MEET ELIZABETH KURTZ: she out-waited the ‘not yet’ and learned that true joy comes through serving.
What led you to want to go to Kenya?
When I was 12 and at a Youth Retreat, two missionaries who were living in Kenya and running a non-profit called Start With One Kenya presented to us about the work they were doing. They were doing work with clean water and education sponsorships. At the time, I wanted to be a nurse and was really interested in the health aspect of their work. I prayed after their presentation and felt like the Lord was calling me to go. I went home excitedly telling my parents, and they said absolutely not. I continued to pray despite the confusion about what I believed I had been called to and why it wasn’t working out. Year after year, I would hear the presentation, but I would never be able to go. The Lord kept me encouraged by leading me to know that I would be going but it was a “not yet” kind of situation. Finally the December of my senior year of High school, my parents said the following summer I could go. Although it was a long time to wait, everything’s better when it happens in God’s timing.
How did others respond to your desire to serve internationally?
I have generally gotten a lot of support, however some people have definitely said they think I’m crazy. I think a lot of people worry about safety, which honestly was the least of my concerns. Just as I would not walk around my college campus alone at night, I wouldn’t walk the streets of Nakuru alone at night. I think a lot of people are hesitant to serve in a developing country because of the sacrifices they will have to make comfort wise; however the Bible does not promise us a comfortable life, in fact, we are told to deny ourselves and take up our cross before following Jesus (Matthew 16:24). If our God sacrificed His only son to save us from our sins so He can have a relationship with us, who are we to say we can’t sacrifice 1-2 weeks of a hot shower and our favorite food for the furtherance of His Kingdom?
How did serving internationally change you long-term?
Serving twice in Kenya and as well as once in another country, I am quite certain it is something I will never get tired of. Studying public health in undergrad and then eventually social work in graduate school are both really going to set me up well to serve with nonprofits/ ministries the rest of my life. I never quite feel as happy as I do when I am helping other people and loving them and I just want to do that forever. It has changed my outlook a lot from helping people because they need help to helping people because I love them Jesus has called us to serve. I have learned to serve them in love, not because they need me. Galatians 6:9 says “Let us never grow weary of doing good” and that is my prayer, to never see the brokenness of the world as too big, because even though we are not obligated to complete the work in the world, we are also not free to abandon it. The things I have seen and experienced are heart breaking but if I can do something to reduce the burden on some people, why wouldn’t I want to do that forever?
If you could tell the world one thing about serving internationally, what would you say?
Honestly it’s not as crazy as you believe or may think. I think people have a very skewed view of the world and think other countries are more like other planets. But truly, people are people no matter where they come from, and I think that is one of the most important things you should remember. Serve as you would want to be served, don’t treat people as less than you because they are less fortunate, instead extend your table and welcome them to it.