Why I had to travel to Africa to find my origin story
Updated: Dec 10, 2018
I vividly remember the day I realized that I was meant to be a professor. It was November 15, 2013 and I was in Kampala, Uganda on a mission trip. It was a pretty typical morning We arrived at a men’s prison to setup a temporary medical clinic and provide care, antibiotics (if we had any left), and the Gospel. This was not the place I was expecting it. This was not the place that I was really listening for direction…but it found me any way.
Our church has been to Uganda several times previous as a medical team typically carrying a physician, a nurse practitioner, nurses, and non-health care professionals. This time we had all of those areas covered, plus me…a physical therapist. Our leader wasn’t familiar with what a physical therapist could and couldn’t do (even after several discussions of how I might be utilized), so I became one of the pharmacists...close enough. This job entailed handing out medications we received from so many gracious donations and instructing the recipient on how to take it. Our mission field included men’s and women’s prisons and orphanages throughout the Kampala area.
On day four of our trip we stayed outside the city in a small hotel where our leader slipped and fell in the bathtub contusing his rib cage. The physician in our group recommended a radiograph, but we were 100+ miles from any hospital. William (our leader) decided to stay the course and take us on to our next prison. With an extreme prompting in my heart, I felt like I should assess and provide help as I could. I remember it was about 45 minutes prior to our departure time and I couldn’t find William. I decided to go look for him and found him praying quietly by a little stream near our hotel. I asked him if I could take a look at his rib. He obliged and sure enough all signs pointed to fracture. From sports residency training, I learned a taping technique to help rib injuries. I asked him if I could do that and he agreed. I ran back to our bus and pulled out the supplies I needed (I had packed physical therapy supplies myself, just in hope that maybe I could do PT on one person…here was my chance.). William was very grateful and expressed relief after our encounter.
William was the heart and soul of the trip and he traveled across Uganda visiting prisoners throughout the year. He introduced us at every stop in a small open worship session to the prisoners prior to setting up our clinic at each stop. The stop after his rib injury was different. This was our sixth prison and his introductions were pretty typical at each stop, so I wasn’t expecting anything different. This expectation was wrong. He began to work the room and went from each team member, placing his hands on their shoulders and saying their name. He reached me, and this is what he said, “This young lady’s name is Bethany and she is my professor.”
I was in S-H-O-C-K. This introduction was in no way like all the others.
William had no idea that during this trip I was contemplating the move to academics. I had received word a week prior to leaving on my trip that an opening at a local institution was posted and I was contemplating if it was the right time to move from full-time clinical work to academics. I was only 5 years out of school and still had a lot to learn. I didn’t feel ready yet. Moving from clinical work to academics was on the plan…in 5 more years. Up until the moment that William introduced me as his professor, I was leaning heavily towards waiting for another moment. What did I have to offer students? I wasn’t an educator, I was a clinician. After that moment, I had a clear prompting that now was the right time.
What is your origin story? Have you ever shared it with your students?