by TMC Staff

CLEVELAND, Ga., (TMNews)—”The book of Acts talks about the boldness the Apostles had sharing the gospel, and it felt as though we were living out the New Testament. The Holy Spirit was moving during this trip, and Jesus Christ truly was glorified,” said Victoria Schillinger, referring to the more than 100 people who responded positively to the gospel of Jesus Christ as 39 Truett-McConnell College students, staff and faculty ministered in Rwanda, Africa, May 25 – June 9.

Schillinger – one of 16 from TMC women’s soccer team on the trip– joined others in sharing the gospel on the street, in schools, villages, orphanages, hospitals and churches.

Daily ministries included sharing the gospel through teaching, tutoring, soccer and recreation at Crimson Academy, a school of about 400 children founded by Phillip Haynes, husband of Dr. Holly Haynes, associate professor of behavioral sciences at TMC.

Evangelizing in schools and villages

“The students did a great job of sharing the gospel at the school. Several children responded to the gospel through their efforts,” said Dr. Van Sanders, TMC’s associate professor of missions and evangelism.

Students also shared the gospel in neighboring villages: “We went door-to-door, evangelizing at the houses around the school,” said Holly Peppers. “Everywhere we would go, tons of little children followed.”

With about 30 children in one group, Peppers shared the gospel through an interpreter. “I told the children I was going to pray, and asked them to raise their hand if they wanted to have Jesus in their life and believed he was their Savior. Then, 17 of them — around the ages 7-16 — raised their hand and repeated a prayer saying they believed in Jesus.”

“I also shared the gospel through an Evangecube, using the pictures to teach the people about Jesus,” Peppers said. “There was one girl in the group that I had the opportunity to lead to Christ.”

“One of my favorite parts of the trip was when the village kids and the kids at the academy would run and jump into our arms,” Schillinger added. “The love those kids have blows my mind.”

“The Rwandans appreciated and received our students well,” Sanders said. “Even during times when students did not have an interpreter, the Rwandans were welcoming and happy to relate to us in spite of the language gap.”

Unto the least of these

Schillinger related her visit to an orphanage:

“On our first day in Africa, we visited an orphanage. As an early childhood education major, my heart and passion is for children. I couldn’t wait to love on those kids, and in my mind, I pictured the place as any other American orphanage. I can honestly say that, my heart remains broken about this orphanage.

As we walked in … the smell, the broken windows and beds, the dirt floors, and the precious, broken smiles of those children affected me more than I ever thought possible.

All the leaders were males, which immediately shocked me. The thought of sweet children not having a motherly figure upset me.

That was just the beginning. We saw twin-sized mattresses barely two inches thick and realized up to six kids would sleep on those tiny beds. I was ashamed of my complaints when I moved into college with a twin-sized bed.

The most heartbreaking moment was seeing the children. If I could feel every emotion, it would be the day I stepped into that orphanage. Those little girls and boys smiled with so much happiness, yet their eyes showed the loneliness. I can’t describe just how terrible the conditions were; but to say the least, when the kids ran and hugged me, dirt from their clothes left imprints on mine. All the kids wanted to be on our laps and be loved. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I made one connection with a sweet little girl named Mosel. She couldn’t speak English but she knew how to braid. So, she played with my hair, and we played hand games. The only words that really were spoken were our names; everything else was exchanged through smiles.

The gospel was shared through an interpreter, so I pray she understood who her heavenly father is. It’s the only hope that keeps me going when I think of her. As we left, I told Mosel goodbye and that I loved her. She smiled, looked me in the eyes and said, ‘See you next time.’ Tears streamed down my face because I couldn’t tell her that I would see her again. It was an emotional and spiritual battle for sure.

As cliché as it sounds, my heart felt like it was literally broken. I felt like I could not handle the orphanage because I was so disheartened. I began to pray and ask God just why this burdened my heart so much. Then I remembered that God often burdens us because burdens can become ministry for His kingdom.”

