Taking the Investment Year Challenge: Relying on a Real God in the Real World

IMG_3942Some people here call a year taken off of school a “dead year”. But for participants of New Hope Uganda’s Investment Year (IY) program, it’s anything but.

The IY program, started in 2006, was designed to guide young adults in discovering and developing the skills, knowledge, and character necessary for success in further education, future careers, and in their personal lives.

This year I am participating in the IY program along with around 40 other S4 (sophomore) leavers. Though I am homeschooled by my mom and have been my entire life except for one year, my parents made the call to have me participate in Investment Year. I had no idea what to expect, and resisted. But IY started in January anyway with two weeks of training and will go to the end of this year—during which none of us will do any formal “schooling”.

But we will learn.

In the first two weeks of training, I wrote my first CV (resume), learned interview skills and proper business etiquette, started a journal, and read five books. As an IY, I have learned many things about life, the adult world, and about myself. It’s been hard and certainly something to get used to.

For one thing, I have lived in Uganda for 4.5 years, but during that time I have lived in an American-style home, so I’ve had a lot of privacy. At the Kampala house, where IYs doing internships in the capital city stay with the Browns, an English family who oversee IY, all of us (four boys and six girls) stay in dormitory style rooms: one for the boys, one for the girls. For the boys, bathing takes place in a covered (though not fully enclosed) area. Finding personal space is…difficult.

The food is usually Ugandan, so I eat a lot of beans, rice, and posho, which is sort of like hardened Cream of Wheat. There isn’t much variety in the food, at least not compared to my family’s usual fare, but it keeps us going and satisfied (most of the time). Breakfast is at 6:25 am each morning and consists of two slices of bread spread with Blue Band, a butter substitute, and a mug of usually dry black tea.

There are other challenges to my normal American lifestyle: limited computer use, a lack of electricity and electronics in general, cold showers (and just when my parents had just gotten a gas water heater working for our house too…), a Brev with U Sam and crewdaily commute through very dusty (or muddy) bumpy roads, and the fact that all my fellow IYs are all Ugandan and speak English as a second language.

But I’ve survived—by depending on God. I’m learning a lot about myself and the way I work and think, about people in general and the people I’m living with in particular. A bunch of us have learned some new card games, others spend time cooking meals together, and a group of us go to a youth event to help out most weeks. IY Coordinator Uncle Steve [Brown] also has us working through a finance management course. We meet once a week—and the discussions can be quite interesting. We end up talking about everything from the nature and definition of honesty to the role of a wife (or husband) in managing the family finances to whether or not “giving” and “tithing” are the same thing (we concluded no).

For my internship, I am working with Pastor Sam Bubenero, who used to work as an IT guy for New Hope. His ministry, called Return Ministries, needed someone to manage media: newsletters, covering and helping with church events, Facebook, blogging, videos, and a general online presence.

So I’ve been doing that, riding about 20 minutes on the bike I borrow from Uncle Steve each morning through back roads to reach the Return Guesthouse. There I set up shop, usually with Uncle Sam close on hand to give me some guidelines, and work.

I lack a specific job description, so I’ve been helping out in all sorts of areas, planning and occasionally speaking at a weekly youth gathering called “CoffeeTime”, helping make a menu for teams with Aunt Sarah Bubenero, and working with Return Worship Center’s Youth Pastor to run the weekly “cell” Bible studies. I’ve been engaging most of the main parts of the ministry—their youth ministry through Coffee Time and the Bible study cells, the Return Guesthouse through working with Aunt Sarah, and the Return Children’s home through some of the other staff.

My fellow IYs are also doing internships around Kampala, New Hope Uganda, and other New Hope sites. Just at the Kampala house, we have a pair working at the Nakasero Blood Bank, someone working with a construction company, another few working at schools and children’s homes, a pair working at a decent-sized medical clinic, and even one with a mechanic internship.

In addition to internships, all IYs are required to read at least 18 books from a chosen list before the year ends. I’m on my 14th book (I’m going for 40) and have been challenged by the material in many ways—in areas from patriotism to the decline of Christendom to living like Jesus did…literally. The books are encouraging me to live for the moment, live dangerously for God, affect small change where I am, and rethink my thinking. Altogether, they are changing me a little bit at a time.

All in all, it’s very much been a learning and challenging experience for me—and this is only the first internship (and I’m only halfway through it). So far, I am glad I’m doing IY—I like what I’m seeing, despite the challenges.  I’m looking forward to my next internship, my business that all of us IYs are required to set up, and what the next day brings – taking it one day at a time.

By Brevin Anderson, foreign missionary son and IY student (as printed in the New Hope Uganda Paper Newsletter)

How U Can Help

* Pray for our sons and daughters to know who they are and who God is.
* Pray for new opportunities for internships
* Pray for this group to grow in understanding and experience of the grace of God.
* Pray for safety and protection for the students as they move around the city and other parts of the country.
* Contribute towards the extra costs for a Kampala internship – $150 per student
* Contribute towards transportation costs for IY staff and students –  $100 per month
* Fund the 2014 IY Outreach – $1,500
* Fund the 2014 IY Father Heart Retreat – $1,500