In a way, this experience—serving with Panamanians, exclusively speaking Spanish, living far from the distractions and temptations of American culture—has radically altered my worldview. I more fully understand our story as the most privileged people in the world—my story. We leave college bright-eyed and ambitious, ready to serve other people with our careers, or at a minimum, driven to develop the skills in order to support noble causes. The mantra of UT Austin famously states, “What starts here changes the world.” Yet for most of us, the rest of the story is all too familiar. By the time we reach our thirties, we’ve decided the “nonprofit job just wouldn’t pay enough,” that we “could never imagine leaving this city,” or that we’re “just more suited for this line of work.”
In the end, we’ve submitted to lives that center on the income and career prestige that supply the lifestyle we worship. Our work becomes merely the means to the Christmas
vacation to the Bahamas, the occasional (or frequent) meal at our city’s lavish restaurants, or the desired house in a certain neighborhood. At the office, we live half-consciously, questioning our work’s purpose but knowing we could never quit. We wait until the clock strikes five, so we can then find another way to distract ourselves from the reality of our empty lives. I can’t help but think of myself when I remember what Henry David Thoreau famously writes in Walden: “The mass of men leads lives of quiet desperation.”
I think most of us as Christians never fully recognize what it means to live out our calling.
It’s not because we choose to enter the corporate world instead of full-time ministry or
nonprofit work; in fact, I think God may call most of us to enter the “secular” world with
our gifts and talents, even in traditional careers like banking or accounting in the U.S. (I too will be working in consulting starting this fall). It’s that we never even ask the question--genuinely asking how we can wholly offer our lives to others in response to his grace—whether that means moving to Somalia to do ministry, working for a nonprofit on the other side of town, or staying at our current job. Asking that question with the intent of honestly answering it might be the scariest—and most rewarding—thing we do this year.
So, to answer my mom’s original question, yes, this experience has changed me. But
still, much remains the same. I still wake up each day desiring to make Scott Urbis great.
Unchecked, my natural desire to accumulate wealth, status, and renown at times inundates me. And if I’m honest with myself, when I peel away the layers of ministry involvement, service activities listed on my résumé, and reputation as a “good guy,” this is my story:
another broken individual trying to patch up my problems with what the world offers.
Raising up folks like this is why we do what we do on the college campus!
Warren & Barbara Culwell
Thank you so much for your investment in students’ lives!