Morgan Manuel – 2019 Intern Experience

Before my internship even started I knew I was in need of growth. I felt that I had grown stagnant in my spiritual life and just mentally and emotionally as well. I’ve been in the same environment my whole life, and I didn’t have to get too uncomfortable moving only an hour away for college. At the end of the last year, I was praying and hoping for more community, a challenging experience that got me out of my comfort zone, and one that would prepare me for whatever the future holds. 

Morgan with Jesca from the 2019 Daraja Children’s Choir

With that in my mind, I went into this internship with an open and expectant heart. We started January 6th, when I left the comfort of my home. I flew to Atlanta to meet the other interns and the tour leaders in person. Apart from some video call meetings, all eight of them were strangers to me. I was supposed to form a bond with them in just 5 days so that we could work together like a well-oiled machine and co-parent. It seems crazy and like not enough time to prepare, but I guess when you stick nine strangers in a cabin together something miraculous happens. God began to lay the foundation for tour as we all hit it off night one. I felt that I had known all these people for years and was so excited to do this life with them.  A game or two of Spicy Uno may have also aided in breaking down those walls early on. It’s cutthroat. True characters come out when y’all gang up on the one who is about to win. 

But anyway, then came January 11th, five days after we all met. Five days of bonding, organizing, and packing, ready or not we headed to the airport to greet our 17 Ugandan kids along with two of their teachers and their choir director. Once again, complete strangers were meeting each other for the first time but God continued to break down barriers the moment we all saw each other and knew we were family for the next 6 months. There were smiles, running hugs, squeals, and so much rejoicing. We spent the next two weeks at a camp where we learned how to cook meals for 30 people on a budget (we definitely got creative with our large amount of cornmeal and beans), inventoried hundreds of merchandise items, and listened to the sound of a drum being hit on repeat. But really all around some good life skills learned at camp and preparation for tour that needed to be done. On the last night at camp, we worshipped together as whole group and prayed over each other. It was such a surreal night and in that moment of raw emotion, I had an overwhelming sense of peace as I knew that God had me right where I needed to be. 

Over the next five months, we traveled across the Southeast with 30 of us on a charter bus. We went to big churches, small churches, schools, we stayed in host homes with no kids, homes with five kids or more, single-parent homes, blended families, we met people who knew Christ and some who didn’t, we ate so much pizza that no one better suggest eating it ever again, we went to the beach, the mountains, the pool, you name it, we cleaned up throw up and toilets that had overflowed, stayed up late at night to comfort sick children, explained the Gospel to kids, answered some tough questions, and witnessed the moments of salvation. We experienced a lot of different things with a lot of different people. But no matter what was happening, I kept seeing God’s goodness in it all. God chose each host family, each church, even each restaurant that we ended up singing at, just as He chose all of the kids and interns to be apart of tour. He allowed us to experience the ups and downs in order to continue to teach and grow us. 

At the end of our US tour, we all headed to Uganda to take the kids home. We spent a week in their village meeting their families, experiencing their culture, and visiting their schools. The kids were beyond excited to see their parents and introduce us. They wanted us to try all their foods…including the ones that even they didn’t like. They wanted us to see their animals and plants in their gardens. It was such a full-circle moment to sit back and let our kids show us the ropes. We had been leading and guiding them for 6 months and had gotten to know them without much context of their past. Now they were leading and guiding us and everything was making so much sense as to why they were the way they were. These kids have a place. They didn’t come to America to be removed from any situations or “saved”. They came to serve and be on mission in America. They came and got sponsors so that they could go back to the best schools in their village. God chose them to come but He also chose them to go back and He equipped them to lead and change their community. 

I have learned so much during my time with Daraja through all of our shared experiences. One of our sweet girls broke her foot, only a couple of weeks into tour. Why would God bring a child all the way from Africa only to have her break her foot? Well, our sweet girl came over super dependent on others and the attention they could give. But through her broken foot, I got to witness a transformation in her. Who would’ve thought that a broken foot would teach her and us how to be humble, dependent on only the Lord, and patient on His timing. Or that a once angry child would choose joy instead and teach others around him to do the same, or one who held grudges would now teach others about the power of forgiveness, or that a shy, quiet girl would be so bold and excited to share her faith with others including her family, or that children’s worship would show me how to be more unashamed in the way I live my life, or that the power of two little boys’ prayers can bring a grown man to tears and the realization that he needed to accept Christ. I could go on and on. God uses people in our lives to teach us lessons. I didn’t know I needed to learn how to be humble, dependent, patient, forgiving, joyful, bold, prayerful, or unashamed, but God used the kids to teach me just that. 

He also used my time in Daraja to teach me peace and trust.” – Morgan

He also used my time in Daraja to teach me peace and trust. I am such a planner, an organized control-freak at times. God stripped me of that. I went into tour, having just graduated college and not knowing what’s next (spoiler alert: I still have no idea what is next). But throughout tour, God just gave me this unreal peace. I had no worries on tour and was actually excited to come home to nothing. For once, I didn’t have another year of school lined up, or a part-time job occupying my time. I had a clean slate, a chance to rest, listen, and continue to be expectant of God’s hand in my life. But to be completely straight-forward with yall, now that I am out of tour, some of that peace and trust has gone out of the window. I miss my kids, I miss my team. I feel sad and restless at times. I don’t really know what I am doing here at home. BUT I am continually reminded of tour and the God I knew on tour. Again and again He provided for us, always had our next step planned (even if we didn’t know it), filled us with joy and peace on the daily, and had our lives in His hands. He is the same God today, yesterday, and forever. Although, I am human and doubt and want to take hold of the reigns of my life. I am trying so hard to remember the lessons I learned on tour. I am trying to choose joy in the quiet and sometimes mundane, I am learning to be patient in His timing and whenever the right job may come along, I am learning to find peace in His love and comfort in His Word, I am learning to be dependent now more than ever on Him, and to be humble, I can’t do this by myself. 

In my time with Daraja, I found a community in my fellow interns and leaders. They loved, challenged, encouraged, laughed and cried with me. I found a challenging experience that grew me. If being away from home for six months and meeting new people every three days isn’t enough out of this introverted homebody’s comfort zone, then I don’t know what is. I found preparation for what’s to come. Whatever God has planned for me next, I just raised 17 Ugandan kids with 11 complete strangers for 6 months all while traveling across the country AND survived. I think I can handle whatever is next. We may not know what God is doing in the moment, but each season of life prepares you for the next. I came into this internship, hoping and praying for more community, a challenging experience that would get me out of my comfort zone, and one that prepared me for whatever the future holds. And God provided that and more.