Published February 2, 2006
ROME — Overcoming American stereotypes was one hurdle David Roland knew his group would have to clear on its recent mission trip to Africa.
“Typically, [citizens of the country] would equate being a Christian with images on American TV and movies,” said Roland, campus minister for the Baptist Student Union at Shorter College. “Our job was to build relationships with people.”
Shorter’s BSU was one of several to take mission trips during the Christmas Break. Warren Skinner, a consultant with Collegiate Ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention, said an estimated 144 BSU students participated in missions after fall finals and prior to the start of spring semester.
“Serving during Christmas break is not only about redeeming the time that is available to students,” said Skinner. “It is also the perfect entrée for speaking about Christ and His coming into the world.”
In addition to the foreign trip, a group from Shorter also traveled to inner-city Atlanta, where members worked with the homeless and poor.
David Baker, a student from First Baptist Peachtree City who went to Africa, said the impact of relationship-building is one he plans to carry to his campus.
“It seems as though I have been taught to go out and invite my friends to church and all of these youth events, but never realized people aren’t going to listen to you if you do not build relationships with them,” he stated. “Many times I keep myself distant from the things of the world because I am afraid of the consequences of being part of them. In reality, I should have no fear because I am found in Christ.”
Amy Smith, a member of Snow Springs Baptist Church in Adairsville, agreed.
“A memorable moment came when our translator told me how he enjoyed being with our team,” said Smith, who has also participated in international mission trips in Mexico and Uruguay. “He told me [interpreters] had never been able to build relationships with other teams visiting the city, but ours was willing to open our hearts to them.”
Overseas, team members helped lead in basketball camps and build relationships with their translators, leaving the day after Christmas and not arriving home until Jan. 6.
“We had at least six translators at each site,” said Roland. “We would also become acquainted with adults working around the camps. Meals would be shared in their homes, and that was where we would share our faith.”
After visiting with one family, Roland related how a student’s request during a prayer could have been a shock, but was actually well-received.
“One student prayed that one family would have a personal relationship with God. It was in a group setting and through an interpreter. That was pretty bold, but they weren’t taken aback.
“At another time, one of the translators said how he liked the American group very much. He referred to us as ‘near’ or as someone he felt very close to and had connected to.”
Roland’s group gave away two New Testaments to the translators, who were college students as well. He said that since returning to the states contact has been maintained via email with friends made on the trip.
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