Mission Center: Mission Leadership

Virginia Holt

Virginia Holt

» 26 years old
» YASC (South Africa) 2006-2007
» Province IV

Virginia was born an Episcopalian, but didn’t become active in the church until she went to college. Her life plan was to get a degree in business and work at an investment banking firm. She describes her roots as having always been in Christianity, but it was a Christianity that just went through the motions. In college, she met her university chaplain, the Rev. Ollie Rencher. A YASC alumnus himself, he shared his experience with the program, and helped Virginia discern what God was calling her to do. “I knew God was calling me to do something, I just didn’t know what” Virginia explains. After several years of discerning that call, filling out the paperwork, and going through the training, Virginia found herself in South Africa for a year. When she left the United States, she expected to return to her investment banking job at the end of the year; she never expected that her time in South Africa would change her entire career path for the rest of her life.

While in South Africa, Virginia jokes that she was a bit of “a jack of all trades. I did whatever needed to be done.” She worked at the local monastery’s afterschool program, spent time in both the children’s ward and the hospice ward in the hospital, worked with several child welfare NGOs, and helped with administrative tasks such as organization and computer-based projects. The one experience she had in South Africa that touched her most deeply was meeting a baby boy named Asanda. Asanda was about 18 months old when she met him, and was an orphan with HIV/AIDS. She describes Asanda as a “mechanical child who had been abused.” She became somewhat of a surrogate mother for the child on weekends, taking him in, caring for him, and slowly nurturing him back to emotional health and stability over the course of nine months. “Asanda helped me understand what being a Christian is really all about,” she said, “the nine months I spent with him is a true testament to our relationship to God. People think that kind of relationship can happen overnight, and it can’t. It is an ongoing working relationship.”

Virginia describes her year with YASC as the best experience of her life. “It gave me a purpose, I felt like God was showing me His purpose for me when I was inside the hospitals and when I was healing others.” Virginia returned to the United States with a new plan—to go to nursing school and become a licensed medical professional. She never imagined that she would want to go back to South Africa, and yet now it is her deepest desire to return with a medical mission as a nurse.

“The Episcopal Church has really shaped me because of the love that is inside of our organization, inside the church.” The faith that she learned in the Episcopal Church allowed her to be very non-judgmental, and to know that it is a church open to everyone. When she was outside of her comfort zone in South Africa, Virginia knew the Anglican church would be there to welcome her. “I always felt like the church’s arms were open to me, no matter where I was at in my process. The church is simply always there. They are always non-judgmental, open, and loving. I think that’s what allows people like me to go into environments like South Africa, places where HIV/AIDS is still somewhat taboo and places that don’t necessarily have the same attitudes toward inclusion that we have. The Episcopal Church gives me the ability to open my arms to everyone, to be educated, and to live as a true Christian.”

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