By Gordon Govier

Faith Challenging Partnership in Uganda

InterVarsity is partnering with a growing number of organizations in order to better reach every corner of every US college and university campus. But partnering works in many ways. This past summer an Athletes InterVarsity group went to Uganda to serve in a refugee camp in partnership with the nonprofit organization ChildVoice and learn about ChildVoice’s anti-poverty programs.

Athletes InterVarsity National Director Maghan Perez had dreamed of taking a team to Uganda after her first visit 10 years ago introduced her to the needs of young women who had been traumatized by years of conflict in Uganda and South Sudan. Now, as a Board member of ChildVoice, she saw an opportunity to help athletes develop leadership skills through their participation in the work ChildVoice is doing to address global issues such as racism, tribalism, and the refugee crisis.

Her 20-member team was made up of athletes from Temple University in Philadelphia and Ugandan college students, as well as Maghan’s husband and twin three-year old sons. Much of their time was spent at the ChildVoice Center in the small village of Lukodi, in northern Uganda, where vocational skills are taught to young women in a holistic program that focuses on their relationship with God and with their community.

The college athletes learned that poverty is not merely a lack of resources. “Our definition of poverty was expanded to understand that roots of poverty exist because of the broken relationships between God, between others, within us, and with creation,” Maghan reported. “We wrestled with our own poverty. We learned how much the vulnerable and poor have to teach us.” 

The team also traveled further north to the Imvepi Refugee Resettlement Camp, filled with refugees from South Sudan, primarily women and children. The team distributed donated sports equipment and helped launch a sports and movement program designed to complement the educational programs.

“At Imvepi, we watched as people who have lost everything were still able to worship and praise God in the midst of so much pain,” Maghan reported. “This challenged us to the core, realizing our own spiritual poverty, because much of our faith and worship in the US depends on our circumstances. We also saw a pure joy in playing. No matter what the age, if you have a ball, jump rope, or Frisbee, there was something universal about the joy of playing that allows for healing and laughter, no matter what your surroundings, if only for a moment.”

InterVarsity’s summer Global Programs offer students the opportunity to put their faith into practice. The student athletes who went to Uganda saw their faith challenged, stretched, and strengthened  through the experience.