Christian in the Peace Corps, Really?

I am a Christian in the Peace Corps. Some people have questioned, almost accusingly, how I can serve in the Peace Corps. PC has a policy against PCVs actively proselytizing during their service, and some people believe I would do better as a missionary. I’ve been blogging over at “Growing in Faith” for a few months now, which is about my journey of faith, through Peace Corps and eventually beyond. But I’ve noticed a steady number of referrals to my blog from searches of “Christian in Peace Corps”, and a handful of people have reached out to me through email about this topic.

The main question seems to be “How do you serve in Peace Corps as a Christian?”

To me, the real question is “How do you serve in Peace Corps WITHOUT God?” I honestly don’t know how atheist/agnostic/etc PCVs make it through, and the vast majority of PCVs don’t identify with any faith. I have no clue how they make it through two years.

Without God, I would not have survived my service. I’ve needed His strength, understanding, compassion, love, grace, and mercy more times than I could count. There have been days when I’ve collapsed on my bed, sobbing, and have been wrapped in His love. There have been times when I’ve been afraid, and He’s held me and protected me. There have been times when the aching loneliness has become overwhelming, and He reminded me of His ever-lasting love.

I’ve ran out of strength. I’ve questioned. I’ve despaired. I’ve given up. But through it all, He’s been right there with me, providing me with the strength and love I needed.

There have been times when I’ve been filled with joy and gratitude, tears of happiness clouding my eyes. And I’ve praised Him for His awesome blessings. There have been times where I’ve clearly seen His plan for my life, and I’ve been humbled by His plans.

How do I serve in the Peace Corps as a Christian? Happily, joyfully, relying on Him, learning to trust His plan, and forging a deeper relationship with the God of the universe. I can’t imagine serving in such a tough job without the help of God. I don’t know how my fellow PCVs make it through the loneliness, desperation, exhaustion, frustrations, and endless battles that is Peace Corps. And I don’t know how they recognize the little blessings God gives us each day, which helps me through the hardest days. What fulfills them, I don’t know. But knowing I am obeying God in staying here is immensely fulfilling for me.

Peace Corps hasn’t been detrimental to my faith, nor do I feel stifled by Peace Corps’ policies. It has been a journey of saying yes to God’s will and learning to trust in Him. Peace Corps has allowed me to have more faith and empathy. It has opened my eyes to the suffering in our world, and how desperately help is needed. And it is preparing me to someday, somewhere, serve as a missionary, sharing His Good News.

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About Jen Lamos

Christ follower. Writer. Permaculturist. RPCV. Photographer. Gardener. Keeper of Chickens. Daughter of God.

14 thoughts on “Christian in the Peace Corps, Really?

  1. I think Christians and non-religious just develop different ways to cope. As someone who is non-religious, dealing with difficult situations or tragedy, I just remind myself that it won’t last, and sometimes we don’t know the outcomes of something that seems, at the moment, to only be bad. I don’t think of it as a divine plan, but the self-comfort mechanism is similar, I think.

    • Vividhunter, same for this nonbeliever. Also, the patience of the people I lived with helped me. Kala suuru (Have patience). And my fellow PC Volunteers helped me. I like the way you explain it! I don’t do as well. 🙂

      • Fellow PCVs are a great support system, but with ET rates in SA, and the fact that I will be one of maybe 3 extending PCVs, I’ve gotta have something more-as I lose my support system in country, I realize that more and more.

      • Jen, you are an awesome person. Keep up with the good work as you focus on serving God and not the people. I started a football team in the year 2000 that brought together kids from different religions, economic backgrounds, tribes and nationalities, and ended up accused of forcing kids to become christians just because I was a Christian, but God strengthened me and I soldiered on and today a number of kids are playing in football clubs even in the national team. Now today I have a big number of kids training with me thrice in a week, and I have been getting material and uniforms assistance from THE BQ CONTRACTOR CO. TANZANIA LTD since 2005 to date.