Ministry at the orphanage included playing games with the children, giving gifts of food, other supplies, and Bibles. Sanders said: “The students also shared their testimonies and presented the gospel with Bible verses and stories.”

Additional ministries

Each day, the group divided into three teams. One team ministered at Crimson Academy, and the other teams accomplished a variety of activities each day.

Sanders led a team; Dr. Brad Reynolds, vice president for academic services led another; and head women’s soccer coach, David McDowell, led a team of students.

“Once again, our students proved to be the embodiment of Truett-McConnell’s mission statement,” Reynolds said. “They shared the gospel boldly and clearly. What a blessing it was to see God save souls and reinforce the students’ obedience to his Great Commission.”

McDowell added: “To not only see the people of Rwanda being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, but also to watch what happened in the hearts of our girls – that is the most rewarding thing about working at the college.”

“We were stretched and broken,” he noted, “but we experienced a deeper joy in our time in Rwanda than at any other time throughout the school year.”

Sanders said each day was different for each team as “we did evangelism, community service, and random acts of kindness in orphanages, schools, hospitals, village neighborhoods, churches, and urban neighborhoods,”

“Some days we would go to a church, pair up with church members for door-to-door evangelism, then come back to the church in the afternoon where we would preach and teach,” he added.

“In the afternoon, we would go to a village or urban neighborhood with some Rwandan interpreters and evangelize on the street and door-to-door,” Sanders said. “Several times we visited hospitals to feed patients and share the love of Christ with them both with food and the gospel.”

The watchword for the entire mission trip was flexibility because “local planning was sometimes nonexistent, so we had to adjust en route, develop a new plan on the spot and go with it,” Sanders related.

“The students were great in responding to these situations. These experiences taught them much about the realities of missionary ministry in other cultures,” he said. “Relationships, not time nor tasks are the focus of Rwandan culture. It was good for all of us to be forced to take a different, and perhaps even more biblical approach where other people are the primary focus and not our schedules.”

“I can’t say enough about the exceptional quality of our students,” noted Sanders. “They responded to everything with great attitudes. The days were long, hot and often dirty from walking and travelling on rough, dirt roads. Several students battled sickness, too. Even though the schedule was packed and challenging, the students responded with good attitudes and servant hearts.”

Personal and ongoing impact

“The people over there don’t have Bibles,” Peppers said. “And when we would give them Bibles, they would be so excited, they would celebrate and thank us. This affected me spiritually to see how much they rejoiced over God’s word.”

The mission trip also taught Peppers “to have much more appreciation for my Bible, because I saw on this trip that not everyone who wants a Bible has access to one; and it is such a privilege to be able to read God’s word whenever I want.”

“It was really hard for me to see the people who were hungry and would come up and beg for food,” she continued. “It really affected me because I’ve never seen people starving before. It was so sad. It really has stuck with me.”

Peppers said God showed her “how He will answer prayers. We prayed for weeks before this trip, and we prayed constantly while we were there. And just watching our prayers being answered above and beyond what we asked was one of the most amazing parts of the trip.”

Schillinger said, “I have been a Christian for almost my whole life, but I have never straight-up shared the gospel with someone. Laying out what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross was something that truly is indescribable.”

“This trip was the culmination of all that we want to do and see in our students-athletes,” said David McDowell, head women’s soccer coach. “We focus throughout the school year on discipleship while stressing the importance of community service and impacting people’s lives while trying also to balance our sport, academics and everything else that goes along with being a college student-athlete. But for two weeks, we were removed from our comfort zones and were able to have this singular focus on specifically sharing Christ with all those we met.”

Sanders said that several of the students who had never led anyone to Christ “experienced the joy of sharing the gospel and seeing people receive Christ as their Savior. Observing this incredible response to the gospel was a life changing experience for us.”

“After serving with these students in Rwanda,” he continued, “I believe that Jesus Christ is raising up a new generation of believers who want to do whatever it takes to further the gospel among all peoples. And I want to do whatever I can to help these students fulfill the Great Commission in their generation.”



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