Westmont Magazine Out of Africa

In the short time since he graduated, Luke Bullock ’01 has had a world of experience.

His auspicious under-graduate career included a double major in history and philosophy, a semester at Oxford University in England, and a role in founding the Westmont Student Union.

Unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, Luke began by spending a summer as a clerk at a Longs Drugstore in Santa Barbara. “That was an eye-opening experience, and I gained deep respect for my co-workers there,” he says. “Many of them expected to spend their lives working for that kind of store.”

Luke moved to Boston in the fall with several other Westmont alums to find new experiences and challenges. After doing temporary work at Harvard Law School, he got a job helping Alan Dershowitz with his writing. His duties included transcribing and editing a book on terrorism.

The position with the well-known professor, lawyer and author required Luke to keep up with current events. “I got a glimpse of the movers and shakers in academia and the media and gained a sense of what it is like to live in that world,” he says.

While working for Dershowitz was stimulating, when the book was done, Luke looked around for another challenge. An opening at International Christian Academy, a school for missionary children in the Ivory Coast, interested him, and he decided to travel to Africa to teach fifth grade.

The international students and staff, about 200 people, lived together at the school. “Nothing is as beautiful and as life-affirming as a group of wonderful, unique persons living and sharing in such a community,” Luke says. “I loved that school.”

But his stay at ICA ended just six weeks after it began. On Oct. 17, 2002, violence erupted between government forces and rebels, and fighting surrounded the campus. The sound of machine guns and mortars became commonplace, and the water and electricity were cut off. During a five-day lockdown at the school, troops moved continuously along the road outside.

Then it seemed like the battle moved on campus. “The pale sky lit up with tracer bullets and flares as machine guns of all sizes were going off all around us,” Luke recalls. “At some point, we expected to go outside and find body parts.”

Fortunately, French and American troops evacuated the school before that happened. “I had never felt stress like this, though throughout it I had a wonderful peace about me,” Luke says. He is convinced that prayer made the difference.

When he returned home, Luke decided to be a teacher. He worked for a few months with at-risk youth in a group home and then began a credential program at Simpson College in Redding, Calif. His goal is teaching junior high history and English.

“I lost the community and my first year of teaching,” Luke says. “But I gained so much: the joy of meeting present-day Africa, the teaching experience and the community,” he reflects. “I left Africa more certain of my belief in prayer, service, Christian community and the value of teaching. I hope that my trip to Ivory Coast has invited friends to take a new and deeper look at Africa. I am now more loyal to the value of Third-World cultures.”