In late May, six students and one faculty member from OBU journeyed to Cameroon expecting to bring news of Jesus Christ to the nationals, but soon discovered they were sent to bring encouragement to local Christians.
Each year, dozens of students, faculty and staff take Global Outreach (GO) Trips which affirm OBU's mission to transform lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world and live worthy of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ. OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach mobilizes, trains and oversees GO Trips.
The team's mentor, Dr. Yvonne Mbote, assistant professor of chemistry at OBU, was familiar with the culture and its people. She spent seven years as an assistant professor at the University of Buea in Cameroon. Students participating in the trip included Haley Nickerson, Thayamie Cortes, Jennifer Land, Jacklynn Williams, Tanner Messer and Hannah Madison.
The group stayed in Buea, the capitol of the southwest region of Cameroon. The city is located on the eastern slopes of Mount Cameroon, one of the largest active volcanoes in Africa. The team enjoyed the scenery of Africa and the breathtaking view of the volcano.
"Our first ride through town showed us gorgeous sights of greenery, banana trees, brightly colored houses, dirt roads filled with women carrying anything you can think of on their heads, children walking to school and people selling various fruits along the sides of the road," said Jennifer Land, a junior nursing major from Denton, Texas.
The western area of Cameroon is heavily Christian, and Land said she was amazed and inspired by the faith of local believers and how they unashamedly and outwardly praised Jesus.
"Our experience identifies much with Paul's travels in the New Testament, when he purposefully set out on certain occasions to encourage the churches," said Land. "The need of the people in Cameroon, and the purpose of our trip was to create long-term relationships, share personal testimonies and hopefully offer encouragement to a hardworking and lovely people,"
For Land, her trip to Cameroon was nothing like she expected. "I have traveled much in my life, but my first night [in Cameroon] was the largest culture shock I have ever experienced," Land said.
She remembers seeing thrown-together buildings made of wood and make-shift siding, deserted shacks and various military checkpoints. "My heart sunk as we traveled in the middle of the night along the roads of Cameroon from Doula Airport to our home in Buea, where we were staying for the next three weeks," she said. "I remember being frightened, exhausted, shocked and confused at why the Lord had brought me to such a place."
Land's fears were quickly replaced with peace as she and her team began meeting the locals and seeing the work the Lord was doing in the surrounding villages.
Hannah Madison, a junior graphic design major from Lawton, Oklahoma, fell in love with the beautiful people and scenery of Africa. "The people of Cameroon are very welcoming," she said. "They always wanted to talk to us and everywhere we went they would smile while waving at us."
The OBU group spent their first week volunteering at a hospital. The group shadowed student nurses, helped patients and built relationships with the doctors, nurses and patients.
While working at the hospital, the students were given opportunities to pray with patients.
"We saw the Lord move in people in a different way than you normally see," Madison said.
The rest of their trip was spent visiting orphanages, worshipping in several local churches, and attending classes at the University of Buea. While at the churches, the students shared their testimonies and short messages of encouragement with the congregation.
For Land, one of the most rewarding parts of the trip was seeing how faithful the believers were in tithing. "Even those that don't have much give a little, because they see that the church and God's people is where their treasure lies," Land said.
Jacklynn Williams felt the biggest reward came from the personal lessons she learned while serving in Cameroon. "I learned about myself and knowing that God can use me everywhere, even for little things like putting a smile on someone's face," said Williams, a junior psychology major.
The students were grateful for the opportunity to serve internationally, and their lives were changed by the experience.
"To understand and have my eyes opened to how different and dynamic God's world is, is a priceless gift I cannot fully explain," Land said. "Our God is larger than I can ever fathom, He is greater than I presently realize, and the more I travel the bigger He becomes."