Learning to Serve

May 6, 2015 • South Sudan
Learning to Serve

An intern receives important lessons from her fellow staff members

Airiss Boven is an accounting intern with Samaritan’s Purse in South Sudan.

No matter how many times our own importance is proven insignificant, we still seem to think that we need to be heard.

Upon signing the contract that would take me into a different world for the next five months, I foolishly thought I had something to bring to the team and to the people of South Sudan. I prayed exceedingly to understand my purpose in this young nation, and for the majority of my internship, I thought I was serving that. It wasn’t until about three weeks ago that I realized it was not I who was doing the serving at all.

Learning to Serve

Airiss (left) with fellow Samaritan’s Purse staff members

My new friends and coworkers have served me by demonstrating a passionate work ethic that I’ve failed to ever see in previous job experiences. They don’t work an eight-hour job for five days a week. They work 10 to 12 hours nearly every day of the week. It’s not compensation that motivates my coworkers. It’s the sheer determination to make a difference for hurting people. They have taught me passion.

They’ve also served me by consistently practicing servanthood. I’ve been introduced to an environment that clings not to hierarchy and rank but to a universal attitude that encourages group effort and success. They’ve taught me humility and concern for the accomplishment of all.

The dear people of South Sudan have served me by allowing me to peer into the depths of their hearts. I’m ashamed to say that I have gone through most of my life failing to grasp the importance of feeling someone else’s pain. It wasn’t until recently that I understood how this failure has greatly impeded my effectiveness in prayer for them. Not only have my South Sudanese friends allowed me to step into their lives long enough to see their personal pain, but they have also given me the convicting experience of seeing how they mourn for others.

Having grown up in a country that pushes individualism and independence as necessary for success, I’ve neglected the importance of unity and self-sacrifice. I’ve been so accustomed to self-promotion that I never gained a true insight for what it means to care more for the welfare of others. However, I see that every day in the lives of the South Sudanese. I’m often greeted as their sister. It’s not used as a light-hearted term of endearment; it’s a promise.

Every day my South Sudanese coworkers tell me that they care for me and would do almost anything to help me if I’m ever in need. It’s not because I’m particularly special to them. It’s because that’s how they treat every coworker, friend, and family member. I’ve witnessed them hearing of the misfortune of people they never knew and hurting for them as if they were family. I have watched as they cry and shout to the Lord begging for peace. I have heard as they plea for the well-being of the “brothers” and “sisters” whom they’ve never met. These people have taught me how to truly love with the heart of Jesus.

Learning to Serve

I expect these lessons will not fade away as other experiences have. They’ll continue to change and mold me as a human being. The Samaritan’s Purse internship program has taught me to start worrying less about being heard and to focus more on hearing.