Q&A: Life at the Institute for G.O.D. EA

During my recent trip to Uganda I got to know the students that have been attending our Institute in Uganda. While the education they are receiving is based off of our model at the Institute for G.O.D. in the U.S., it takes on a different flavor in this context, and it's pretty great to see. I thought it would be helpful to give others a "day in the life" of a student there. My interview with Brian gives a window into his life, but also more broadly into the challenges, responsibilities and hopes facing the students at the Institute. My hope is for you see how we are training students in East Africa for the work of service (Ephesians 4:11-13). 

What were you doing before coming to the Institute for G.O.D. East Africa?

I was working at an electrical shop as a technician and sales rep in Kampala. I came to my hometown [Bombo] to visit family. While I was there, I was told of an opportunity to go to the Institute by a friend, Cissy Kimbugwe. Ever since she told me about it, I began reflecting on what was happening in my life, and whether or not the Institute could be something God was calling me to. After finding a job I thought would give me security; things turned out different when I faced the world. I realized that God had helped me overcome many challenges, and really brought me through a lot, so I decided to come learn and pursue him at the Institute.

Students are encouraged to choose a specialty and are given time dedicated to developing in the skill of their choice, while still contributing to the community's needs. 

What daily responsibilities do you have as a student at the Institute?

My number one priority is being a student. The rest of my schedule consists of teaching at St. John’s Primary School and doing construction work.  My focus in construction is electrical work. I also do some work in the garden and help with the animals two times a week (feeding them and cleaning pens). All of the students have responsibilities within the garden, but we also get to choose a specialty that we think we could grow into. For me, that is construction. 

When school is in session, what does a typical day look like for you?

Brian helps facilitate a recreational activity during recess with our summer interns for the children at St. John's Primary School, where he teaches during the week.  

Our day is quite busy! It starts with morning devotion at 6:00 am, where we come and pray together for all our work throughout the day, to meet the Lord in prayer. Then, I go to St. John's to teach around 7:00 am. Then, I come back to the land and either do construction or farming. I try to set aside about 20 minutes before Institute class to prepare myself for the lessons. Institute classes start at 5pm and go to 7pm four days a week. This is followed by a community meal where we fellowship together. We then go back to our houses. The rest of the evening, I do my lesson plans for St. John's, plan out what I might need for work projects, and do my Institute course assignments before the next classes. Finally, around 11pm, I pray with some of my friends before going to bed.

What was your favorite class this last semester and why?

Both the classes [Biblical Interpretation and Community Development] were good, but I liked Biblical Interpretation best.  Previously, I would read a Scripture and maybe would just glean the surface content, but this class helped me to think about how I approach the Bible. I now am able to do studies and research so I can understand the Scriptures deeply, not just coming up with preconceived ideas about the text. This is very helpful and something that I can say not many people in my country learn to do. 

How have you seen the Lord work in your life since you started classes?

I’m really happy for this question, because everyone was saying that when I came I was more of an introvert than an extrovert, but my classes have developed me into someone who can express myself to different people. The Bible has helped me to become a relational person. It has also helped me become a humble person. It has helped me to connect with the values of God, and showed me that I should care about people and the things I’m involved with should be life-giving. I need to care for the interest of others. I need to respect my elders, like the teachers at the Institute. It has been a time of growth and learning, and has built my spiritual strength. I wasn’t so spiritual when I came, but I learned in Genesis that God breathed his spirit into man, and he became a living soul, so I engage in prayer and fellowship so that I grow into a better person to serve and learn more and more.

G.O.D. Summer Interns and Institute EA students worked side-by-side this summer, offering Camp Skillz to the kids at St. John's, working on land projects and more. 

Has learning the word of God changed the way you think about your own culture?

Yes. Culture has a way of binding us into contracts that are not always understood. Sometimes your culture has different norms and rituals that you have to follow, but they end up doing injustice to people. Like in my culture, women are subjected and treated as material possessions. But learning the Word has helped me see that we are all equal, and men and women can work together peacefully, and as men, we can lift women up and truly benefit them.

How has learning the word of God influenced your ideas of community development?

Learning the word of God has helped me to think about the type of work I do. My work has to line up with God’s values. It needs to be holy and acceptable to the Lord. For example, if I’m working with electrical wires, I should be thinking about preserving human life. I can’t leave wires that are bare because it can cause a short circuit and lead to someone’s death. This is different from my past job where they would take advantage of people by charging expensive prices, but the quality didn’t match the amount being paid, so there was injustice being done.

I have learned I don’t have to do life alone; we work to benefit one another.  As students, we have even given our time to plant a garden for St. John’s where kids need food. So my idea of development work has changed so that we can solve issues as a community, to care about the interests of others, and uplift them with the gifts we have, rather than being independent.