Four OBU faculty members traveled to India July 5-17 to share the Gospel and seek opportunities for future GO trips. The group witnessed firsthand physical and spiritual poverty and used every opportunity to share the hope and healing Jesus offers.
Overflowing with both physical and spiritual needs, India is in need of Christians willing to become the hands and feet of Jesus and share the good news of Christ. The main purpose of the trip was to form relationships with people in Hyderabad, India, while exploring opportunities for future GO trips. Faculty members who participated included Dr. Pam Robinson, associate provost and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; Dr. Sarah Marsh, assistant professor of mathematics; Dr. Galen Jones, assistant professor of church planting; and Dr. Joe Rawdon, assistant professor of nursing.
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.
Hyderabad, an urban city in southern India, has over 7 million citizens, making it the fourth largest city in India. Although comparable in size to New York City, the group regularly saw goats, dogs, water buffalo and other animals roaming the streets.
"You walk along the street and see a modern looking Ralph Lauren store and right next to it is a small market store selling mangos," Robinson said. "The need is great in India. They hunger for food, for physical needs to be met, and for the gospel."
The group spent their first day visiting nearby villages. At the first village, the team ate lunch and worshiped with a local church. After lunch, Jones baptized six new believers in a nearby waterhole. Both he and the church were excited about these new brothers and sisters in Christ.
"The opportunity for disciple-making and evangelism [in India] is off the charts," he said.
At the villages and churches, the OBU group took turns sharing Bible stories and brief messages. Robinson said the most rewarding part of the trip was spending time with the local people.
"It is humbling to say the least - providing hope in Christ [for the villagers] and seeing pure joy as members of the church worshiped the Father," Robinson said in a daily update she sent out while in India. "We pray for healing, for strength, for hope, for His love to shine upon them," Robinson said.
The group spent time in local slums, schools and hospitals, teaching lessons and sharing the good news. "We spent brief periods of time in a wide variety of venues including schools, rural churches, hospitals and more, to try to get to know the people and their needs more completely," Marsh said. "It is our prayer that future ministry teams can grow out of our experiences."
The short time spent in the slums was what they had anxiously awaited, yet dreaded at the same time. "We were awaiting the opportunity to share, but dreading the sadness for the people," Robinson said. "The children are hungry for attention, for love, for food. They loved when we took their hand and wanted to kiss our cheeks."
A local minister's wife leads a weekly ministry in the slums, reaching out to the poverty-stricken children. Over 70 children, ages 3-12, gather each week to sing, memorize scripture and hear Bible stories. The OBU group was overwhelmed by their needs and changed by the desperation seen in their young faces.
"We can never meet all the needs in the world. We can only make a difference one person at a time," Robinson said. "We need to see need up close and personal to be impacted. One can turn off the children on television who beg for attention. It is much more difficult to turn off the vision of real children with the same hungry faces." Robinson hopes to see OBU students and faculty return to Hyderabad in the future to minister to the area.
For Jones, his journey to India was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. For years he longed to reach the Indian masses, knowing there was a great need to share the Gospel and bring encouragement to fellow believers.
"The part of India that captured my heart was ministering to and with the pastors and sweet, sweet people in the villages," he said. "There is a great need to equip them in such a way so that they will be able to reach one of the largest people groups in the world."
As the group journeyed home, they were burdened by the needs they saw in India. "We leave here with much in our hearts and in our minds," Robinson said. "Everywhere we visited, there was need. Some are already asking if we are going to return. This is a consequence of scoping out potential areas of service. Each place has a great need."
Marsh looks forward to seeing OBU students and faculty return to India on future GO trips and encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to serve internationally.
"I think that GO trips are an incredible avenue for students to learn more about the world and to find the place of service God has for them in it," Marsh said. "I know that not all students are able to go, but for those that do, I believe it is an invaluable experience in faith and culture."
Learn more about Global Outreach Trips on OBU's website, or call (405) 275-2850.