Aquilas Dadje, Nathan Schmidt and Ghislain Rodoumbaye test a new eco-charcoal mixture.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Schmidt

From left to right: Aquilas Dadje, Nathan Schmidt and Ghislain Rodoumbaye at the ENVODEV compound testing a new eco-charcoal mixture. 

This year, Manitobans Nathan Schmidt and Teah Goossen joined 51 other young adults from Canada and the U.S. to spend a year across the world with MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program.

Schmidt, from Winnipeg, spent the year teaching English and working with Enterprise for Vocational Development (ENVODEV) Tchad in Moundou, Chad. Goossen, from Blumenort, cared for children and youth at the Sandra Jones Centre (a local crisis centre) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Earlier this year we checked in with the two as they began their SALT assignments. Now, having just recently arrived home, Schmidt and Goossen share memories and reflect on the year.

Most importantly, my position taught me the significance of community... A phrase I learned in Ndebele says, Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. No person is an island.

- Teah Goossen

What have you learned about yourself over this year?

Nathan: That I am more resilient than I thought. I have also realized more the importance of relationships. It is easy for me to be task and time obsessed, but this experience has shown me yet again the importance of our relational lives. We are created as beings that work, but also, and what is often diminished in the west, we are created as relational beings.

Teah: In Canada, I live on the prairies. Life there is stable, comfortable, and fairly uneventful. Not Zimbabwe. Hills and valleys; that’s been my time, filled with wonderful ups and downs, unknowns and rough patches. It’s been a wild adventure that has shaped me profoundly.

During the final three month semester at the English school I realized that I am much more comfortable, confident and capable as a teacher.

- Nathan Schmidt

Describe a time when you experienced God.

Nathan: I have experienced God through the community of friends. At times it has been lonely, and challenging to interact in a deeply fulfilling way with people here because of linguistic and cultural differences. So, I think I have experienced God when deep and fulfilling communication has been reached.

Teah: I’ve seen life from another angle. I felt unbelievable frustration. But I have also loved more than I ever thought I could... I found a hope so deep and unconditional... I am assured because I know the mercy and grace of the One who cares for the abused, abandoned, pregnant and orphaned. He cares deeply for the children of Sandra Jones Centre.

Teah Goossen and Gogo Maria at the Sandra Jones Centre. Teah Goossen and Gogo Maria, a house mother at the Sandra Jones Centre.Photo courtesy of Teah Goossen

What skills did you learn while on SALT?

Nathan: I have learned a great deal of French. My ability as a teacher has [greatly] increased. During the final three month semester at the English school I realized that I am much more comfortable, confident and capable as a teacher. Also, as an administrative assistant I have learned about communicating in an office and completing basic administrative skills.

Teah: I now have administration and database experience. I taught art, helped with homework, mentored, and gave special care to those with disabilities. But most importantly, my position taught me the significance of community. As much as many of us appreciate our independence and self-reliance, I have seen how it really does take a village to raise a child. A phrase I learned in Ndebele says, Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. No person is an island.

What will you miss most about your host country?

Nathan: I think I will miss the generosity and the openness in relationships the most. Chadians are very warm, loving and kind. They are quick to invite you to stay, quick to invite you to eat. That is something I’ve appreciated a lot over this year and something that I will miss about Chad.

Teah: So many people shared their lives with me. I will deeply miss both my Moyo and Dube family. Likewise, my fellow SALTer, Tiffany, taught me the unconditional love of a sister. As well, my coworkers, ah, my coworkers, they may be just as playful and mischievous as those we [cared] for!

Nathan Schmidt and Cyriaque Djenaissem at the CENTRAM compound. Nathan Schmidt and Cyriaque Djenaissem, a fellow English teacher, at the Centram compound.Photo courtesy of Nathan Schmidt

Who is one person you will remember for a long time, and why?

Nathan: Paul Jerry, a friend of my host brother who I got to know. He’s very honest, open and direct. He strongly believes what he believes and he isn’t afraid to tell others. We have had many challenging theological and biblical conversations. He laughs a lot and is very grateful for the things in his life.

Teah: It will be the children at the Sandra Jones Centre that I will miss most… over my term I have lived with 102. I will remember their funny stories and big smiles. I’ll remember holding the little hands of new born babies, wiping many tears and kissing many foreheads.

To any young adult who is tired of passively watching life pass by, to the one who desires to see a glimpse of the greatness of God... SALT may be the program for you.

- Teah Goossen

What are you planning to do next, after your SALT term ends?

Nathan: I would like to pursue work in the public sector in Canada. Maybe as an administrative assistant. I have been interested in pursuing further education in public policy. But, we will see what all falls into place as God guides my future.

Teah: In school I was taught about the “wounds of knowledge;” we can never unsee what we have seen. We are responsible to it and our actions thereafter reflect on who we are. I saw a lot of complex and complicated situations as I lived at the crisis centre… So I will play my little part on this earth to be a little salt and light wherever I roam. I think my roaming may begin in New Zealand, and I have an inkling that I will find a path back to MCC.

Teah Goossen in the Matopos Hills. Teah Goossen in the Matopos Hills of Zimbabwe.Photo courtesy of Teah Goossen

What would you say to other young adults considering the SALT program?

Nathan: It’s a very valuable experience. It’s not easy, it’s not comfortable, but it has been a remarkably beneficial experience that will continue to shape my life for a long time.

Teah: To any young adult who is tired of passively watching life pass by, to the one who desires to see a glimpse of the greatness of God, or to those who want to be clay in the Potter’s hand, SALT may be the program for you. It’s not easy, but good things in life never are.