Soon, new posts will be rolling your way, written by a name that you may not recognize. That’s me! Chanel Varney – and I’d love to give a proper introduction to you, my cherished ROWAN friends. 

I originally hail from Southern California, but for the past three and a half years, I’ve been in Cambridge, Massachusetts studying biology at Harvard. Studying here has been a tremendous blessing, straight from the hand of God. One of the greatest joys of my experience has been my Christian community. Harvard College Faith & Action is a multi-denominational Christian club on campus, started by the Christian Union. With this group, God has brought me closer and closer to His heart, and without this group, I would’ve never known about ROWAN.

After returning from a mission trip to South Africa in December 2018, I knew that God was compelling me to seek out another opportunity to go abroad and meet more of my family in Him. I recall looking at dozens of missions opportunities online, but when I saw the ROWAN trip (posted on the Christian Union website), I immediately felt that I would be going. 

In May 2019, I went from not being able to point Uganda out on a map, to personally cherishing a Ugandan community that maps hardly know: the rural, grassy Mawanga. Before my trip, I knew what ROWAN stood for – “Rural Orphans and Widows AIDS Network” – but afterward, I fully grasped who ROWAN stands for.

ROWAN serves a community that loves the same God and that is loved by the same God as me. A community that rejoiced to see me, lavishing me in embraces and enthusiastic welcome. They welcomed me into their homes with more hospitality than I ever found in my own heart. They blessed me with generous gifts, earned by incredibly hard labor because they wanted to communicate their love for me: a stranger, I felt, but to them, a true sister. 

Have you ever been humbled by another’s generosity? Perhaps Jesus’s? … whose unmerited kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). If so, then you will know how I felt during my trip. I was given WAY more than I could ever return – I’m not talking materially, but about something much more precious and everlasting: Jesus’s love. I will graduate with a degree from one of the most prestigious and challenging universities in the world, but something much more applaudable and difficult to accomplish is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The people of ROWAN do this inexplicably well, and through these people, God reminds me that greatness in this kingdom – becoming educated, rich, powerful – has no value in His Kingdom. Instead … 

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

“Whoever wants to be first must take the last place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35).

I need to be reminded of these truths weekly. Daily. Hourly. Many of us do. I feel blessed that God works through this community to be that reminder in my life. I’m excited and honored to write stories about ROWAN so that others may be equally as blessed. 

As someone who loves to write, I often journal, and on occasion, the Holy Spirit will write through me. If you’d like to read what He revealed to me as I reflected on my trip to Mawanga, here’s the link.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are blessed by the stories to come! 


Chanel Varney 




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