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Outlook - October 2004

Union sponsors three summer trips to Africa

Egypt study tour participants from Union College and Andrews University visit the Pyramids of Giza.

Summertime for some students means lazy summer nights, cold lemonade, and icy blue swimming pools. What could be better than a relaxing reprieve? Ask a few Union College students, and they might answer education, evangelism or missions. This summer three groups from Union College traveled to Africa. Each trip was unique in purpose and opportunity for students. The trip summaries below include personal highlights from a participant on each journey.

Middle East Study Tour
Malcolm Russell, vice president for academic administration, and George Gibson, chair of the Division of Humanities, led a group of Union College and Andrews University students on a study tour to Egypt with a brief stop in Jordan. From June 24 to July 12, the group of 20 visited most of the major historic and educational sites in the region including the Pyramids of Giza, Mt. Sinai at sunrise and snorkeling in the Red Sea. Participating students earned three credit hours for the educational experience, spanning the history of the countries, culture and people. Russell, who was born in Beirut and grew up in Egypt, said the Egyptian government takes great care to protect tourists. A police escort accompanied the Union group throughout the journey.

Krissy Ball
Krissy Ball, sophomore graphic design major, Drake, Colorado
        When Dr. Russell sent an e-mail announcing the Egypt trip, I knew it would fulfill a lifelong dream. I grew up reading National Geographic from cover to cover every month, and the opportunity to see some of my favorite places pictured on the magazine pages was too amazing to miss.
        After a lot of praying about finances and planning, I joined the group in Omaha to travel to Amman, Jordan. The three-week trip was fantastic in every sense of the word. We took almost every type of transportation known to humans: plane, train, bus, car, foot, camel, three types of boats and a Cairo taxi, which should be in a category of its own.
The most memorable experience for me was the trip to Mt. Sinai. The desert around Sinai is the most rugged terrain I have ever experienced—all rock and sand. There’s not a living thing out there except for the occasional Bedouin tent or camel wandering across the desert.
        Although it was late by the time we reached the base of the mountain to sleep at the Monastery St. Catherine, we stumbled out of our stuffy room at 2 a.m. into the night air. We were astonished to see so many other people just as crazy as we were. There were more than 200 people ready to make the pre-dawn pilgrimage to the summit of Mt. Sinai to see the sunrise.
At 2:30 a.m., we started up the valley and towards the peak. I brought a flashlight, but I rarely needed it. The surrounding mountains were silhouetted by the light of the brilliant half moon and stars. We arrived at the top as the sky began to lighten. It was surprisingly chilly—cold enough to use the blankets that were offered us. We wrapped up and settled ourselves on a large, flat rock to watch the sky turn beautiful shades of orange, pink, purple and blue. The red sun appeared, silhouetting the mountains in front of it and framing them with an indescribable glow. This was the best start to a Sabbath morning I could imagine.

Union’s evangelism team celebrates more than 2,000 baptisms at Lake Victoria in Uganda.

Evangelism in Uganda
For the third summer, Union College students helped lead an evangelistic series in Africa. From June 30 to July 26, Union College students guided by Sylvester Case, associate professor of religion, and in partnership with Global Evangelism, traveled to Kampala, the capitol of Uganda. The group of eight, in conjunction with Andrews University and other volunteers, held evangelistic meetings at 26 sites. Elder Case and each student preached at their own site using color slides and a translator. Nightly, 200-400 people attended each of the meetings. Case and his team reported that the people were delighted and eager to hear the message. On the final Sabbath, they witnessed a mass baptism at Lake Victoria yielding more than 2,000 baptisms.

