming on Netflix these days – check it out if you’re looking for something to watch!

Beat the Drum has been expanded to be a weeklong program in secondary schools, primarily focused on raising accurate awareness about AIDS and encouraging a commitment to abstinence. It goes without saying that if we indeed expect teenage students to make the conscious decision to refrain from having sex until an indefinite wedding night, then we have our work cut out for us. You’re right – this is an impossible task in our world today. We believe that anything’s possible with God, though, so we began devoting all of our attention to this event a week in advance, most of our prep time being spent in prayer. This week also included classroom sessions with George Mwanza, founder of LXP, who familiarized us with the Beat the Drum curriculum. The event itself includes classes that focus on having good values, exploring true definitions and examples of being a real man or woman and providing clear information to dispel preexisting African myths about sex and AIDS.

It’s one thing for us to stand in front of a crowd of high school kids, telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. It’s another task entirely to face these kids and show them that we know exactly where they’re coming from. Vulnerability is a power of which we as humanity have barely grazed the surface, mostly due to our own shame. Each class I’ve taught this week has been filled with students who are timid and shy about asking real questions on the matter. However, every time I’ve come clean and shared about my redeemed struggles and failures in this area, they’ve opened up like a library of gripping, dramatic, unfinished works of literary art. Throughout the years, LXP has learned to channel this astounding response through something called a Dear Francis Box. In the film, the protagonist is aided by a kindhearted volunteer named Francis. Because of her compassion, students are given the opportunity to anonymously ‘write to Francis’, asking for advice about their circumstance. From there, we’re able to sort these very personal questions into themes and address each theme in class the next day. This process is as difficult and heart wrenching as it sounds. Most of these students have lived through hell in ways I don’t want to describe. Yet the heart of their inquiries is unanimous: “Can I really be free from this broken life? Is there actually healing available?”

As these pleas pile in, we’re encouraged to make a conscious effort to refrain from preaching, simply because these students more than likely already have several pastors and family members filling that role, and nothing’s changing. Yet. As an alternative, we can let the Lord speak through our stories of valid brokenness and redemption to communicate the true hope that we have in Christ. This week, I have seen God take a lot of things about myself that were ugly, hidden and hurting and make them beautiful by using them to provide hope to my new friends at David Livingstone Secondary School. An incredible man who I hope to feature this summer, Bruce Chitambala, may have said it best during a recent debriefing meeting. Hearing so many accounts of students facing their problems and longing for lasting change, Bruce calmly remarked, “I think we’re beginning to see past this film and recognize that the real curriculum for Beat the Drum is all of your honest stories.” What an honor it’s been to see the Lord work through parts of my story I never thought he would find pleasing.

So far, it’s been clear that this week has been incredibly powerful, maybe even life changing. Each of our fifty-ish people here to teach and connect have been pouring into personal relationships and walking in the freedom that only comes in Christ, and students are flocking to that. But we’re not done here, because God’s not done here. We recognize the danger in stirring up all this hurt for a week, only to leave so many raw teenagers alone and undiscipled. Those of us who will be in town through August, as well as others far beyond that, will be remaining in close contact with the school and its students to encourage them in their new lifestyles and provide other forms of support and guidance. I’m so thankful to be a part of an organization that sees life as a process rather than an impulsive decision, and I’m ecstatic to have over a month to walk with these kids on a new, difficult path. Please pray for the follow-up process and the shaken hearts of each of these kids. There’s so much love here; it’s overwhelming!

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Trevor Kaufman: more than just a trip.

June 25th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Trevor Kaufman: more than just a trip.”

When I think about summer, I’m filled with pleasant memories and associations. I’m transported to my closest childhood friend’s home, where we spent some of life’s best days running through the woods, swimming in his pond and basking in the freedom of sunny outdoors. I smell the fresh sea air as Dad and I played goofy beach games that were never really about the games. I also feel the joy in my heart when I first experienced this wonderland called Zambia in August of 2011. That joy has since blended with a deep sense of peace and hasn’t left me yet. It’s during these elevated summer months that countless young people like myself experience God on a short-term mission trip. Some of these kids are changed forever by what they encounter, others settle for a warm feeling that only lasts a little while. People observe this in and out of the Church, and there are plenty of Christians who long for a solution that will keep their students willing to walk with the Lord. If there were indeed such a rule of thumb, I think that we would all be making use of it. The resulting challenge takes wisdom, experience and a commitment to looking after people as living souls instead of just as assignments.

