More Powerful Together
Reflections of Spohn Fellowship Recipient, Nick Spragg '20
Bill Spohn was a former director of Santa Clara University's Bannan Center (now the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education's Bannan Forum). His work, leadership, and scholarly contributions were all marked by his deep commitment to the place of religion in public life. In Bill Spohn's memory, his family members and friends established a fund to honor this commitment.
The Ignatian Center offers a limited number of fellowships to undergraduate students interested in exploring a life-plan dedicated to service in the area of Religion and Public Life. The most recent recipient of the Spohn Fellowship is Nick Spragg. Read about his experience working in Uganda this past summer:
Nick Spragg, Spohn Fellowship Journal
July 8, 2018
I am walking through the airport to my departing flight to Uganda, as I’m burdened by a great deal of doubt and anticipation for the five-week internship that lies ahead of me. These feelings aren’t unfamiliar, however - I spent my previous summer in Cambodia for eleven weeks and encountered a similar predicament. I feel rather unprepared for the commitment ahead of me, but maybe this is the posture I need to embrace as I encounter a new place with new people and new ideals. Maybe the doubt and anticipation are really rooted in my desire for control over the outcome of this experience – and maybe the Lord is teaching me how to trust Him with the things I can’t control.
I am hopeful that this experience will be marked by some major shifts in my life: growing in trust and loss of control, learning how to walk with a posture of humility, and embracing my inadequacies to grow in His adequacy. In Africa, I am hopeful to meet some people that lead their lives in these ways. Maybe we have something to learn from each other. I love travel because it is a deeply humanizing experience – when we engage with new cultures we begin to realize that the factors that once divided us no longer hold strong, as we are all humans with the same needs and desires.
July 12, 2018
Today is my third day in Uganda, and after two days of rain showers and no power, I am excited to start working with Potential Energy. My job duties are focused in a few areas, primarily reaching new target markets in the Kampala area, creating new business and impact model overviews, integrating a new website, and conducting surveys to measure impact and determine scaling targets. My organization is currently enrolled in the Miller Center’s GSBI program, so I am eager to see how the accelerator program improves PE’s daily operations and leverages sustained impact.
July 27, 2018
My time here in Uganda is framing a new vision for my life in ministry. Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend a local Ugandan church and I was once again overwhelmed by the power of the local church. I find it difficult to describe the sensation of witnessing the body of Christ in a new country – we might not share a similar lived experience, but we have experienced the power of the Gospel and that is enough to unite us. When I walked into the church, I felt so convicted that we could set aside our religious differences about God and humanity and just allow Him to transform us. In my application for the Spohn fellowship, I defined ministry as this heartfelt abandonment to the purposes of God – a willing submission to His will in our life. The church body is teaching me that we are more powerful together when we willingly submit in abandonment to God.
I am also learning about the power of testimony. Testimony, to me, is the redemption story where we grow into our true identity. Two of the girls I live with shared their redemption stories with me, and I was moved by the conviction with which they told their stories. These girls haven’t had easy lives by any means – victims of abuse, death, and displacement; but their testimonies weren’t victim stories - they were victory stories. These girls spoke with amazement at how far they had come since coming to faith.
My experiences with the church and my friends revealed to me that ministry plays an instrumental role in the development of humanity and our hope for the future. I learned that each individual has a testimony – a story of struggle and triumph, of shortcoming and redemption; but humanity also shares a common testimony. Together, we are broken and share a common need for redemption. We rise together and fall together, we celebrate and mourn together, yet we cannot thrive without individuals who embody this lifestyle of ministry.
August 4, 2018
Today, we have boarded a bus to drive eight hours to the border of South Sudan where we will spend five days in Sudanese refugee settlements across northern Uganda. Our goal is to meet our clients in the settlements and learn about their stories and how we can better meet their needs.
August 6, 2018
Our first day in the refugee settlement was deeply moving. We departed Adjumani, Uganda and drove almost two hours into the countryside where we arrived at the first UNHCR/DRC sponsored settlement. I hadn’t realized how serious this situation was until I learned that there are nearly 1 million displaced Sudanese people across northern Uganda due to the Sudan/South Sudan war nearly twenty years ago and the current South Sudanese civil war.
When we left the settlement, I realized that the ways in which we describe “refugees” at a global scale can be deeply misleading. Although the “national status” of these people is “refugee,” I felt that it was more appropriate to identify them as “humans seeking refuge.” There are a number of negative connotations with the word refugee, especially in Western culture where we like to magnify issues with huge statistics and sorrowful images of starving or wounded Africans. Although these alarming things are still happening, I learned from these people that all they really want is a peaceful place to live. Most of the people in this camp have been here for over twenty years and have created a community of their own. Considering their circumstances, they’ve adapted a new way of life. I left with many questions about where these people would end up if the war ended – if any of the children would have the opportunity to attend university, or if they were allowed to apply for citizenship to work and provide for their families.
August 20, 2018
I have been home from Uganda for nearly a week now, and for my final deliverable regarding this fellowship, I would like to provide you with some of the photos I took during my time in Uganda. My hope is that these images give you a glimpse of what impacted me and how I learned to see Africa through a different lens.