Last month, a team of ten Eastern students spent three weeks in Nairobi, Kenya as part of a summer Fusion trip. The trip was made possible through a developing partnership with Africa Nazarene University (ANU).
ENC intercultural studies professor Julene Tegerstrand said she first planned the trip as an opportunity for students to earn class credit as part of the intercultural studies program
“As a part of the intercultural studies degree, there’s always been a travel course,” she said. “So, when I came [to ENC] I knew I had to plan a travel course. When it came time, I decided to partner with the office of spiritual development to turn the course into a Fusion (short-term mission) trip.”
The students kicked off the trip with a safari. They then spent the next two weeks taking a class alongside ANU students as part of ANU’s peace and reconciliation studies program.
“We created a class called ‘Peace in the Kenyan Context,’” Tegerstrand said. “The goal was to have our students and their students learning together. It was important for our students to experience relationship with their age group.”
Recent graduate McKenna Kern said the ANU students made them feel welcome from the beginning.
“We always had a break between class and chapel and so [the ANU students] would all come over to our apartment and hang out with us,” she said. “They were all very welcoming and fun to be around, so right off the bat we built really good relationships with them. We had an easy time relating and finding commonalities between us.”
ENC chaplain Lynne Bollinger said she was pleased and surprised to learn how well the students connected.
“We didn’t expect that they would bond so quickly. For the ENC students and ANU students, it was remarkable,” Bollinger said.
In the afternoons, when classes wrapped up, the students took field trips to various sites around Kenya. Kern said sometimes the trips were more tourist attractions, but other days they met with people around the area. One of her favorite trips was to the New Scent Center, a rehabilitation center for victims of sexual assault.
“I think it was the hardest day and also the best day,” Kern said. “A lot of people in Kenya speak English, but most of these kids were so young they hadn’t learned English yet. Despite the language barrier, we had so much fun. We played in the yard and sang different songs. After we played with them for a while, we went over to a home where some of the girls from the school lived — it was just one little room with a bunch of bunk beds… they quoted a poem which talked about how men should be their fathers and not their husbands. The way they were talking, you felt the gravity of these things these little 5-year-olds had gone through.”
After two weeks of classes at ANU, the ENC team along with three ANU students flew North to the town of Lodwar. There, they interacted with members of a local Nazarene church and Wings of Hope (a faith-based NGO). They also partnered with a group of locals who participate in a community farm.
“Lodwar is a desert, so as you can imagine it was mostly arid countryside,” Bollinger said. “Once we arrived in the town of Lodwar it felt very different. However, what we found there had a lasting effect on all of us.”
Bollinger said the farm brought change and hope to the Lodwar community during a time when many people had given up on life. It provided an opportunity for the community and church members to grow in relationship with each other over gardening and conversation.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but God is present there,” Bollinger said. “We were blessed with the opportunity to observe it first-hand.”
Kern said she enjoyed helping out on the farm and loved that the trip was so different from traditional mission trips.
“I think it was different, because we didn’t really do much hands-on missions work in the normal sense. We went to learn about the culture and learn what the church was already doing there,” she said.
“I think a lot of times, short-term mission teams go and believe they are going to bring the light, but the truth is that we found all that already there,” she said. “We all walked away with an awareness of how God might use us in the world beyond what we could have imagined before.”