As I told at the beginning of this summer project, the Lord used a short-term mission trip to change my life. Our team of eight teenagers and four leaders spent months bonding and praying in preparation, and we stayed in extremely close contact for the following year. The adults in leadership devoted themselves wholeheartedly to walking with us through the entire process, and their dedication was crucial to our formation. When I had the chance to return the next year, one of those leaders, Trevor Kaufman, was on my team once again. Trevor has been associated with the worship arts at Hamburg Wesleyan back in Buffalo for as long as I can remember, and he was heavily involved in student ministry as I passed through high school. Our shared experiences in Zambia have developed a close relationship between the two of us. Now that I’m usually off at school, I love hearing about all the awesome things he’s doing in these days. Presently, Trevor’s in charge of the Hamburg team that’s here to help with Beat the Drum, and it’s been a huge treat to have such a special, familiar face around here for a while. I’m overjoyed to feature him here, both because he’s my friend and because he has a seasoned and refined approach to short-term missions.

This summer’s brief visit marks Kaufman’s seventh trip here; each time has been in the context of leading a short-term team. He never thought he would be in this deep, but opportunities just continued presenting themselves, and it’s hard to say no to this place! His first time was through a different organization, and he remembers it as traveling to observe culture from the sidelines, kind of like a guided tour of the third world. This approach proved to be significantly less impactful than the next six trips with Poetice, which have focused on immersive interaction with ongoing indigenous ministries. In other words, Poetice enables people to tangibly experience life alongside locals in a way that sticks with both parties. Trevor points out that one of the most important lessons he’s learned here has been that worship is not merely adoration of God, but that it’s a major component in regard to spiritual warfare. That end of things can get wild in this part of the world, and most of us have had experiences that are difficult to deny. Trevor’s approach to leading worship, even back in a relatively tame church back home, have been largely shaped by his time in Zambia.

For these reasons and more to come, Trevor has found short-term missions trips, specifically to third world countries like Zambia, to entirely change students’ lives and outlooks. Clearly, some of them succumb to the high and fizzle back into the world, but he’s surprised by how many take to heart what they’ve learned. “Often, what I’ve seen through these trips is that people have changed; it’s become who they are going forward. For me, it’s really the same thing. No longer do the trips I go on stay here, but they come back with me and change how I look at things and my perspective of the world.” I stand with Trevor in his conclusion. He’s been positioned closer to more changed students, but it was precisely that difference in kids’ lives that encouraged me to come here in the first place, and it has certainly contributed to my frequent and fulfilled desires to return.

It’s not just first-timer high school students who get shaken and transformed, though. Kaufman points to his own life as a key testimony to Zambia’s role in short-term adventures. In addition to what he’s learned about worship, Trevor speaks of another lesson he’s absorbed here – one that can speak to everyone who’s wrestled with what to do upon coming home from such a brief experience in an entirely different world. “It’s so easy for people in the Church to think you’re not on mission unless you’re overseas. People need to really get it into their heads that they should be doing this daily in their communities. In many senses, that’s much harder to do. It’s almost like going overseas is the baby step into the massive mission that you’re daily encountering every day of the year back home.” Labeling our endeavors as ‘mission trips’ has silently persuaded the American Church that if we’re not in an intriguing, uncomfortable environment that’s far away from home, then we’re less responsible for representing Jesus and living every moment of our lives for him. The fact of the matter is this: when we walk with and abide in Christ like he longs for us to do, he will undoubtedly use us to carry out his redemptive work, regardless of where we find ourselves for the summer or any other time of the year. This is a truth that wise Christians strive to exemplify and communicate, and it’s a giant part of the reason churches like Hamburg involve themselves in this often-controversial world of short-term missions. So whether you’re processing a trip, looking forward to one or wondering if you should go, may your eyes be opened to the mission field that is your everyday life. Bless you all, and please continue to be in prayer for Beat the Drum, our AIDS awareness outreach in a local high school this coming week.

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Prince Sinyangwe: beyond race.

June 24th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Prince Sinyangwe: beyond race.”

