On May 23, a group of students led by our professor, Dr. Van Sanders, began a 24-day outreach trip to London, Kenya, and a city in the Middle East.Each one of us had different expectations and hopes for this trip. Some were excited to return to Kenya to see familiar faces they had met the year before on a similar trip led by Dr. Sanders. Others had spent an earlier semester encountering people of various cultures in London. Some of us had never been overseas and were just excited to see the world and meet new people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. This was my first time overseas, and as a senior Global Studies major, this journey was part of my capstone project.
After landing in London, we hit the ground running and never slowed down. London is a fast-paced city with amazing diversity as well as rich history within the city. We took a Christian heritage tour to different churches and landmarks where people had stood up for their faith and refused to back down thus causing countless others to turn and follow Christ. We took buses and trains to travel all over the city. One region of London called Southall has a large population of South Asians. We visited a Sikh temple there to learn about the beliefs and lifestyles of Sikh people and share our stories of faith with them. While walking through Central London near the Royal Palace, Big Ben, and the London Eye, we stopped and talked to strangers, listening intently to their life experiences. As we better understood their beliefs, we were often able to share Christ with them.
We went to Nairobi, Kenya, next, and many of us were surprised to see a few familiar restaurants and cars bustling back and forth. The University of Nairobi was a great spot to meet people our age who are trying to earn degrees like us. We worked with students who were friends with our host outreach partners and went from room to room in the dorms starting conversations and praying with the students we met. The Kenyan culture was much different from the English culture we had previously experienced. We took a train to Mombasa, Kenya, and spent three days with two families who spent all their time with us by taking us to church plants and introducing us to Christians who went out with us and translated as we shared the gospel in a highly concentrated Muslim community.
In the Middle East we stayed in a city withincredible infrastructure as well as in diversity. Arabs, Pakistanis, Filipinos, and Indians make up most of the population, but many other ethnicities from all over the world were also present. We split our group of ten into three smaller groups and spent three days going from place to place meeting new people, learning about their cultures and beliefs, and sharing the gospel. Each morning at breakfast in our hotel, each of our groups would share what we had encountered during the previous day. Most groups had met people who invited us back to their homes for tea or out for dinner, so we got the chance to further our relationships and see where God would lead the conversations.
Our first night in this city, my group met a father and daughter walking around a park we were visiting. The daughter had just graduated from college, and they explained how they were originally from India but since the father works in this city and his daughters were born there, they cannot be citizens because of their government system. They were Hindus and invited us to come to their home the following night to meet his wife and other daughter. So, we met back up with them and chatted in their living room over chai and some snacks they had prepared for us. We discussed Hinduism, the gospel, and the differences between our beliefs. The conversation was never hostile or uncomfortable. The family has many Christian friends, so they already knew several Bible stories. They explained how tolerant the city was of all faiths and people; however, I noticed that throughout this city and country, Islam is at the forefront of every part of their society.
The city has very little crime. I never saw a single police car, but I know that there is no such thing as a utopia or world peace apart from Christ. I learned to turn my burden for the lost into prayers as I walked through the city and talked to random people. One of our team members, Rachel, who is a junior global studies student, brought her guitar and led worship at team debriefs and meetings with local pastors and missionaries. She also did much preparation and planning for the trip and helped to lead our group alongside Dr. Sanders. About her time in global studies courses and then translating her knowledge to the field, she says, “What I’ve learned in my coursework about contextualization and church planting were significantly put into practice in each city. Navigating how to most effectively share the truth of the gospel from culture to culture can be difficult, but I felt very equipped by the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit first and secondly, through what I’ve learned in the classroom and in Clarkston, Georgia, working with refugee families.”
I enjoyed watching God work in and through each of my teammates as they shared their stories and ministered to people. Everyone on our team worked well with whomever they were placed in a group with, and we grew closer to one another through our experiences together. When we met to debrief at night, some of us shared our testimonies, and those moments helped us to connect on a deeper level. I can easily look back and see how God uniquely orchestrated this trip down to the details of how each team member decided to come. I made friends with fellow TMU students while on the other side of the world, and now we are able to take what we learned this summer and practice it here in Cleveland, Clarkston, and wherever the Lord takes us next.
Photo Credit/Maggie Reeves, Truth Lewis, Rachel Durham, and Taylor TrotterReturn to News Archive