Serving with International Neighbors | Reflections by Perkins Fellow Hadassah Muthoka '20

In an environment where busyness is admired and down time is a luxury, it can be difficult to see the beauty in it all. Being at UVA, I had learned to maintain a hectic lifestyle filled with many late nights and strategic planning, but soon began to realize that I was unable to sustain it all. The first semester of my third year proved to be the most taxing mentally, physically, and emotionally. Realizing I would be abroad the following semester, I wanted to do everything, but began to feel like I was not doing anything. I stopped finding the joy or the value in things that were once my passion and that is when I felt my lowest; I did not feel fulfilled. Yet in the midst of it all, I found joy and learned an important lesson through the work I did with International Neighbors . When I committed to this organization via my service as a Perkins Fellow, I would have never guessed the sheer blessing in disguise. 

I first started serving with International Neighbors not knowing what role I would assume. The ability to work with refugee and migrant families is what initially drew me in. It was an embodiment of a passion I had longed to delve into. A few weeks into the fall semester, I was asked to help out a refugee family by tutoring their young daughter, Grace. My first thought was, “Oh my goodness, I have never actually taught anything before!” My second thought was the benefits the experience could offer me, so I definitively said yes. It would be once a week for three hours. Not an unmanageable commitment in my eyes. 

Unfortunately, when the burnout from over-commitment unsurprisingly came part-way through the semester, I found myself beginning to falter. It came to a point where truthfully, I did not want to do anything at all. I was worn out and depressed. However, something changed the day when I went to pick up Grace to begin our normal routine. While waiting for her to gather her things, I sat down with her father. He began explaining how much Grace had been improving and proceeded to show me a letter from her teacher verifying just that. I remember feeling a lot of emotions, yet it was there that I also realized something I wish I had a long time before. This was not about me or my feelings. This was about how I would let God use me to serve and bless others. Going in, it was about being able to serve my community, but subconsciously there was also a desire to serve myself. Whether many like to admit it or not, all too often we turn our acts of service into means for our own gratification. Once the self-gratification stops, the work begins depreciating in value. This is what I had been focused on year after year, semester after semester and it brought me nowhere.

Something I seemed to forget was God’s calling for his children to serve and the promises he has in store when we obey and follow. Despite what we may feel, when we do things under the guidance of God, there is comfort in the fact that our work will never be in vain (Luke 6:38). Simultaneously, our serving spreads blessings to others beyond what we can initially imagine. I began laying side expectations and desires for myself and finding my strength and fulfillment in God, I saw my attitude and life beginning to change. Grace and her family proved to be a bigger blessing to me than I could have been to them, and I can not thank them enough. As I pursue new acts of service, I aim to keep this calling at the forefront of it all.