Michael Paradise, senior theology major, Shawnee, Kansas
        I had my doubts. I was a bit unsure about what God could do through me this summer. Even though I knew He was calling me to participate in the Uganda trip, I still was uncertain. “How could God use me to effectively reach people in Africa?” I wondered. “I’ve never preached an evangelistic campaign before.” But for me, and the other six Union students turned preachers, God had something huge in store for us in Kampala, Uganda. After each session, the group met back at the hotel to discuss the nightly miracles that occurred.
        On one night, one of the elders at my site told me the story of a young Muslim family. This couple in their 20s had an infant son who had not stopped crying since he was born. They tried everything to get the baby to stop, but they feared he was demon possessed. Living only a few houses away from the Seventh-day Adventist church grounds, they took a walk with their wailing child around the church. Amazingly, while on the church property, the baby was silent, so every time their baby began his crying fits, they sat on the steps of the church and enjoyed the serenity. When my series of evangelistic meetings began, the baby began to cry every night around the starting time of each session, and so they walked to the church. While the baby was quiet, this Muslim couple listened to the message. This happened every night, and toward the end of the series, the couple made decisions for baptism.
Upon hearing this story, my doubts about what the Lord could do through me fizzled away. It was as though God was speaking to me: “If I can use a crying child, I can use a scared servant.” This experience, along with many others, taught us a great deal this summer, and I hope we have come back to campus noticeably changed.

Union’s evangelism team celebrates more than 2,000 baptisms at Lake Victoria in Uganda.
Mission service in Kenya
The last trip of the summer was to Kenya from July 19-Aug. 3. Led by Rich Carlson, college chaplain, the group of 26 consisted of professionals, Union staff, physician assistant and nursing students and other volunteers. The intent was to support the lay pastors who are developing relationships with the Maasai, a nomadic cattle-herding tribe. The Union group brought Bible studies for the pastors to later interpret for the people. Since the Maasai are very primitive, the medical support was an invaluable way of connecting. Later the Maasai will be reminded of the medical aid they received As the pastors tell them of Jesus love, the group from Union College will be their reference point for understanding what Christianity is all about.

A medical mission trip veteran and dental hygiene instructor, Rebecca Krueger participated in Union’s Amazon mission trip in 2001. She and her husband, Kelly, are already planning for Union’s 2006 trip to Nepal.

Rebecca Krueger is a dental hygienist, instructor and dental student in Lincoln, Neb. She attended Union College from 1998-2000 and participated in Union’s Amazon mission trip in 2001. She and her husband, Kelly, are already planning for Union’s 2006 trip to Nepal.
        Enduring long dusty bus rides on pothole-laden roads in the middle of Africa wasn’t exactly my idea of a vacation. But each time we reached our village destination, aching joints and muscles from the jarring of the bus were forgotten. Being greeted with a Maasai hug and seeing the children smile made every bump and wave of dust worthwhile. The Maasai were so grateful for the primitive medical care we were able to offer, and believe me when I say it was primitive. At one village, our dental office had four operatories, each equipped with a short stool, a cowhide and mood-setting music provided by the high-pitched braying from the neighboring village donkeys.
        We were able to provide dental and medical care in the most primitive of settings because of the adaptability of the amazing students from Union and the other health professionals and volunteers who were on the trip. Every person did their part whether that meant assisting during a dental extraction by holding a light or counting out pills to distribute to the patients. Many of the pre-med and pre-dental Union students quickly graduated from assistants to acting doctors and dentists. It was a wonderful experience both clinically and personally.
        The trip stretched our capacity for love and compassion to accept the Maasai and their culture without being judgmental. Polygamy is common and Maasai women are treated more like possessions than human beings. The medical and dental care we were able to provide allowed us to build personal relationships with many of our patients, and hopefully helped open the door for the local Adventist pastors as they seek to bring Christ to the Maasai.
Looking back through the journal I kept during my time in Africa, one specific plea keeps resurfacing: “Lord, help me to be teachable!” I’m amazed at how much there is to learn from the Maasai and their culture. They are so open and accepting with genuine friendliness and happiness pouring from them. Many times I was invited into Maasai homes to meet their family. Their houses consist of sticks held together with cow dung. How many of us would be happy and content with an 8-by-10 foot dirt floor surrounded by cow dung and a hole in the ground for a bathroom? (By the way, having a hole in the ground for a bathroom was a luxury.) The trip made me think hard about what is truly important in life.
        For one of our group’s parting activities, we rewrote 1 Corinthians 13 in the context of our experience with the Maasai. The last two verses (12-13) summarize our African experience well: “For now we see through a dust-covered, sun-glared bus window, but then in a handshake and a Maasai hug, we know we are welcome here. Before we knew from a tour guidebook, but now we know from sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch—they are just like us. And now abides compassion for the people, trust in the bus driver, and rice and beans, but the greatest of these is compassion.”