August 1, 2012
A team of seven OBU students recently journeyed to Uganda, in the geographical heart of Africa, to share their faith in Jesus Christ and lead Vacation Bible Schools both in an island village on Lake Victoria and in the vast slums of Kampala, the capital city. By the end of the team’s mission trip, 62 Ugandans had discovered a new relationship with Jesus.
The country of Uganda, which sits on the equator, is home to a veritable melting pot of ethnic groups and cultures. The landlocked country, roughly the size of the State of Oregon, boasts a population of more than 35 million people – many who do not have a personal relationship with Christ.
For team leader Ben Buchanan, a 2012 OBU graduate from Shawnee, Okla., the May 13-June 4 experience was a return trip to a land and people he served for six weeks last summer. For others, such as OBU student Caitlyn Yount, the trip was a bold step of obedience into a great unknown.
OBU’s mission compels students to integrate faith with all areas of knowledge and to engage a diverse world. More than 60 OBU students, faculty and staff embarked on Global Outreach (GO) Trips during the summer 2012 semester, sharing their faith around the globe under the leadership of Dr. Joy Turner, director of global mobilization. Turner enlisted Buchanan to lead a GO Trip team to Uganda. Although he had served in Africa the year before, he encountered new personal frontier on the recent trip.
“The most challenging part of my trip was preparing a sermon and preaching for the first time ever,” said Buchanan, who earned a degree in pre-allied health with a minor in cross-cultural ministry. “It was kind of a daunting task, preparing a sermon and preaching at a church overseas for the first time.”
Buchanan said preachers in Uganda typically speak for 45 minutes to an hour, a task outside his comfort zone. With God’s help and the encouragement of the congregation, he successfully preached on three Sundays. Buchanan said the most rewarding part of his trip, though, was the opportunity to share his faith with people on the island in Lake Victoria and in Kampala’s slums.
“We got to talk to Catholics, Muslims, Christians, people who believed in African traditional religion and people who had never heard of God before,” he said. “I love evangelizing, and it is such a blessing to be a part of God’s work.”
Yount, a senior physical therapy major from Shawnee, said she has felt God leading her to participate in a GO Trip since her sophomore year, but she was derailed by class and work schedules. Turner helped her realize she could do all three: go to Africa on mission, take a class she needs to graduate and work a summer job.
“The timing could not have been more perfect, and I just felt a sense of peace about going,” Yount said.
The team in Uganda sensed God prepared the way for a successful trip, providing guidance by Southern Baptist representatives who live and work on the mission field. Yount discovered that with a simple step of obedience to God’s leadership, she was able to overcome a fear of evangelism – sharing her personal faith one-on-one with others.
“I have never evangelized door-to-door, prayed with people to receive Christ, (or) given my testimony in front of a lot of people … but I was able to do all those things on the island,” Yount said. “Before we left for the trip, I made excuses saying that evangelism wasn’t my spiritual gift; but after I was there, I was forced to step out of my comfort zone.
“Since I was willing, God used me and the rest of the team in amazing ways. We were able to lead 62 people to Christ that week alone, and I will remember that week for the rest of my life.”
Yount said she learned to discount the excuses of schedules, finances and fear which could keep her from engaging in future mission endeavors. Rather than focusing on excuses of why not to go, Buchanan noted the benefits of participating in a GO Trip.
“Missions is one of the biblical mandates, whether it be here in the U.S. or overseas,” he said. “It is great experience to be able to talk with people about the Bible, God and what you believe. It is also a blessing to be able to be one of God’s ambassadors, sharing the Word boldly as we are called to. Traveling overseas is a great cultural experience as well which can help broaden your worldview.”
Just as their classmates have experienced on other summer GO Trips across the globe, the OBU team set out to change lives in Uganda. While successful in their missions ventures, they also returned home with changed lives themselves.
To learn more about the Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach, click here.