While many living at the Delaware shore will struggle to make any sort of plans for this summer, one local college student will be traveling to far-away Africa for the opportunity of a lifetime, with hopes of making a difference in the world.
Sharee Mitchell, 18, has never stepped foot on a plane, let alone strayed from the East Coast of the United States. So a two-week stay in Uganda should pan out to be quite an experience for her.
The offer came about earlier this March at a missions conference at her school, Washington Bible College. “Every year,” she said, “our classes are canceled for a week, and missionaries and organizations come in to teach about cross-cultural ministries.” With different booths and presentations set up, students were exposed to a wealth of knowledge. After talking to one of the mission representatives, Mitchell was offered the opportunity to be part of a 60-student group, including people from all over the country, who will travel to Africa to work on several different projects.
The group plans to leave on June 8, traveling for a week to Masaka, a Ugandan city 50 miles south of the equator. Another week, they will travel to Jinja, a southeastern city in Uganda located near the source of the Nile River.
“There are five different teams going,” she added, “vacation Bible school, a group from drama class, a group dealing with orphanages, a construction team and a medical team.”
In the application process, students were asked to list, in order, their preferences for type of work. Mitchell has her fingers crossed to help with orphanages.
“We’ll be going there and giving the kids a lot of attention and playing with them,” she said. “Then they’ll bring the kids to the vacation Bible school, and the construction team will be building them a kitchen in Masaka. Then we’ll be putting together a play room at a cottage in Jinja.”
The decision to go along on the two-week excursion was an easy one for Mitchell to make, she said, as traveling to Africa — especially Kenya — has always been one of her dreams. “I found out a week after I applied that Uganda and Kenya are neighboring countries, so it ought to be a really fun experience.”
One of the days on the trip will give the students the chance to explore the country, when they can opt to travel the Nile or into the local marketplace.
“I’m really excited to go into the marketplace,” said Mitchell. “I really admire their culture and I’ve been studying all about it. There are all sorts of rules and manners that are different from ours, such as how to address elders. And in the market, there aren’t prices on things. It’s all more of a barter. So that will be pretty neat.”
As much fun as it will be, a trip to Africa doesn’t come without its consequences. One of the students on this year’s trip is Mitchell’s classmate at Washington Bible College, and is returning after a similar trip last year didn’t go so smoothly.
“She became really sick when she went last year,” said Mitchell. “There are a lot of shots and things that we have to take, and that kind of makes me nervous.” A novice to the sky, she said the 10-hour plane ride is a little nerve-racking as well. “I’m pretty tolerable of most things, though,” she said with a laugh, “so, hopefully, that will be fine.”
Mitchell said many of her friends would love to do what she’s doing, but many of them have their eyes set on other locations. Much of her extended family actually opposes the trip, fearing for her wellbeing.
“They’d rather me not go,” she said. “They aren’t mean about it, but [overly protective].” Students are encouraged to bring only things they would need, and no more than four changes of clothes.
A graduate from Sussex Tech High School and the Southern Delaware School for the Arts, Mitchell has studied dance and visual arts and now pursues her learning in missions and ministries as she rounds out her freshman year at college.
“The Bible college thing is something totally new to my family,” she said. “My mother wasn’t even a Christian until I was 4 years old. My youth pastor turned me on to the idea, after he had graduated from there.”
Several members of her church youth group decided to apply to Washington Bible College, as well. She added that she hopes to expand her knowledge with graduate school, taking on language and cultural ministry, though all that is years down the road and not definite yet.
This trip will help Mitchell get one step closer to her life-long dream.
“I loved the School of the Arts here in Selbyville so much,” she said, “and eventually, after helping establish the orphanage over there, I’d like to have a school for the arts for everyone there. That’s the ultimate goal, to provide their avenue of expressing themselves through art and drama.”
With a trip this early in her college career, Mitchell said there’s the possibility for her to return in years to come. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this a couple of times,” she said. “I’m hoping that the trip will be what I expect it to be like, but I also a little different, too. Either way, it’s going to be a really great experience.”