Missions impacts Wayland sophomore through native language 

August 30, 2010

PLAINVIEW – Angela Lichtie may never have imagined the power that her native language of English could have, especially in eternal terms. But it was the language that Lichtie has spoken her entire life that was her ticket to opening conversations about much more than just sports or foods.

Lichtie, a sophomore religion major with missions emphasis at Wayland Baptist University, spent a month of her summer in a nation in the former Soviet Union through I Go Global. The exact location is being withheld for safety purposes as some countries are not open to foreign missionaries. 

Lichtie said she’s long enjoyed traveling, languages and meeting new people, but she wanted to travel somewhere and really make a difference. She learned of the opportunities for overseas mission work in the summer of 2009, just before she came to Wayland as a freshman. At the time, she applied for a trip to Ethiopia and was accepted, then came to WBU and began her college journey, starting as a music major and then switching to religious education.

But along the way, the original trip changed as the organization said things in Ethiopia were not working out. She wasn’t sure where she’d be going in the coming summer, but she still worked to raise her funds and prepare for wherever God had in mind.

“I didn’t know for three months where I would be going, but then in February we heard that we would be going to (Asia),” she said, noting that she immediately began researching the country and its people. “I didn’t even know where that was.”

When the summer finally arrived, Lichtie and her team of 12 others from around the U.S. traveled to Dallas for a three-day “base camp” to prepare for the mission, then took the 17-hour journey to the capital city. The group spent three days of language and culture training there, then took a 22-hour train ride to a city of 300,000 where they would be working for three more weeks. 

While there, the group’s primary emphasis was relationship building and evangelism, mostly through the use of English language clubs and lessons. The group divided into three levels depending on the speakers’ proficiency in English, and they spent time working on parts of speech and idioms as well as just practicing English conversation.

“We took that very seriously because that was meeting a real need for the people,” Lichtie said. “A lot of them just wanted to practice their English since they don’t have a lot of chances to do that.”

In the mornings, the group prayer-walked parts of the city, paying special attention to the mosques and the heavily frequented areas such as libraries and parks. In the afternoons, they had a private worship time, then time to prepare for their classes and lessons before hitting the road to meet folks and recruit.

Lichtie said the group really didn’t do any active promotion of their services through traditional means like flyers because they did not want to draw attention to the mission work in a nation that can be untrusting of visitors. They found their class participants mostly by going to the mall and just meeting people and inviting them. Their methods worked, and they ended up with 47 students. 

The beginner groups did mostly vocabulary work and conversational work, focusing a lot on prepositional phrases. The more advanced groups played word games and focused on idioms and English grammar rules. Lichtie said the lessons usually dealt with common themes like food, movies, books and other pop culture areas, but they often swung into topics like religion and faith traditions.

“We made many friends and got to hear a lot about their faith, and we tried to share as much as we could about the Bible and spiritual gifts and the Body of Christ,” she said.

In the evenings, the group had time to eat dinner and visit with their students, taking care to invite them out to eat or to local activities. On weekends, they took students to parks to play ultimate Frisbee or soccer and have more time for conversation. Along the way, Lichtie said the English classes opened plenty of doors for conversations about faith and the group had many opportunities to share the Gospel.

Lichtie said the work was important to her because out of that large city, only about 30-40 are Christians. The few who do are often disowned by their families, so their small house church is a major source of support.

"They believe if you’re born (a native citizen), you’re born a Muslim, and that’s hard to convince them otherwise,” she said. “They find it hard to accept salvation because it’s like losing their cultural identity. The believers’ faith there was so strong. But that’s all they have.” 

One girl in particular grew close to the group, even spending one night in the apartment with the seven American girls. Lichtie said though the girl listened intently and had many questions about Christianity and the faith traditions of the Americans, she was afraid to make that final commitment.

“It was a whole trip of planting seeds to people who have never heard the Gospel,” Lichtie said, noting that coming back to school in the Bible belt was an adjustment. “It didn’t seem fair to be coming back here with churches on every corner.”

The trip confirmed for Lichtie that her missions interest was a full-blown passion, and she immediately changed her major to religion with a missions emphasis upon returning home. She feels called back to the same region and hopes to return next summer. The experience changed more than her major, though.

“The trip really affected my mindset. We had such a daily purpose there; we knew we had to tell them now because we were only there so long,” she said. “I’m trying to transfer my mindset to my life here and trying to have a missional mindset at Wayland, being more deliberate and bold with my faith.”

Lichtie said she also learned the power of prayer-walking to grow her faith and her focus and plans to bring that back to the Wayland campus as well.