For some, the journey halfway around the world was a new experience. For others, the voyage reacquainted them with Christian believers in southern Africa. But for all eight Oklahoma Baptist University representatives, a recent Global Outreach Trip to Zambia highlighted how God is at work around the world -- and how believers can join Him in that work.
Seven OBU students and one staff member traveled to Zambia May 28-June 25 with the dual purpose of verbally sharing the Christian Gospel message with nationals and villages, as well as providing fellowship to missionary personnel who serve through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The OBU team worked alongside IMB missionaries Blake and Dawnya Kimbrough, who live and minister full-time in Zambia with their four children: Isabel, Abigail, Isaac and Amos.
Led by Kimbrough, the team made trips to four Zambian villages -- Chilanga, Tuta, Kasyema and Nsalamba -- to share the truth of the Gospel message with nationals who lived there. At times, the team received warm welcomes from Christian believers. Other times, the Zambians were leery of the American visitors, even believing they were Satanists.
"The dust kicked up as we turned into the entrance of the village where we would spend the first few nights of camping," OBU student Bethany Miles wrote in a blog describing the team's visit to Chilanga village. "Immediately, we were greeted with singing and dancing of the people who lived in the village. Their voices harmonized to make beautiful music, and their movements communicated an excitement at our arrival. … Handshakes and hugs followed as if we had been friends for years."
Miles, a senior English education major from Stillwater, Okla., said the team and the villagers worshipped together around a campfire beneath the night sky. Above, she spotted the Southern Cross constellation. At that moment, she felt unified with the Christian believers who live in Africa.
"This community who had only met us a few hours before had welcomed us with open arms and invited us to worship the Father together," she wrote. "Though we could not speak the same language, we shared the same love for the Father and the same gratitude for how he transformed our lives."
The next two days, the team traveled to Tuta village to share the Gospel. Divided into groups, the students walked from house to house, meeting men and women who had never heard about Jesus Christ. Working with translators, the students sat and talked with people who would listen.
"As we walked along the road back, returning to our campsite on the second day, I was struck with the realization that so many people have lived their entire life without hearing the Good News, and my heart broke for them," Miles said.
For OBU student Tim Thomsen, the trip continued a journey he began last year, both physically and spiritually, as he returned to greet friends he met the previous summer on a similar mission. He rekindled relationships with others interested in sharing the truth of the Gospel to their peers.
"There is something enjoyable about being around Zambians," said Thomsen, a senior exercise and sports science major from Midwest City, Okla. "They may not have a lot of 'stuff' or get to travel many places, but they love to smile and laugh and build relationships. Everything is relational. You must build relations in order to impact an individual, a family, a community, a province, a country or the world for the glory of God."
Missionary Blake Kimbrough exhibited relationships in action as the team arrived at the Chilanga village chief's house to visit. The chief's wife, Miriam, told Kimbrough a local woman needed transport to the hospital in Isoka -- immediately -- to give birth. The missionary informed the team their plans had changed for the day. They piled back into the missionary's vehicle along with the mother-to-be and the chief's wife for the 15-minute drive to the hospital. There, the mother gave birth to a baby boy, and scarcely an hour later the team was back on its way to Chilanga village.
"On our way back we sang praise songs in Bemba, and Miriam shared with this young mother that the Father loves her," said Dayla Rowland, associate student minister at OBU who made the return-trip to Zambia as the team's leader. Rowland said the baby was named Kimbrough after the missionary who drove his mother to the hospital.
"Please lift up this baby and his mother" Rowland said, requesting prayer for the young family. "There is such a high mortality rate in the first year of life here in Africa. Also lift up this mother and baby that they might come to know the Father."
People such as Baby Kimbrough's mother, who have never heard a Gospel witness, are the impetus for the teams that go out around the world from OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach. The center offers students, faculty and staff options to engage firsthand in missions work locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Dozens in the OBU community take advantage of the trips, going with the intention of serving others; but often they return to testify they received the bigger blessing, having grown closer to God and making unforgettable acquaintances with others.
"People need to hear the Good News -- the Truth, the Gospel -- no matter where their residence is," Thomsen said. "GO Trips can be an opportunity to share with others and also to grow and challenge a person in his or her faith. It is an opportunity to show other cultures … that there is something different about being a Christian."
For Miles, the most rewarding part of the trip was seeing how the Christians in Chilanga and Isoka were excited and encouraged by the team's visit.
"Not only is it important that students experience and learn about a different culture, it is also important that students recognize and appreciate God's heart for all people," Miles said. "Going on a GO Trip really opened my eyes to the work that God is doing on a global scale, and I feel incredibly blessed that I could be a part of that work."
Read a detailed account of the team's trip to Zambia.