Amanda Davis almost didn’t make it aboard that first trip to Uganda in 2008. It was InterVarsity New England’s first Global Issues Internship in Uganda and the internship director Tom Brink was not sure freshmen were ready for the experience.
Amanda was a freshman at Wellesley. Her application was accepted because of a previous overseas ministry trip during high school. And because of that 2008 trip Amanda is today the co-founder of The Street Child Project, a ministry based in Uganda. She is also preparing to enter her senior year at Wellesley.
Can a college student help found a ministry and complete her college education at the same time? In Amanda’s case the answer is yes. She grew up in North Carolina watching her parents, who were business owners and entrepreneurs. “That has made me somewhat spontaneous in my life,” she said. “I guess I consider myself a social entrepreneur.”
Her parents were not heavily involved in church, but they did send Amanda to Charlotte Christian School. When she arrived at Wellesley as a freshman, discovering InterVarsity and getting involved in the fellowship seemed like a natural transition. It became a life-changing transition. She has dropped plans to attend law school afer Wellesley and will enroll in seminary instead.
“I grew up knowing God was important, but it wasn’t until I connected with InterVarsity at Wellesley that I started pursuing God,” Amanda said. “What I learned as a member of a small group Bible study that freshman year I still use today—the techniques of observation, interpretation, application. I use these techniques to lead my volunteer teams through inductive Bible studies when I go to Uganda every six months.”
Founding a Ministry
Amanda learned about the Global Issues Internship to Uganda from others in her freshman Bible study and was encouraged to apply. The internship included long bus rides with members of FOCUS Uganda , their local partners (FOCUS is the Fellowship of Christian Unions. Like InterVarsity, it’s a member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.).
On those rides Amanda noticed that Serunjogi Andrew, an intern on staff with FOCUS, was often drawing and coloring his artwork. She offered to help him arrange an art auction to raise money for the ministry.
Andrew had a dream much bigger than art auctions. He dreamed of a ministry that used art to educate and rehabilitate street children. He asked her to partner with him. Reading Andrew’s emails after she returned home to the U.S. she could not dismiss them.
“I couldn’t get Andrew’s idea for this art school for street children out of my head. God worked on my heart every single day. There were many days when I said, ‘I’m a student, I’ve only been to Uganda once. I’ve only met Andrew a couple of times. I don’t know these kids we’re trying to help.’ It was only the peace of God instilled in my heart that encouraged me to pursue this Uganda commitment as a student. It didn’t make any sense. Still today it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But sometimes God calls us to do radical and absurd things.”
Amanda organized a team of volunteers, and at the end of 2008 and into 2009 she returned to Uganda to lead an art workshop for street children. During this trip Amanda had a birthday and turned 20. Also during the trip, The Street Child Project was officially launched. “God opened door after door after door and worked on my heart again and again, and I couldn’t ignore it,” she said.
Exactly one year later Amanda was in St. Louis attending InterVarsity’s Urbana 09 Student Missions Conference. She came not as many of her fellow students did, seeking God’s direction for her life, but rather as the executive director of a fledgling missions organization looking for advice and contacts to help the mission be successful.
Amanda was inspired by Urbana’s message of incarnation, taken from John 1:14. “The whole idea of incarnation ministry has profoundly affected the way that I live my life and the way that I conceptualize ministry,” she said. “I’ve made it a life goal to never miss Urbana. I want to have a booth for the Street Child Project the next time it comes around.”
Best Possible Outcome
When Tom Brink was first putting together the international internship in 2008, he did not imagine that one of the participants would launch their own ministry out of the experience. He sees it as one of the best possible outcomes.
“This strengthens the partnership we have with FOCUS Uganda,” he said. “It was wonderful to see an InterVarsity student and a FOCUS staff start something together, independently of the two organizations.”
This summer, as she prepares another team of volunteers to travel to Uganda to work with The Street Child Project, Amanda is also setting up a U.S. arm of the ministry to help raise funds and mobilize volunteers. Even though she’s passionate about the Street Child Project, and intends to stay involved with it, Amanda says she has other goals she’s also working on.
One of those goals is graduating from Wellesley in the spring of 2011. She’s still on track to get her degree, even though her college education hasn’t gone quite as she expected. “InterVarsity has profoundly impacted my life as a student,” she said.