Tennessee Alumnus

Global Outreach, Local Perspective

Featured Photo: Jana Ogg (right) and Denis Ochaka teach at a pastors training conference in Lalogi, Uganda, July 2016.

By Erin Chesnut

Jana Ogg (Martin ’08) and her business partners created Switchboard Missions in 2011 to meet the needs of communities around the world. They soon realized those needs weren’t always what they expected.

Jana Ogg with a street child in a slum in Kolkata, India, March 2015.

“There is such a tendency to assume that we know what is best, but what is best in my culture is often not best for another,” says Ogg.

That lesson came home while distributing mosquito nets in Northern Uganda. Ogg and her team saw tensions rise between mothers and village leaders and learned several families had not received nets because leaders had taken some to sell them after the missionaries left.

Ogg turned to a Ugandan native for answers. “I asked why he didn’t tell me that the program we had planned wouldn’t work, and he put his head down and said ‘You are the boss. You are the one with the money. You never asked,’ ” Ogg says.

That lesson changed Switchboard’s perspective. Now, they work with communities where they are and help solve problems they are facing. Based in Nashville, the business has grown to serve 12 countries in the past two years.

“Everything I do, everything I think and everything I am comes from millions of different influences throughout my life, and it’s impossible for me not to see the world through the lens of those experiences,” Ogg says.

Switchboard Missions works to meet physical needs of people in the countries they serve and to equip indigenous leaders to take the Christian faith to their countrymen.

“I can never understand what it would be like to live through the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare like the people of Sarajevo, Bosnia, or how it feels to sleep in the bush every night for 20 years as a child because of the Lord’s Resistance Army (a guerilla warfare group) in Northern Uganda.

“I will never be able to relate to the threat of persecution in India… I’ve never had to fear being sold into sex slavery like the women of Cambodia or the constant threat of guerrilla warfare that the Congolese face,” Ogg says. “I am simply not the best person to lead well in each of these countries. But when we come behind leaders formed by their own cultures, we start to see growth and progress that far outreaches the limits we initially brought to the table.”