“Eye opening,” is the sentiment of 12 East Texas Baptist University students who experienced a 10-day mission trip to Ethiopia during the Christmas break. The long journey from campus to Bona, a small village in southern Ethiopia, was the first ETBU student trip to the area. The final leg of the journey to arrive in Bona was a five hour bus trip, with the last four traveled on a very bumpy, dirt road. The whole ministry trip had over 90 hours of travel.
ETBU Assistant Professor of Religion Dr. Elijah Brown, along with his wife, Amy, accompanied the team of students to Ethiopia. Dr. Brown said it is difficult to put into words the different lifestyles that one finds in the various places of the world.
So what is Ethiopia like, especially for a small village of 5,000 such as Bona?
“On the Sunday the students were in Bona, they visited a family that lives in a small one- room hut,” shared Dr. Brown. “There was very little separation between the parents and the six children. The kitchen area consists of a fire to cook over. At night, the family brings their cows inside the hut with them. Can you imagine sleeping at night in that kind of environment?”
“This was my first trip overseas,” said Breann Whitaker, a sophomore from Caddo Mills. “It was really eye opening because, when compared to the possessions that most college students have, the Ethiopians have very little. They are not worried about material things. I thought I was going to be very sad while I was there, but their happiness is really contagious.”
“The people of Ethiopia are so welcoming, warm, joyful, and thoughtful,” added senior Jordan Langford of Wellington. “Our main objective while in Ethiopia was to bring honor to God,” said Alisa Roberts, senior from Sherman.
“On the trip, we did a VBS at the Bright Hope Buckner School in Bona for about 400 children. We split in different groups, using a rotation of Bible study, crafts, recreation, and health stations,” said sophomore Onisha Bradshaw of Garland. “I was on the crafts team and it was amazing seeing little children using a crayon for the first time.”
During the Bible study time, the ETBU students used translators to help them teach through the first 11 chapters of Genesis. “One day while I was in the middle of teaching about Adam and Eve, so many distractions started happening,” said Lucy Elston, a junior from Mansfield. “The children were talking, looking out the window, and the teacher’s cell phone literally went off three times.”
Elston had prayed before the trip that the children would have an understanding to the truths being taught. As the distractions were occurring Elston asked silently, “God, why so many distractions? I am trying to teach Your Word.”
“I realized something, in our teaching we were proclaiming some serious truth, and the enemy was trying to thwart its purpose in the lives of the children by distracting them,” continued Elston. “God confirmed my request when He made me realize these things. I began to feel so empowered and continued teaching with even more boldness that drowned out the cries of the enemy.”
“The principal at the school, who also served as one our translators, said he was so intrigued by the health teaching because it was new to him,” said freshman Logan Moree of Paris. The health education station taught the children how to boil their water to make it clean, brush their teeth, wash their hands, and use the restroom and dispose waste correctly.
“The principal said he had plans of teaching the same material to the families of his students we taught. It just warmed my heart that simple health techniques that we practice in America and take for granted, could potentially save lives,” added Moree.
The group did other evangelistic work by showing the “Jesus Video,” one evening at a local Christian church. “There were people just crying and weeping openly as they watched how Jesus was being treated,” said Langford. “I remember one woman distinctly, during the scene when the soldiers were beating Jesus in the court. The woman and myself caught eyes as she was holding her baby so tight, rocking back and forth, just crying. That emotion was so real.”
The team split up on Sunday while in Bona, allowing each group to attend different churches. Dr. Brown was invited to preach at one church and freshman Calvin Williams preached his first ever sermon at the other.
“What a blessing to partner with the churches that are there. The church within Ethiopia is growing at a rapid pace. It is an exciting time to go to a place and see that Christianity is really on the move,” said Dr. Brown.
“One of the highlights for many of the students that has been shared with me, was the opportunity we had on Sunday morning to participate in a robust worship service,” said Dr. Brown.
Roberts said, reflecting back on her Sunday attending church in Bona, “I will never forget the experience. During the worship time, the congregation literally jumped and danced in praise of Jesus. At that moment, it hit me that we were all part of the body of Christ and even though I could not understand them, we were worshipping the same Jesus. And some day in heaven we will be united together in praise of the Lamb!”
“I say frequently, you have not really worshipped until you have worshipped in Africa,” added Dr. Brown.
The team also participated in a high school exchange with approximately 25 students. The cultural exchange allowed for a time of relationship building and for each group to visit about their culture, customs, and holidays.
Before leaving the country, time in the capital city of Addis Ababa allowed the ETBU students to tour the offices of Bright Hope, including their baby and children’s orphanage. They also toured Addadi Maryan Church, which is a rock hewn-church built in the 12th-14th centuries and still in use today.
“The people of Ethiopia are so different than me and live halfway around the world from the ETBU campus, yet we believe in the same God. God is doing so much in the country of Ethiopia,” concluded Elston.