Discovering Nyumba

Jenna Dobyns, 18, from Springfield, MO. writes about her decision to spend her gap-year doing missions, how she found G.O.D. International, and what she's learned in her first week since being with us! 

A good portion of Jenna's week is spent in the community garden, where she is learning about sustainability. 

A good portion of Jenna's week is spent in the community garden, where she is learning about sustainability. 

“How did you end up here at G.O.D.?”

If there’s one question that I’ve been asked most in the time I’ve been here so far (about a week), that would most certainly be it. For those of you I haven’t yet met, my name is Jenna, and this is my story.

18 months ago, in February of 2016, I visited my first college as a junior in high school. I had no idea at that point that I would be doing anything different than graduating, immediately going to college, and getting a degree. I dreamed of going to the Savannah College of Arts and Design, and couldn’t see myself anywhere but in Georgia, making art to my heart’s content.

That December though, my best friend came to me with her plans to take a gap year to do missions. The more she talked about it, the more it made sense to me. At first I really struggled to understand if it was something I was just especially interested in, or if it was a path the Lord was really calling me to take. As I researched more and as time went on, it was something I began to accept as a calling and a reality.

After making that decision, I soon realized that finding an organization that I truly felt comfortable in and in agreement with was more difficult than I’d imagined. I was looking for something that truly served others, and something that could foster and utilize my gifts and passions. I wanted to love others and serve, but also grow myself, experience other cultures, and learn about life.

Three months away from graduation, I decided to start fresh looking for organizations. I emailed my close family and friends asking for recommendations. My friend, Audrey Westby, emailed me back a week or so later, saying that she takes her youth group up to Nashville every summer to work with Students Living A Mission and that I should check them out.

I pulled up the G.O.D. website, looked through a few pages and knew it was something special.

Gregg Garner contacted me after I emailed through the website and we had a conversation on the phone about what I was looking for in a gap year and what G.O.D. was about and the things that he valued in serving. I felt like I had finally been heard and God was pushing me towards this opportunity, saying, “Here. This is why you’ve been called, this is the place you can learn how to be mine.”

Jenna specifically wanted to explore the connection between media and ministry. So, she spends another large portion of her week interning with Laurie Kagay, Director of Communications, where she is using her skills as a photographer. 

Jenna specifically wanted to explore the connection between media and ministry. So, she spends another large portion of her week interning with Laurie Kagay, Director of Communications, where she is using her skills as a photographer. 

After that phone call, I was connected with Hannah Duffy and we began planning from there. She offered me a combined internship, doing agriculture and photojournalism, while also getting the opportunity to stay connected to the Word through Genesis class and working with C.A.S.E. (an after school program). I began fundraising and advocating for my journey to get here.  

Welcomed. Loved. Nourished. Anxious. Awakened. Exhausted. Peaceful. Awestruck. It’s difficult to put into words the emotions that have evolved and surrounded me since I arrived last Thursday. Just the other day, I made a post on my own blog, talking about the “top of the climb” and how it feels like all of the work I’ve done to get here only makes the view sweeter.  Now I’ve found this community of people to journey and grow with and I couldn’t be more excited for the rest of the climb! 

When Laurie Kagay gave my momma and I a tour of G.O.D., we reached Nyumba [a coffee bar connected to the Performing Arts venue] she explained the meaning of the word in Swahili: HOME. In my exhaustion from working in the garden that morning and from all the emotions I’d experienced from arriving the day before, I was floored by the significance I felt in the word. In just a few short days, I understood that I had found a version of my Nyumba. I found a home.

Through warm welcomes, housemates helping me move in, meaningful conversations, muffins being baked in the girls house--I found a home. I was introduced to an incredible new way to pray in fellowship. I learned to make prayer a priority. I found frogs while harvesting cucumbers. I shared meals with new families. I enjoyed pasta and movie dates with my roommates. And there's been lots of sweating. But also, always having someone to care about how my day went. I made some hard goodbyes to move here. But I've gained easy hellos to new family.

Here, I understood that I was finding my home in the lord, as a servant, and through loving others. I thank you all for welcoming me into that home, and allowing me to serve alongside you.