Olivet students learn about service and cooperation in South Africa

This Missions In Action team saw how God is at work, no matter where you are.

September 6, 2018 Uncategorized

When a group of 14 Olivet Nazarene University students and alumni shares a “first” together, great things happen. In summer 2018, these group members shared their first Missions In Action (M.I.A.) trip.

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Led by faculty sponsor Dr. Denise Anderson and her husband, Rev. Phil Anderson, they traveled to serve in South Africa. Denise is a professor in Olivet’s Department of Social Work and Criminal Justice. Phil is an adjunct professor in Olivet’s School of Graduate and Continuing Studies and pastor of Community Cup Church.

“We had no idea what each person was bringing to the team,” says Dr. Anderson. “We saw team members minister in powerful ways. Each time one of our students gave his or her testimony, I was weeping. They truly touched people’s lives.” 

This was also Olivet’s first M.I.A. trip to South Africa.

Hearts for service, lips for witness

The group served in three different locations: 
•    Pretoria, where they shared the gospel with people in the community
•    Durbin, where they worked at the Seed of Hope community center and spoke in youth groups, schools and church services
•    Johannesburg, where they spoke with students in youth groups and at school assemblies, interacted with children in orphanages and shared their personal testimonies

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“Each place we served had a unique ministry,” says Shemara Fontes, a sophomore majoring in multimedia communications. “But everyone worked together so well. We worked with local residents, a young pastor couple, our bus driver and so many others. God had already prepared everything for our work there.” 

“Learning about the culture was an essential factor for our team’s work in South Africa,” Shemara adds. “We understood more about the whats, whys and hows of daily life because of our preparation for the trip.” Shemara had an additional interest in this trip because she is a native of an African nation, Cape Verde.

“I’m a reserved person, and I didn’t know anyone in the group going into this trip,” says Jessica Kennedy, a senior zoology major. “We spent three weeks together in a different country. God blessed me through this amazing team. I learned a lot about myself while I was helping others.”

As the Olivet group members had opportunities to share their testimonies, the South African young people shared their stories, too — stories of abuse, addictions and many other difficult life situations. 

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At one school they visited, 150 students filled the room to capacity while other students were outside looking in the windows. After their presentations, the Olivet group talked and prayed with the students. The principal of the school extended the time, saying, “We can’t stop this now.”

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Not always a smooth path

English is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, and most of the people the group encountered spoke English. One of the unexpected challenges was the difference in the sense of time and scheduling.

“I’m very schedule-oriented, and the people we met there were not,” says Carissa Engelsman, a senior majoring in sport management. “Everything is very laid back.”

Jessica adds, “In the first church service we went to, the power in the building was out. I’m a Type A, and this really bothered me at first. Everyone just started signing until the power came on. That was the best church service I’ve ever been to. God shows up when your heart is there.”

Alexa Rain, a junior majoring in social work, tackled a personal challenge. “I had to step out of my comfort zone with the spoken word,” she says. “I’ve done acting and theater, but speaking to a group is different. I volunteered to do it, and my first reaction was: ‘I’m never doing that again!’ But I did. At first I felt vulnerable, but by the end I was comfortable sharing in front of a large group.”

Lasting impressions

One of the most surprising parts of this trip for all of the students was how welcoming the South Africans were. “They welcomed us into their homes, to have tea and talk,” Carissa says.

“When we were sharing the gospel, people would politely listen, even if they weren’t interested,” Alexa adds. “They were never rude to us. We’re not used to that in our U.S. culture.”

“Everything worked so well because God directed it,” Shemara says. “On this trip, we saw God in the beauty of everything. We met people who worship the same God we worship. We now have a different vision of the world.”

“I will remember this experience for the rest of my life,” Carissa adds. “I will tell my children about it.”

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Students and alumni serving on this M.I.A. trip were:

•    Tyler Baker — junior, social science education major
•    Ashlee Ekhoff ’18 B.S.W.
•    Carissa Engelsman 
•    Abby Fischer — senior, math education major
•    Shemara Fontes 
•    Kassidi Franzen ’18 B.S.W. 
•    Michael Grimm — senior, youth ministry major
•    Gabriele Hodge — senior, criminal justice major
•    Jessica Kennedy 
•    Miriam Laffoon — senior, Christian education major
•    Madi Myers — junior, exercise science major
•    Alexa Rain 
•    MacKenzie Ream — sophomore, social work major
•    Taylor Wainwright — junior, zoology major

To learn more about Olivet’s Missions In Action program, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photos submitted by 2018 South Africa M.I.A. Team. Used with permission.

Published: 9/6/2018

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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