Students, sponsors experience changed lives after mission to Kenya

The world looks a little different these days for Lindsey King, a sophomore at Wayland Baptist University. And the change has nothing to do with her eyes.

King was one of 13 students from Wayland who joined Baptist Student Ministries Director Donnie Brown and science professor Dr. Vaughn Ross on a three-week mission trip to Kenya during July. During that time, the group did some construction projects at Nyeri Baptist High School, worked in several orphanages in the Nairobi area and did evangelistic work with members of the Samburu tribe in the village of Marala.

Students were exposed to some activities they had likely never done, like building a concrete sidewalk at the high school. Other activities, like a friendly game of basketball or hugging on orphaned children, came naturally. Either way, the trip made a huge impact, and King said she felt God affirmed her call to children's ministry.

"Overall, I feel like for the entire group, the trip gave us more of a world view. We've never seen anything from any other point of view than American," said King, a native of Amarillo. "And we learned that there really is such a thing as an unreached people group. They've literally never heard the gospel before."

King said she was struck by the poverty of many people the group encountered, yet their spirit impressed her.

"There's something they have that we don't: The kids have such a hunger to know," she said. "When they know, they're excited about it and joyful. They are satisfied with so little. Being over there made me realize what a need there is over here."

For the most part, the student missionaries worked alongside missionaries currently serving in Kenya on projects that were fairly well established. But students also got a glimpse of new efforts during the last week of the venture, when they broke into small groups led by missionaries and shared their faith door-to-door to the Samburu, considered an unreached people group in Africa.

"That's where I really saw us making a difference," King said. "In the half hour we did that, we visited three huts and five people were saved. At one hut, I just started talking about my testimony, not really knowing what to say, and the lady's face lit up and she started clapping. The eagerness just blew me away."

All total, the group saw two students at the high school accept salvation, while at least 20 in the village of Marala came to know Christ.

The experience also had an impact on sophomore Adam Gibbs, a native of Canyon. Knowing ahead of time that he's been called to foreign missions, Gibbs said witnessing among the Samburu affirmed that call.

"There are so many people out there who haven't heard and just don't know," he said, adding that he'd like to work with unreached people groups more in the future.

Gibbs also said visits to the orphanages and worship at the Baptist high school made an impression on him.

"It really hit me when we went to help out at an orphanage, seeing the kids that were dying of AIDS and the struggles they go through. It really changed my perspective on whatever suffering I end up going through," he said. "I also enjoyed the worship meetings at the school. being in a room with several hundred African high school students, with us all worshipping the same God. It kind of reaffirmed my feelings that I am called to go overseas."

According to Brown, the students benefited from being exposed to a different culture and have returned with a new view.

"They realized how blessed they were to be Americans and on the flip side, how much we waste and take our freedom and abundance for granted," he said. "Their view of God was stretched, too, because they had to process all the extreme poverty and extreme wealth in the world, yet we have the same Gospel. That caused a deeper compassion for those in need and a desire to see people come to Christ."

Brown said working with the orphans made a great impact on him as well. The group made frames out of tongue depressors and took the kids' pictures with a Polaroid, presenting the finished product to the orphans.

"The kids were so excited, because many of them had never had their picture taken before," he recalled. "Just to see the smiles and the little bit of happiness we were able to bring those kids was neat."

Brown also said he was impressed by how God put the students together for the trip, each with different talents and strengths that all seemed to be utilized during the trip.

"Some really got into the evangelism and going door-to-door with the missionaries, and some really got into working with the orphans," he said. "The students all went above and beyond what was asked of them."

Brown is confident the students' exposure to missions in Africa will benefit them for years to come and will spill into the Wayland campus when they return. Specifically, he said, the students have an increased desire to reach others for Christ, and they have a renewed burden for the children of missionaries.

Gibbs said the culture wasn't much of a barrier, since many of the children learn and speak English regularly. The group also benefited from classes during the spring, which introduced them to much of the culture and customs, as well as some of the food. Ross and his wife Johnene, former missionaries to the area, were helpful in sharing culture and a bit of the native language before the trip.

Brown credited much of the trip's success to churches and individuals who donated money and provided prayer support for the students, who each had to raise their own funds for the trip.

"Their investment has made an eternal difference in the lives of our students and of others," he said.

Others participating in the Kenya trip included Geoffrey Brocato, Mike Smith, Kaci Risser, Dawn Blanton, Donna Gleason, Francis Blair, Jodi Henderson, Crystal Morton, Krysta Williams, Zack Greer and Penny Greer