        These boys have taught me many issues, I have met God’s blessings through them, I have witnessed how God loves me through them. I believe I am who I am, where I am and what I am because of the word that comes out of my mouth “I AM ABLE IN JESUS’ MIGHTY NAME”

    • I also remind myself that the hard times are temporary, but for me, I know that whatever happens in this life, there’s something more than this. And you are right-things that seem awful or bad now may have some ultimate end that is better than I could imagine. I hope the kids in my village don’t live their whole lives here, sick and hungry. Maybe the hard lives they live now will motivate them to study hard an escape poverty. Time will tell!

  2. Interesting post, Jen. I didn’t think it would be too difficult to be Christian in Peace Corps, especially living in such a Christian nation, but I never thought about being a minority amongst PCVs. I, myself am an athiest, and cope with challenges in different ways. Well, maybe not so different. Instead of prayer, I reflect and journal. Instead of sharing challenges with God, I share them with people who are important in my life. They love and comfort me even if I can’t speak to or see them because I know I am in their thoughts. Being an athiest isn’t being empty; it is putting faith in yourself and other people. What fulfils me about volunteer work? What doesn’t? Gratitude of the community, smiles from a gogo, the learning of a child, the growing of a garden… People who are good without god have fulfilling lives without god.

    That said, I think it makes perfect sense that you would grow in your own faith while serving here. PCVs see more heartache and more growth and joy than most people can imagine. I imagine both bring you closer to your spirituality. Plus, Jesus didn’t just spread the word, he did great acts! That’s what you are doing now. What people need! Here they have Christianity but not nutrition. Good for you for doing the work the world needs most.

    Thanks for sharing, and keep up the awesome service!

    • I didn’t mean to indicate that non-Christians PCVs are empty or without fulfillment….I just don’t know how y’all do it. I of course journal and rely on other PCVs as well, but when my support system started to crumble, I relied on God more. My 2 closest PCVs have recently left, so I’m 150km from anyone else now. My closest friends at school-2 were terminated recently. When earthly support crumbles, I turn to God and He brings me through. Without that, I don’t know how I could have made it.

  3. I admire your commitment, Jen. You are doing an amazing thing and it will be life changing for you too. Keep it up and as we say in South Africa – “Sterkte” (Strength)

    • I am truly enjoying my work here and look forward to my third year of service! But it is HARD, and relying on God is the only way I make it through.

  4. Jen,
    Your words are my thoughts, almost exactly. I am a PCV in Peru in my first year still, and it is so different from SA I’m sure, but still hardd. I don’t know how people do it without the love of Jesus and the constant support He gives to those who are following Him. I would have for sure gone home already without that. It’s pretty cool though, some of my friends here that don’t follow Jesus are at least open to hearing about Him. I think we are all seeking something, we just don’t realize sometimes that we already have all we need if we have Jesus. I actually stumbled upon your blog bc I had a really rough day yesterday and was looking for some more resources, perspective, insight, on this “toughest job you’ll ever love” thing they call Peace Corps (from a Christian perspective). Anyway I just thank you for sharing and I would love to connect to chat more, so let me know :0)

  5. I never had to compromise my Christian faith in my South Pacific country in the early 80′s. In fact, my faith got rediscovered/strenghtened. Like many have said: just live your life, whether in your PC country or in the US. By living honestly and openly, we are to be the fragrance of Christ to a world that is definitely searching.

    The Peace Corps, though not for everyone, is a great choice for the few who choose to be a light in this corner of darkness. I know RPCV’s who were Christian vols in the 60′s. I do not know why PC has become anathema to Christians (I can guess) but it was perfect for me. And the missionaries I encountered were often sheltered in a compound, coming out to mix it up with the locals infrequently.

    It comes down to how you want to live out your faith.

    • Thank you for commenting! I often struggle to remember that God has place me here for a reason, and that when everything seems to be going wrong, I can still be a light for Him. Thanks for reminded me, and the encouragement!

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