Does 2015 really need more words about race? It’s easy for people with backgrounds like mine – the white, American men who haven’t gone hungry before, to impulsively question why so many issues in the world seem to concern ethnicity. It’s difficult for us to notice what doesn’t affect our everyday lives. I’ve stood in this position of privilege for a lot of my own life, but the Lord has gone to great lengths in order to show me that if these problems are popping up all over the nation and throughout the world with increasing frequency, then they demand our attention. I don’t feel guilty about what I was born into; rather I’ve been encouraged to use my advantages to stand in the gap for those with less of a voice. The events of the last few years ought to convince us that something’s broken, regardless of what or who is to blame. Thankfully, more and more people are recognizing this. In my world, I played drums with a band this past school year, and we were responsible for leading our student body in worship. One of the aspects of this gig we were most passionate about was bringing two thousand diverse students together and facilitating their worship across various genres. We weren’t satisfied with simply playing a gospel song every third chapel to appease a demographic or club. Instead, we did our best to integrate every prominent worship style into our feel as a band. If we didn’t have the capability to do justice to a genre, we would bring in kids who could pull it off, and they would sing or play with us for that time. This was an endeavor that demanded unwavering hearts, but it appeared to me that progress was made; that students’ worship was not so limited to what they were used to. God used this process to pry me open and saturate me with his heart on the matter.

During the course of the past month, I’ve had what might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to continue this journey by living in day-to-day community with people from all over the world. Of course, by “all over the world”, I mean Africa and the States, but it’s still been really cool. Life in this context hasn’t been the proverbial walk in the park; the fact of the matter is that we ‘whities’ are more comfortable gravitating toward each other, and the ‘blackies’ have the same tendency. (For all my politically correct friends who just cringed, those are the true terms used around these parts, and that’s okay!) Regardless of what’s easy, we at EXP have been praying unceasingly for unity and pursuing the practice of taking purposeful, tangible steps toward oneness. For example, the other week, some of our leaders went out and bought a big, fancy table and announced that our entire team would eat every lunch and dinner together, rather than dispersing into clusters across the base. It’s a small step, but we’re seeing positive change happen already.

This week and the following, our EXP family is having a reunion of sorts. We’re welcoming the participants of LXP, who drove thirty-two hours from South Africa, as well as a team from my home church in Hamburg, New York. What has become a small army of roughly fifty people from seven countries will be managing a program called Beat the Drum. I’ll talk about this at length next week when it actually happens, but Beat the Drum is essentially an AIDS awareness curriculum that’s carried out in local secondary schools. As far as I know, this will be the first one happening in Zambia, and it’s promising to be extraordinary. That to say, this week of on-base training and prep work has been a beautiful picture of what the Kingdom of God can look like, with such a diverse group united by intense love for Jesus and total surrender to his purposes. Our extended times of prayer and worship each morning and evening have been some of the most intimate and powerful times with the Lord I’ve ever been a part of. It’s overwhelming to watch these people build strong relationships with one another, despite having entirely different backgrounds. I have high hopes that following Beat the Drum, the second half of our time here will continue to yield an astounding harvest of unity and love, devastating long-standing containers of culture and ethnicity.

In case you haven’t noticed, a vast majority of my shared writing this summer has been personal testimony – real, hopefully relatable stories of how God has transformed lives and how Poetice International has been involved. For this piece, I had set out to feature my dear friend, Prince Sinyangwe. During our initial consultation, however, Prince adamantly insisted that this realm of race needed to be written abut more than any dramatic tale I could attempt to draw from him. This selflessness speaks more about his heart than I could say with a thousand words. I’ll honor his request, but first let you know that this man’s drive and passion for the communication of the Word of God, coupled with a gentle, soft-spoken nature, has truly touched my heart and inspired my outlook on life. Prince’s core message when it comes to race is that no matter what physical differences we see, no matter how our culture has influenced us, God loves us all the same, and his love is bigger than we can ever know. He reminds me on a regular basis that, “It doesn’t matter if we come from America, India, Japan or Africa; God created us in his own image, which means we are one.” Prince’s vision and prayer for our team is a driving force behind the relational progress we’ve been realizing with each passing day.

We find ourselves in a world full of prejudice, frustration and tragic miscommunication over our deepest hurts. We can no longer regulate the corpse of racial tension to the American Civil War or the movements of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela, though we recognize these as motivating steps in the right direction. In this discouraging year that’s been riddled with riots and shootings, let us hope in the kingdom coming. It’s obviously not here yet in its fullness, but this wildly joyful, diverse community reminds me that, to use one of our favorite exclamations here at EXP, “It’s HAPPENING!”

William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern