Blog Sub-Category: Unique Qualifications
6 minute read
After graduating from a community college and transferring to The University of Akron, I was determined to take advantage of every opportunity I was given. So when the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time with International Student Volunteers (ISV) in 2013 arose, I took it!
ISV’s mission is to support sustainable development initiatives around the world through life-changing student volunteer and responsible adventure travel programs designed to positively change our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.
After only spending two weeks in the Dominican Republic (DR), I’ll definitely say mission complete! Reflecting back on my experience three years later, I can clearly see how it has shaped me for my purpose today. Here are..
5 Ways ISV Uniquely Equipped Me For My Mission
1. First Hands-On Civil Engineering Experience
ISV has several different volunteer projects that encompass their mission. I specifically chose the DR project because it was infrastructure development. After learning carpentry in high school and at the time pursuing a degree in civil engineering, I was excited to build anything. Half of my project assignment consisted of exactly what I learned in school the following semester: how to mix and lay concrete (see pictures below)! I went from doing physically intensive labor every other day in the DR to using advanced concrete mixing and testing equipment in my materials lab class a few weeks later. After seeing first hand what my skills could do, I was motivated to learn in the classroom and graduate.
2. American Privilege Awareness
I may not know what white privilege feels like, but I have AMERICAN PRIVILEGE. While in the DR, a developing country, I realized certain things I will never have to worry about simply because I was born in America. In America, I don’t have to worry about living on mud when it rains. In the DR, I installed concrete floors in floorless homes made out of poorly constructed plywood. In America, I don’t need to learn another language in order to have a good life. In the DR, a Spanish speaking country, I helped teach kids English without being required to know Spanish at all. The American Privilege list goes on. The author of this blog about American Privilege listed some more common indicators.
3. My Gift Can Save Lives and Prevent Sickness
As a teenager, I desired to volunteer in my community and help those in need. All through college, I would give vague answers when asked what type of civil engineering I wanted to do. The truth is I don’t care what type of engineering I do, I care if I’m making a positive impact in the community. While in the DR, I saw first-hand that my engineering skills could literally prevent sickness and death. For towns with no access to clean drinking water, I could design a well. For farmers who can’t import food to a town because it’s inaccessible, I could design a road. For towns in need of a medical center to safely practice medicine, I could design a building. When I left the DR I knew my gift was way more valuable than a paycheck.
4. Invaluable Cross-Cultural Experience
Traveling like a local creates a unique opportunity to learn life through the eyes of another. My DR experience not only made me more aware of my privilege, but I also learned how to love without judging people for their differences. Now everywhere I travel I skip the fancy hotels (most times I can’t afford it anyways) and immerse myself in the culture so I don’t miss a chance to learn something new. Exposure to different things has allowed me to confidently understand who I am while respecting others for who they are.
5. Cup Upgrade
In Spring of 2014, I served in every student organization I could. By the end of the semester, I received praise for my leadership, but I was mentally depleted. I failed two classes and was put on academic probation. That’s when I officially decided I wasn’t going to try to ‘pour from an empty cup’. Even though I desired to mentor others throughout life, I had to be confident in my own abilities before doing so.
Fast forward to a couple days after God revealed my purpose in life at the Engineering Ministries International 2016 Conference. I barely ate, slept or talked to anyone because God was constantly filling me up with the wisdom and confidence to minister to others. During this time God told me my cup was no longer empty! Excited, I went to the kitchen and asked God to show me what He was doing in me. I grabbed a cup from the cupboard and put it under the running faucet. I let it run well past the point of overflow. As I looked at the wasted water go down the drain, I knew something wasn’t right. The past two days I hadn’t poured into anyone what God poured into me. As if I was overwhelmed, the water overflow represented excess that couldn’t fit inside me. I KNOW what being overwhelmed felt like, and that was not the case. It was clear that God had increased my capacity. I figured I must have a bigger cup! I went back to the cupboard to repeat the exercise with a distinctively larger cup. The first cup I found was the ONLY souvenir I kept from the DR. In the simplest way, God told me He increased my capacity three years ago and I’m just now realizing it. I immediately took a picture of my cup upgrade and Ugly Cried.
Once my ministry is up and running, I will have resources that will help people from oppressed communities volunteer abroad. I believe these cross-cultural experiences are beneficial for understanding why the world is divided and will help restore hope and gratitude to everyone involved.
“Father God, thank you for having a plan for me even before I can see and understand it.1 I thank you for providing a way for me to go to the DR and allowing me to gain such an invaluable experience. I know everything you do is for a purpose and nothing happens by chance. Thank you for increasing my capacity and granting me the desires of my heart to help underserved and oppressed groups of this world. I’m forever in awe of your wisdom. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Thanks for reading my blog! On January 1st, I’ll be sharing my vision for this ministry for 2017. Happy New Year!
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With God’s Love,
Jamara Beard ❤
1. [Jeremiah 29:11]↩