September 4, 2007
Better understanding and deeper friendships highlighted the experiences of two teams of Oklahoma Baptist University who worked in the Middle East and North Africa.
GO Trips, organized by OBU’s Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach, are designed to provide hands-on field experience related to missions.
Three students, along with M.W., coordinator for the Willis Center for Global Outreach, and his wife A. taught English in the Middle East.
“Our team of five people taught English at a private institution to a total of 125 people whose ages ranged from teens to 40-years-old,” said M.W.
While teaching English was the focus of the class, the team also was able to share more about why they were there.
“Two summers ago, an American team was not allowed to discuss religion at this institute. Last summer, a team from OBU received 15 minutes to share their beliefs in class,” said M.W. “This summer, we had a two-hour class period to share our faith.”
He said because the Middle East culture is more conservative and traditional, students worked to understand the people.
“I discovered more about who Middle Eastern people really are, how they think, and why their culture is what it is,” said an OBU student. “I hope to show the hospitality and care to complete strangers like they did for me and my friends.”
“Many of my female students seemed very shy, so it took just a little bit more before I could get them to come out of their shells a little bit,” said another OBU student. “It’s been great to see it reaffirmed to me that they aren’t really all that different from me. They have the same struggles and concerns in life that I do.”
Six other OBU students served North Africa for six weeks, teaching language classes and conducting sports camps.
“We participated in a cultural exchange,” said an OBU student who participated on the trip. “It wasn’t just to convert. It was an exchange of cultures and we learned more about their everyday lives.”
Apart from language classes at the English institute, the team enjoyed the cultural experiences their North American friends shared with them.
“Language is a huge barrier on the women’s side of things, but has done a great thing to bring humor into both cultures as we stumble over our bits of Arabic, English and French,” said on OBU team member. “It has been wonderful to gain new cross cultural experiences.”
The modest and conservative Muslim culture helped challenge the students to adapt and engage in the North African way of life.
“Fortunately, this culture emphasizes groups more than individuality. This allows us to spend more time with more people,” said an OBU student. “The more friends that I get to spend time with means the more I get to learn about them and share with them my beliefs. Our friends were extremely hospitable to us and the conversations seemed to get more and more in-depth.”