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Eann Tuan '15

Year: 2015
Residence: Maseeh
Major: 6
         Wow.  What an amazing summer it has been.  I only wish that what you're about to read will do justice in conveying the crazy things that God did this summer not only in my life, but in the lives of those around me as well.

In June, I went on a summer project to South Africa for a month.  This trip came at such perfect timing coming off my freshman year of college, which I came to realize was not that great.  As much as I tried to tell everyone that my freshman year was awesome, this project allowed me to look back and reflect on this past year.  I was spiritually dry, school was extremely difficult, and I didn't have a core group of friends that I had back home.  I spent many nights alone in my dorm room, but I can't say that I spent one of them with the Lord.

The project was centered around a tutoring program in Mamelodi, a township about 17 square miles filled with shacks about half the size of your kitchen.  The first time we drove through the township was such a memorable experience.  We had just come off of a full day of traveling, but driving through this seemingly endless road where there were countless shacks shook all of us.  I expected there to be quite a bit of poverty, but nothing like I had actually witnessed.

Going into the project, I thought we would be tutoring some kids for a little bit, but I didn't know that Mamelodi Initiative is a structured program designed to improve the educational skills of kids in Grades 7-9.  There are partnerships with businesses, the US Embassy, the University of Pretoria, and companies.  The hope is that this program will serve as a catalyst to learners to make a difference in their community and ultimately obtain a college education.  Each of the American teachers was paired with one or two South Africans, who we got to know really well.  There were about 250 kids total in the program and we had to turn away many more.  Some of these students had been coming for several years.  One of my students, Zanele, said this was her 4th time in the program.

One of the best parts of the trip was building relationships with my students from the program.  Although they drove me crazy sometimes, in the end, I realized how much they just needed someone to love them and tell them that they are important and loved by the Lord.  One of my girls, Thuli, was pretty quiet and reserved for the three weeks.  It wasn’t until the very last day that she showed me how much she enjoyed the program.  As she hugged me goodbye, I could see the tears in her eyes welling up.  It was then that I realized the impact that God ordained on just a fraction of Mamelodi.

However, the best part was living in community, hands down.  God blessed me so much and answered all my prayers regarding the team for this project.  I learned what it is like to live in community that is united under the Gospel.  It is a beautiful thing.  Anytime I was having a rough day, I was certain that at least one person would notice and talk through it with me.  We shared so many memories, including hiking down a mountain in Swaziland in the dark and invading gasoline or "petrol" stations for "road rations.".  I really cannot articulate the impact that these people have made on me.  Saying goodbye to the team at the baggage claim in Boston was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do, especially since I met some of my very best friends there.  It has been such a transition going from seeing them every day to not knowing the next time we will meet, but am so thankful to have met each of these brothers and sisters in Christ.

There were rough days, however.  Sometimes I questioned if I was really making an impact.  There were so many kids who didn't have a relationship with the Lord.  I felt like I was only able to share the Gospel with a hundredth of the Mamelodi, a place in need of Jesus.  Furthermore, there was the exhaustion that came with being an actual teacher lesson planning, grading, and teaching children in desperate need of foundational skills.  I would come back to the center absolutely wiped at 3 pm heartbroken that my kids could not multiply 3 and 7 without using their fingers or tally marks.

        This trip came at such perfect timing coming off of a rough freshman year and into a summer where I was living at home again.  God revealed some issues with my family that I had brushed under the rug for several years, yet did it with abounding grace.  This summer was a beautiful image of our call to submit our lives for the glory of the Lord and one that I will never forget.  "This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God." Phillipians 1:9-11

August 2012