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Katie Schinnell Berkman

Katie Schinnell Berkman '11

Majors: English and Religion

  • Missionary Educator & Librarian
  • Noah’s Ark Children’s Ministry, Uganda

“For the past three years I have been a missionary at Noah’s Ark Children’s Ministry Uganda. It is a large organization that has a children’s home (we don’t call it an orphanage because many of the children are abandoned, not actually orphaned), three schools (nursery, primary, and secondary), a clinic, church, and facilities to support that many people living here, like vegetable gardens and an animal farm.

“When school is in session, I work primarily in the schools. I run libraries at the primary and secondary schools, and run a remedial reading program for primary students who are behind in class.

“I spend the morning at primary school working with individual students on reading. I try to work with five students a day for twenty minutes. If there is extra time, I do some library housekeeping like preparing new books to be added and mending old ones that have been torn. When a class comes for library time, the teacher and I work together to read them a story and check in and out books.

“I also spend two or three hours a day at the library at the secondary school. I started it about a year ago with 3,000 books I had sent from America, so it is one of the only school libraries that has anything other than textbooks. (I’m passionate about reading, can you tell?)

“Honestly I took the classes I found the most interesting, without much of a career path in mind. At one point I wanted to be an English teacher and at another one a youth minister… which are two things I am doing in Uganda, so that worked out alright!

“My junior year I struggled with some major faith issues, but months of meetings with various religion professors taught me that I can follow Jesus on an intellectual and a spiritual level.

“At PLU, I saw people pursuing their dreams. Some of them were doing that at PLU and some of them were doing it through study abroad programs or after graduation. Seeing the things my classmates did in the years after we graduated really inspired me and I was able to start taking my dream a bit more seriously.

“Now that I am here, being a missionary is quite different from how I had imagined it, but isn’t that true almost any time we step out and try something new? PLU showed me that we can take our passions and make them our reality, and that God can do some pretty spectacular things in our lives.”