By Ashleigh Bugg
“Beyond Your Culture. Beyond Your Comfort Zone. Beyond Yourself.”
That’s the motto of Student.Go, urging young adults to look past personal comfort in order to explore the wider world. Student.Go is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s student missions program, providing opportunities for students to serve alongside CBF field personnel and ministry partners in the United States and around the world.
Virginia-native Takiya Delbridge has lived by this slogan, serving in Student.Go positions in the U.S. and overseas. At Conetoe Family Life Center in Conetoe, N.C., Delbridge worked as a camp counselor in a community labeled a “food desert,” where fresh food is hard to come by with no grocery stores within a 15-mile radius. The center provides a community garden with fresh fruits and vegetables which are available to local children, many of whom have health problems.
Delbridge used her educational background in religion and psychology to assist local children and young adults. She led morning devotions and worked with middle schoolers in the afternoons, helping them with reading and life skills.
Although Delbridge noted it was sometimes challenging to work with children who were hesitant and guarded, it was rewarding when they were able to open up.
“You’ve been there long enough that they start trusting you and really talking to you about what’s going on in their lives and giving you an opportunity to help them,” Delbridge said.
Delbridge emphasized that the ability to break through the children’s barriers in order to support them in their educational goals and personal well-being made the position worthwhile.
After completing a summer of service, Delbridge returned to Murfreesboro, N.C. and finished her undergraduate degree at Chowan University. Then she learned of another opportunity to serve—this time in Japan.
“The crazy thing is, I didn’t apply! I was under the impression that I couldn’t serve because I had just graduated,” Delbridge said. “However, I had started the year wanting to work overseas, but not having a financial way to do that; so, I had put it on the back burner.”
Delbridge was at work one day when Taisha Seabolt, Student and Training Specialist for CBF Global Missions, reached out. “Taisha called me and said that Student.Go had a position in Japan.”
This was the opportunity Delbridge had been waiting for. She decided to take the plunge and go for it.
“I quit my job, got some help from my church, and I went and served in Japan for two months,” she said.
In Japan, Delbridge worked as an English teacher, helping three churches with their English language programs while serving alongside CBF field personnel Carson and Laura Foushee.
Despite the excitement of being in a new country and culture, Delbridge faced challenges. It was at times difficult to navigate in a new cultural context and to be away from her family for an extended period of time. “There was a time difference, and the food was so different,” she said. “When I was serving in the States, I was closer to my family. I was having this experience where I was really away from my family, where I couldn’t go right back.”
A language barrier also made life interesting. But although it could be a challenge to communicate, Debridge says it was not difficult to connect with the kids. “It wasn’t hard once they warmed up to me and saw I wasn’t someone to be afraid of,” she said. “We communicated through play.”
Delbridge says her favorite part of her time in Japan was experiencing another culture as well as learning about the way Japanese people navigate and perceive society.
“They’re very conservative in how they speak to one another. Things are more organized,” she said. “Even how they eat can be different. While we eat a lot of meat, they eat mostly fruits and vegetables.”
She also noted that the Japanese related to spirituality and God in different ways than she was used to in the United States. “In America, we´re kind of forthcoming with how we feel and our emotions, and that wasn’t the case,” she explained.
Delbridge was able to use these differences to start new and interesting conversations.
“Even though there was a language barrier, one of the things I did was praise dance. That went over well very quickly,” she said. “They were astounded by the fact that, as Americans, we express our love to God in different ways. It gave us so much more to talk about.”
The most impactful part of Delbridge’s experience was being able to be with people who were not like her. “I was able to see that the way we do things is not the only way,” she said. “It’s not the ‘right’ way.”
Delbridge recommends Student.Go to other students and young adults.
“Student.Go makes you a more well-rounded person to be able to step in someone else’s territory, whether it be five miles away or a thousand miles away,” she said. “It helps you see the bigger picture of what God is doing—that he trusts us enough to let us be his hands and feet.”
Delbridge maintains one of the best parts of Student.Go is the opportunity to meet students with similar interests and goals. “What I loved most about the program was meeting the other people serving at the orientation and debriefing,” she said. “I met some of the coolest people ever. It was helpful to have a support system of people my age, who seemed to be going the same way.
“We’re kind of young in this, and most people my age don’t seem to think about serving,” she said. “So, to meet people who are like-minded and serious about service is the most amazing thing.”
Delbridge offers this advice to students who are interested in being involved with Student.Go:
“Make yourself flexible to whatever the needs are of the community where you are going to work,” she said. “Even if they give you an explanation of what your job is, be prepared to do more and receive more than what you thought.”
Are you a college or graduate student in search of fulfilling, life-changing, authentic and exciting work? Consider Student.Go and Student.Church for your summer service. Learn more and apply at www.cbf.net/studentdot
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. Learn more at www.cbf.net.