This month, 13 students will travel abroad to Zambia as part of a 15-day Fusion mission trip.
The trip is being led by psychology professor Dr. Catherine Bell and her husband, soccer coach Mark Bell. While this is the first time the trip has been done through Eastern, the Bells are no strangers to Zambia. They led the same trip together while teaching at Cornerstone University.
“We asked if ENC would like us to lead the trip through ENC and they were more supportive than any other place we’ve served,” Catherine said. “We made it into a fusion trip and now they want to make it an annual trip.”
Catherine began leading these trips five years ago through a partnership with the Jubilee Center in Zambia. She said this partnership allows them to have a more lasting impact on the community by returning annually and learning from one another.
“Our main emphasis is to be a part of carrying out the mission of the Jubilee Center so it’s culturally relevant for the people of Zambia,” Catherine said. “It prevents the mistake of some short term missions with the idea of going once and not returning. It’s a partnership with mutual learning. We learn from them and they learn from us.”
While the students stay in modest housing within the community they are ministering to. Catherine said this is so that they can get an idea of what the living situations are like for many people in Zambia.
“We live with and among the people,” she said. “Sometimes we have running water, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have electricity, sometimes we don’t.”
Catherine said Zambia is a nation of children with over 1.6 million orphans. Most children are only getting to eat about three meals a week if they’re lucky. While traveling, the students and staff will participate in feeding programs which allow them at least one meal a day. They will also pass out bed nets, visit schools, host a counseling conference, lead a soccer ministry, and visit homes of children who have HIV/AIDS. Catherine said that they always end up doing more than what they plan, though.
“There’s miscellaneous things always,” she said. “There is a lot of spontaneity in the culture so we do whatever they want us to do.”
Most of the students attending the trip are either psychology students or soccer players, according to Catherine. The ministry on the trip is tailored to utilize these talents and skills.
This soccer ministry is Mark’s specialty. According to Catherine, this is one of the best ways they connect with the community, because the sport is so valued there. Mark agreed.
“[Zambia] is a nation that loves soccer,” he said. “To have 200 kids come to a soccer game is just a great opportunity for us to provide testimonies – what it’s really like to incorporate God into our lives, not just in a church setting, but also in a community setting where soccer is such an important part of things.”
Catherine’s role focuses more on the counseling side of things. She now leads a counseling conference there for pastors in the area. She said this year they are expecting about 70-80 pastors to attend. According to Catherine, this is a vital step in how they can continue their ministry after they leave.
“We are empowering the Zambian counselors to do the training when we leave,” she said.
Both Catherine and Mark said they hope the students grow and learn from this experience.
“I think this trip is really one of the most amazing things a student can experience,” Mark said. “You are traveling to a country where you’re experiencing people that have absolutely nothing. For you to be a part of their lives for the short period of time that we are there — you see God’s love in ways that you could never possibly imagine here.”
For Catherine, the trip is about promoting the idea of what she calls “kingdom citizenship” within her students.
“Kingdom citizenship is acknowledging that we are a member of God’s creation and that we are called to show up for the fellowship and the design that God created us to commune with him and one another,” she said. “To be in kingdom citizenship would be to love they neighbor local and abroad.”
Catherine said that even though this is a mission trip, she feels strongly that the people of Zambia have just as much to teach the students as the students have to teach the people of Zambia. She even said a long-term goal of the ministry would be to have teachers from Zambia come and minister to the US as missionaries.
“It’s not like we’re the light,” she said. “They have light in them and we get to show up and share that light together and encourage hope for those that haven’t found that yet.”
The Zambia fusion trip leaves May 17 and funds are still needed. Any amount helps and will go towards plane ticket costs, food, bottled water, bibles, counseling materials, bed nets, and more. To donate, visit donate.enc.edu.