CHILDREN OF THE NATIONS: KRISTEN MARKS LIAISON TO UGANDA

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“To say that time changed my life would be an understatement. I had seen extreme poverty, and it now had a face. I held its hand. I knew its name. How could I go home and not do something about what I saw?”

 

I am not good at waiting.

I don’t know if most people are, but I do know the patience apple is definitely missing from my Fruit of the Spirit basket.

If you’ve ever seen me in line at Disney you know this is true. I would much rather pull out my Disney Fastpass to skip the line and ride Space Mountain so I can hurry up and see the backside of water on the Jungle Cruise. Life doesn’t have a Fastpass though.

 

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The mission of COTN is to raise children who transform nations.

 

In 2009 my world became so much bigger. As an intern in Malawi with Children of the Nations (COTN), whose mission is to raise children who transform nations, I spent the summer working with orphans and coming face-to-face with the realities of many in developing countries. To say that time changed my life would be an understatement. I had seen extreme poverty, and it now had a face. I held its hand. I knew its name. How could I go home and not do something about what I saw? At the same time, what could I do to actually help make a sustainable, lasting difference? That summer in Malawi determined my career path, and I soon realized that if I actually wanted to work on behalf of children in developing countries and do it in a way that was helpful, I needed to get educated and get a Master’s degree in International Development.

About three months ago, after graduating with my Master’s, I accepted a position as the Uganda Country Liaison with COTN, working on behalf of children in Uganda. It was my dream job. It was what I had been working towards since college. It was what I had just spent the past two and a half years in graduate school studying to do. You’d think the decision would be a no-brainer. It wasn’t. This job required me to say yes to something that I said I would never do: raise my own salary.

Life is funny sometimes. I once said that I would never go back to the University of Florida, and yet I got a Master’s degree there. I said that I didn’t want to follow in my parents’ footsteps and do finance, but I’ve had accounting jobs at two nonprofits. While my life hasn’t necessarily followed my plan, it’s taken me places that I could’ve never imagined and it’s turned out way better. This is something that I’ve had to remind myself of during this time of raising my salary: that even though this is something I never said I’d do, it’s worth it. It is worth it for the kids in Uganda.

 

 

You see, this season of raising my own salary isn’t easy. While yes, it has been so good and humbling, it’s also been really hard. Sometimes I think I’m crazy. I think, “Kristen, what are you doing raising your own salary for a job when you just spent time and money getting a master’s degree?” Raising your own salary takes time; it takes patience. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not good at waiting. I want to hurry up and start, but I still have so much to raise. So I wait, and I start to put pressure on myself and feel anxious. I start thinking that I should be better at raising funds and that spirals into thinking about all the things that I should be in general.

I struggle a lot with the word “should.” I should be at a certain point in my life by now. I should be married. I should be more established. I should stop watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix (never!). A good friend told me a few years ago that (in similar terms), “should is crap.” It doesn’t matter where I “should” be or what I “should” be doing. This time of my life is teaching me that should is worthless and that waiting, while hard for me, is good.

This season is about waiting, about patience. And while I’d much rather whip out my Fastpass to get from one point in life to another in the shortest time possible, life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes things take a bit longer or look differently than what was expected, and that’s ok. I’m ok.

I’m slowly learning that this season of raising my salary isn’t about getting it done so I can start working, but that it’s about God working on my heart. Maybe it’s more about who we’re becoming in the interim than getting from one point to another in the shortest duration.

There are times in life when all you can do is wait, hope, and extend grace to yourself. This season is one of those. It is teaching me about grace, to not be hard on myself, to understand that it’s ok, and that “should” is worthless. These are all really good things in general that I feel like I should already know (there’s that should word again…). However, if it takes this season of raising my own salary to teach me to be kind to myself and to really allow these truths to sink in, then that’s ok. Life’s ok. I’m ok. Even without a Fastpass.
If you are interested in helping as I raise my own salary, here’s three ways to do so:
1. Pray. Pray for my heart during this time and for people to partner with me financially.
2. Share. If you know people who would be interested in partnering with me, I’d love to chat with them.
3. Give. If you are wanting to give, the easiest way to do so is online at cotni.org/staff/kristen-marks. It’s so easy a caveman can do it!

 

 

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Kristen lives in Orlando, Florida, and advocates for children in Uganda. She is a fan of adventures, dancing at weddings, the outdoors, Christmas movies, good talks, and canvas sneakers. You can check out her online presence at kristenemarks.com or follow her on Instagram: @kristenmarks