I Would Choose to Stay

By Rachel Greco

Right out of college, Hayley worked for the Culture & Heritage Museums in South Carolina. Then, a few months later, in January 2018, she moved to Uganda to work with International Justice Mission. Before that move, a family friend had heard a staff member from JAARS speak and told her, “You should keep this organization in mind for the future. They’re doing good work.” 

About the time that Hayley’s internship in Uganda was over, she didn’t feel the Lord calling her to apply for jobs there, but to trust him. She knew that once she returned home, she’d get bored and want to do something for the Lord. 

So Hayley filled out an application with JAARS while still in Uganda, thinking, “If I don’t have a job in a few months, then hopefully I can volunteer with them until I find something.” 

Hayley returned home to the U.S. and just as she was starting to feel restless again, JAARS reached out. She began volunteering at the Museum of the Alphabet with Debbie Newby, the director. Hayley had told the JAARS staff to put her wherever there was a need. 

When she realized that she had been assigned to the museum, she panicked. She had left the job at the Culture & Heritage Museums to serve in Uganda because the museum job had left her feeling empty. “While I enjoyed parts of my job, I went to work every day not feeling fulfilled, because it wasn’t where the Lord was calling me.” And here she was, back in a museum. “So I kept praying to the Lord to not let [this job] be empty.” 

The Fellows participate in a Bible study at the RV park on the JAARS campus.

On Hayley’s first day serving at the museum, Debbie handed her an application for JAARS Fellows—an 11-month, merit-based opportunity that provides entry into a first career. But Hayley’s heart was set on returning to Africa. She applied for many different overseas positions, but nothing came from her efforts. 

“And then it became clear toward the end of the year, the Lord was leading me to apply to the Fellows.” 

This became apparent to Hayley when she returned from serving at the museum one day. 

Hayley remembers pulling into her driveway and feeling fulfilled. And then she started to cry because she realized that it had been a long time since she had felt that. “The museum wasn’t empty, and [that] is what I prayed for.” 

Hayley with other Fellows at an outdoor hiking event

So Hayley applied for the Museum Curator Fellow position. Even though remaining in the U.S. wasn’t her first desire, she saw God’s faithfulness: “Two weeks after I accepted the Fellow position, a global pandemic came, and my friends were sent home from Uganda. People were losing their jobs, but I was still able to have a full-time job and have the opportunity to work with all of these people who have been all over the world.” 

Hayley helped redesign the Africa exhibit in the Museum of the Alphabet.

While working as the Museum Curator Fellow, Hayley’s been able to revisit Africa in a way by redesigning the Africa exhibit in the Museum of the Alphabet. She hopes the new exhibit will draw more people in and tell the stories of the African people in a beautiful, engaging way. “I’m really humbled that I got to be the one to do this. While I have had to stay, I’ve still been able to serve the land that I love in a different way.” 

Hayley has learned that our call is to glorify the Lord and make his name known, whether in Waxhaw or Africa. Plus, she’s had many worthwhile opportunities. “I’ve really enjoyed my time as a Fellow,” Hayley says. “It’s offered a lot of great experience, not just professionally but spiritually, and the community that I’ve been able to build is something that I had prayed for after coming home.” 

Knowing what she does now, if the Lord put in front of Hayley the option to go back overseas or to be a Fellow, she says, “I would choose to stay.” 


A new group of Fellows will arrive at JAARS on July 12. Please pray that God uses their time at JAARS to deepen their love for him and the nations. Please click here for more information.