ETBU Students Travel to Ethiopia For History of Christianity in Africa Classby Mike Midkiff
MARSHALL, Texas (7/15/13)- Traveling to Ethiopia to take a college class might seem strange for some, but to the nine East Texas Baptist University students in Dr. Elijah Brown’s History of Christianity in Africa class it was a learning opportunity of a lifetime. ETBU students spent four weeks at the beginning of the summer in Ethiopia attending classes, worship services and ministering to others.
The first two weeks were spent in Addis Abba. ETBU students were divided into two’s and three’s staying with a local host home. "ETBU students would travel Monday-Friday alongside their Ethiopian host home student to class where they spent three hours with other students at Bright Hope Theological College (BHTC),” said Dr. Brown, ETBU Assistant Professor of Religion.
"Everyday was a new cultural experience,” said ETBU religion major Krystin Jurries of Burleson. "By staying with Ethiopian families we were able to see the way they live daily, ride public transit, and how they minister in their context.”
The jointly attended course at BHTC, covered the rise and fall of Christianity in North Africa and the emergence of contemporary sub-Saharan African Christianity as one of the most important developments in world Christianity. "The American and Ethiopian students also had times for daily prayer sessions focusing on different African countries and joint class presentations over a key African Christian leader, in addition to lectures and a final exam,” said Dr. Brown.
"To study the history of Christianity in Africa while being in Africa was surreal. It was incredible to study side-by-side with Ethiopians, truly an engaging and humbling time learning of Africans who devoted their lives to the Gospel, spreading Christianity across their continent and shaping our faith even to this day,” added Jurries.
Jonathan Manon, a sophomore religion student from Henderson, said, "I went with an open mind because I did not know what to expect. Everything I experienced grew me in a whole new way.”
"My host, Emebet, challenged me, Ashley Pollard and Courtney Gallegly, regularly on how to pray for Ethiopia’s specific needs,” shared Jurries.
One unexpected opportunity to minister came during the student’s time while in Addis Abba. "Almost all students struggle with how we as Christians ought to respond to the endemic poverty found in Ethiopia,” reflected Dr. Brown. "One of the most moving moments of the trip was when several students began inviting street children, who happened to be passing by, to join our group.”
The interaction with the street children moved the students to purchase food and shoes for some of the children. Then, the ETBU group began to invite these children for a special meal to occur the next day prepared just for them. A dozen street children came to the evening celebration where they played games, enjoyed a meal, and heard about the love of Jesus.
"Some of these street children asked for a Bible and for an opportunity to attend church. This meal was unplanned prior to the trip and was a direct outgrowth of our students desire to respond and live like Christ in the midst of the challenging situation found in Addis Abba,” said Dr. Brown.
During the third week in country, the ETBU team went to Bichena, a small community of 30,000 people. The community is predominately Muslim with about one percent of the population evangelical Christians. The team partnered with Miskana Yesu (Praise Jesus) church to host a weeklong Kids Club attended by approximately 250 children. While in Binchena, the team stayed at the church compound preparing and cooking their own food and slept in concrete Sunday School classrooms.
The Kids Club included singing, a Bible study, crafts, recreation, and health education, all of which was led by ETBU students.
"The most rewarding experience for me was getting to love on the little ones and share with them the love that Christ has showed me,” said Manon. "The children of Ethiopia are super precious.”
Dr. Brown said of the group’s time in Binchena, "Though it was challenging to spend a week in an environment where there was no shower and where several students experienced a 36-hour virus, in the end it was a blessing to partner with a local church in sharing the love of Jesus to several hundred children.”
The last week in Ethiopia was spent traveling to three sites of historical importance. First, to the Blue Niles Waterfall located near the source of the Nile River and one of Africa’s largest falls; then to Gonder touring a complex housing half a dozen castles, and finally, to the ancient city of Lalibela.
While in Lalibela, the students visited 11 rock-hewn churches constructed in the 12th century. "These churches are dug into the ground 30 feet and have housed Orthodox worship services continuously for approximately 800 years,” said Dr. Brown.
"Spiritually, a number of our students reflected that this trip confirmed God’s call on their life to serve in missions. Many, including myself, also reflected on how our prayer lives had been challenged and reinvigorated by the commitment to prayer expressed by many Ethiopian Christians,” said Dr. Brown. "For example, on each of the three Sunday’s we were present, members of the local church would arrive at the church an hour before the service began to spend time in joint prayer for the church and the community.”
Other ETBU students who experienced Ethiopia during the May term class were Kristian Barnaby, Allyson Dahlberg, Lucy Elston, Brian Jones, and Mikayla Lowe. ETBU Director of the Great Commission Center Dr. Melody Maxwell was also with the students and Dr. Brown in Ethiopia, joining them shortly after they had arrived.