The first time I came to Bulembu, I boarded a plane from Boston, Massachusetts. I had little idea of what to expect, other than a social work internship in a country I had barely even heard of just a few months before. This first time, I came alone and worked with a busy schedule behind some of the most inspirational social workers and Aunties I’ve ever come to know. I learned about Bulembu from the inside out, and was stretched personally while also discovering God in powerful ways.
My second time I came to Bulembu, I again boarded a flight from Boston, Massachusetts. However this time it was with a team of 12 other students from my University – Gordon College – and this time leading our stay in Bulembu for the four weeks. This second time I saw Bulembu from the lens of a team “visitor”, with a schedule that was divided between service projects and time with the children in the afternoons.
Gordon College sends a team to Bulembu every year, and has done so for the last 6 years. We come under the guise that Bulembu is a “service learning opportunity,” where our students are able to serve and expand their view of God’s redemptive purposes at work in the world today. However, our time in Bulembu is so much more than that. Most people, I expect, come to Bulembu with the hope that they can contribute to the vision of the town and make a difference in a meaningful way. This was also my desire the first time I came here. However, over the years I have seen a place where people come looking to serve, and leave changed and touched by God themselves: impacted by the love of the staff, the Aunties and children, and the powerful work of God at work in the town here. We tap into a network where we mutually are able to both give and receive, while drawing closer to God and His work here.
Each of these experiences had unique schedules, challenges, lessons and memories. However, the transcendent thing of both experiences is the personal transformation I experienced and have witnessed within the team I have brought here. Bulembu is a place that allows people to enter into something much greater and bigger than themselves, and be changed for the better in the process. I and those I know who have also come to Bulembu through our college, are so blessed to take part in God’s work here. It is an honour to have had a part in this vision, and to see it working in action.