Direction more important than destination

By Melanie Greenberg
March 21, 2012

Beth, Mikayla and Ben Kickert have committed two and a half years to the Cabrini Missionary Sisters in St. Philip’s, Swaziland but expect to stay five to 10 years. (credit: Submitted by Ben Kickert)

Making the move to Swaziland in Africa from Bowling Green, Ky., took nearly five years of planning, praying and preparing. Ben, Beth and 2-year-old Mikayla Kickert spent 72 hours traveling from the comfortable, quiet suburban lives they knew to live in the oppressively hot and snake-filled country of Swaziland in July 2011.

“When we began looking to live overseas, we wanted to be a part of restorative work that was driven by community needs and assets,” Ben Kickert wrote in his blog. “We also wanted to head to a place where we could be shaped as individuals and a family. We certainly found both. Here at Cabrini, we are in one of the most forgotten areas of the country; all of our work is dedicated to serving the needs geographically around us.”

Kickert visited Cabrini College on a month-long tour back to the United States to speak with faculty and students about the work being done at the Cabrini Mission is St. Philip’s, Swaziland. The Cabrini Missionary Sisters have been serving in St. Philip’s for nearly 40 years. Before the AIDS pandemic broke, the main focus was skill training. In Swaziland, 31 percent, roughly one out of every three people is HIV positive. The sisters now work on healthcare, prevention and education.

“We had intentionally avoided researching any opportunities in the lowveld because of the environment,” Kickert said. “However, when Cabrini offered us the positions, we realized that even if the location was not right, the place was perfect. It offered housing, paid a modest salary, was a safe place to raise a family, and provided the opportunity to live immersed in Swazi culture. Most importantly, it was a place where good work was being done that we could be a part of and the skills we brought were exactly what they needed.”

Earning a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and mass communication at Western Kentucky University and a master’s degree with honors in biblical studies from Asbury Seminary, Kickert has experience in many various and eclectic areas.

Kickert’s curiosity about the world came from the lack of diversity in his high school. When entering college, he realized the importance of learning more about different cultures and religions. His curiosity pushed him to branch out and make lifelong friends who would change his point of view.

“I found a really good friend in the religious studies department who worked with, and I’ll use his term, the ‘African American’ ministry on campus and I developed a relationship where I could ask him whatever I wanted, as ridiculous as it was, and he could do the same with me,” Kickert said. “We stepped on each other’s toes and we probably offended each other more times than I can count, but we both stepped away from that with a certain intentionality and understanding.”

With a commitment of two and a half years, Kickert expects to stay in Swaziland for five to 10 years. He believes there is a need to be interconnected in our world and becoming a global citizen is a decision that was easy for him to make.

“I’ve always immersed myself in crazy and disconnected things, but that’s made me more aware, it’s made me more comfortable in a variety of settings, and it’s made me more conscious of asking questions that I’ve never asked before,” Kickert said.

Kickert discussed the difficulty of accepting short-term-service volunteers because of the costs to actually house and supervise an untrained volunteer. Accepting volunteers may not help the organization in the way needed but it could give the participant a new perspective by traveling and living in solidarity.

According to an article on, for some, global citizenship can be exercised at home through engagement in global issues or with different cultures in a local setting. For others, experiencing the culture and people of different countries firsthand is the true meaning of being a global citizen.

“It’s just a whole different set of questions and different realities you live with and different things that you struggle with,” Kickert said of living internationally.

The direction of Kickert’s life has been far from a straight line to his current destination but each of his experiences has molded him into the person he is today.

“I think when we’re in college, we picture one thing happening but in reality the way we get there and the reality of what our job is, is often much more multifaceted than what we imagined,” Kickert said. “I believe that direction is much more important than destination. It’s more important that you’re moving someplace positive than you’re moving to a specific place.”

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Melanie Greenberg

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