by Paul Stevens, Missions Coordinator
By now, many of you are aware that Lipscomb Missions sends teams to partner with and support local ministries on six of the seven continents. You are also likely aware of our strategy and vision for the way we facilitate short-term missions (click here to read about it!). But did you know that one of our greatest areas of expansion over the last several years has been mission opportunities in Africa?
Since 2004, Lipscomb Missions has partnered with Village of Hope, a ministry in Ghana focused on providing for orphaned children, sending teams to work hand-in-hand with our Ghanaian brothers and sisters as they love, train, and raise up a new generation of Christian and community leaders. Current co-team leader and Johnson Hall RHD Caroline Gallagher describes it this way, “The Village of Hope is a place of happiness, friendship, and love. It has helped provide healing and joy for so many kids over the years. It’s a place I feel God actively working differently than I ever have.” Multiple-time team member Emily Dunn says, “Their ministry is very practical; they meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the kids.”
I have been blessed with the opportunity to lead this team since 2007. Our relationship with Village of Hope continues to grow stronger and stronger as we prepare and send teams to support them in sharing Christ in Ghana. Through the years of doing this, one of the greatest encouragements to me has been seeing God take hold of the lives of young people, both Ghanaian children and college students and alike, and calling them to greater things than they ever imagined – discovering their gifts, passions, and how to live a life fully devoted to the mission of God along the way. Dunn, now a family relations major, says “I’m a completely different person. It has changed the direction of my life, the way I understand God and His faithfulness, and even my field of study. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse; after going to Village of Hope, I knew God’s plan for me involved something different.”
Although our longest tenured mission opportunity in Africa, it’s not the only one! For a few years, however, such was the case. Each fall during our team formation process we would turn away several people due to lack of space. In 2011 we began an ambitious initiative to identify and implement one new mission opportunity in Africa each year for the next five years. Now in year three of this initiative, our opportunities for students to serve in Africa have exploded from one to five!
The intentional expansion began with freshman Haley McDougal in fall 2010 when she came to us with the country of Uganda on her heart, looking for a way to serve and love the people. A couple months later a former Lipscomb student invited us to a documentary film about an organization she volunteered with in Uganda; shortly after connecting the two, the Uganda trip was formed and a small team traveled to Kampala in May 2011.
Now in its third year, the Uganda trip has a new host partner, a new team leader, and an exciting new vision. Next month, missions coordinator TJ McCloud will lead a team to partner with HEAL Ministries with a focus on music and creative arts, the first trip of its kind with Lipscomb Missions. “We’ll be putting together an arts program for the ministry focused on helping women and children in poverty tell their stories and outline their hopes and dreams. We've got songwriters, musicians, visual artists, dancers, child education specialists, actors, and even a rapper! The hope will be to help the Ugandan people create art that reflects and shapes their identity in Christ,” McCloud shares.
In 2012 as Alpha Phi Chi, Lipscomb’s men’s service club, was preparing for their annual variety show, they were debating what ministry or organization the proceeds would benefit. They settled on Made in the Streets, a ministry in Kenya providing street children a chance to overcome addictions and offering a new, safe, and healthy living environment complete with spiritual teaching and education/skills training should they choose. After putting on the show and raising over $5,000 to support Made in the Streets, they had an idea: what if we do more than this – what if we actually go and serve with their ministry team? In May 2012, that idea became reality as club members spent a few weeks in Kenya working side by side with Made in the Streets staff. A team will return this August, this time with students from all areas of campus. “I’m really excited that the larger Lipscomb community is getting involved with MITS, and hopeful it will continue in the future,” says Nathan Owens, team leader and club president. “I hope that I can come back to my ten year reunion and talk with Lipscomb Missions about their upcoming 13th trip to Kenya!”
Summer 2013 has brought us two new opportunities in Africa! Earlier this month, a team of nursing faculty and recent graduates traveled to Malawi in conjunction with the Sara Walker Foundation and Landmark Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama to provide medical care in an area of great need. Hear from the team and some of Sara’s family about their experience via this video. In the last few days, another new team has returned home – a second team in Kenya, this one made up of graduate psychology students gaining field experience and sharing the Gospel as they serve with Ringroad Ministries. As we look ahead to 2014 and beyond, multiple new mission opportunities in Africa are already in the works, paving the way for continued growth and reach.
As mentioned earlier, a precursor to this intentional expansion has been the high level of interest among students in Africa missions. Sometimes this interest is generated from the intrigue of the unknown and the vast difference in culture, wanting to learn and experience something firsthand by getting outside of what’s comfortable. In other cases, it’s a personal connection via an adopted sibling, home church relationship, family friend, etc. Whatever the circumstance, we see people drawn to Africa missions, and all mission opportunities, because they feel the pull to do something more – to live out their faith in a way that glorifies God and shares His good news with the world.