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When you think about what a World Next Door journalist does day to day, what comes to mind? Taking photos of joyful children? Sipping chai in tiny roadside markets? Walking into the sunset with a tripod on our shoulder, a notebook in our pocket and a smile on our face?
Well, that’s not far off. We do spend time doing all of those things. Activities like those are what make this job seem, well, pretty glamorous.
And don’t get me wrong. When I’m riding through rural Africa on the back of a motorcycle with the wind whipping through my hair and smiling children waving as I ride by, I tend to think, “I have the coolest job in the world.”
But here’s the thing. All that glamorous stuff? Well, it’s only a small part of what we experience each day.
In fact, the vast majority of our job isn’t quite as idyllic.
For example, here in South Sudan I have to bathe out of a bucket filled with brown, murky water. I sweat through the night in a stifling room with no air conditioning. I share my bedroom with wasps, ants, mosquitoes, mice, lizards and spiders.
On top of all that, getting from place to place is also less than comfortable. During my week-long visit to the town of Yei, I chose to take public transportation (a consequence of our insistence on experiencing the local culture and lifestyle as much as possible).
I hopped into a crowded mini-bus to travel 80 miles southwest of Juba. The trip took 6 hours. We drove an average of 15 miles per hour. The gigantic potholes were often big enough to swallow a car. Our soundtrack for the trip was non-stop auto-tuned reggae music.
Here’s a quick video to show you what driving on the “highway” from Juba to Yei is like:
As I held on for dear life, my face and clothing covered in red dust, and knowing I would need to make the same trip back in a week, I thought to myself, “Why do I do this job again?”
But then I arrived in Yei. I bathed, changed my clothes, had a cup of tea and then walked out to meet some of the leadership students I had come to visit. As we sat in the shade of a giant mango tree, I asked them about their dreams for the future of South Sudan.
These young leaders, full of passion and life and hope, were eager to share their stories with me. We compared notes about the differences between the US and South Sudan (no auto-tuned reggae music, for one) and laughed as I told them how tiny American families are.
And it was there, surrounded by future world changers being served by the incredible ministry of ALARM, that I remembered.
“Oh yeah. This is why I do this job.”
Because even though I have to put up with discomfort and pain and sickness to do the things I do, I have the absolute privilege to sit at the feet of people around the world who are living out the kingdom of God in ways I couldn’t have even dreamed of back home.
I am able to interact with vibrant cultures far different from my own and grow my worldview in the process.
So bring it on, discomfort. Show me what you’ve got. I’m having the time of my life here and I wouldn’t trade it for the world…
About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.