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Summer trips bring hope, support to people across the globe

June 26, 2013 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

Liberty University's Center for Global Engagement sent seven teams of students to various locations around the world this summer to serve needs and build relationships. In Cameroon (pictured above) the team also served through drama and education.

Shortly after Liberty University celebrated its 40th Commencement, Liberty’s Center for Global Engagement (CGE) sent six teams of students, leaders, and recent graduates, to show Christ’s love and meet the needs of individuals around the world.

More than 100 students and leaders have, or are, participating in short-term trips through CGE this summer. In May, groups traveled to Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Colombia, Cameroon, and two undisclosed locations in Europe. An upcoming trip to Uganda departing this week will include members of the Lady Flames Field Hockey Team.

Teams engaged in relationship building, prayer walks, sports camps, HIV/AIDS education, and drama. They also distributed educational resources and medical supplies. Among those they served were many children, refugees, and orphans.

Every year, more and more students embrace the university’s mission of Training Champions for Christ and take it global through short-term trips and internships. Students are given ample opportunity to explore global culture and needs through the Center for Global Engagement, which also provides trips over Christmas break and spring break, as well as events, many of which take place during its semiannual Global Focus Week.

Dustin DuBose (’08, ’12 M.Div.), associate director of Liberty’s Office of Student Leadership, was a leader on CGE’s recent trip to Ethiopia. He said Liberty is a unique institution because its focus is on more than just education.

“We are not just focused on the four years you are here, we are focused on the world, on the now and then, the here and there,” he said. “It’s great to see the willingness of Liberty students to spread out … to the ends of the earth and serve in those places. That is what makes Liberty unique and what makes our students unique, that we are not just focused on our needs, on getting an education; we are serving others while doing it.”

In May, Liberty students served at a youth sports camp in Ethiopia.

DuBose and the Ethiopia team worked with a sports camp in a rural part of the country run by Sports Friends. He said despite language barriers, the team had an instant connection with the believers there and were able to show love to the children at the camp. He vividly remembers one boy whose family had died from AIDS and whom he learned was also infected. Through the selflessness and love of one of Liberty’s students, this child became a believer.

“To see our student loving on him, to be there with him and even crying with him, showing him the love of Christ … it was very humbling.”

Ivet Mendoza, a student on one of the Europe teams, was able to watch God work in people’s lives as she shared His love in “the pink light district” of the city. One encounter with a woman named Anna especially burdened her.

“We approached (Anna) and it turned into about an hour-long love encounter between Jesus and her. I felt and I saw Him fighting for her, loving her. I couldn't believe we were actually being used for something so beautiful,” Mendoza said.

In Europe, Liberty students built relationships as they served refugees and children.

Mendoza continued to pray for Anna and two weeks after returning to the U.S. was delighted to hear from one of the people she worked with that Anna encountered another short-term team and asked them to pray with her. Anna had been so impacted by her “American friends” she actually approached the second team herself, asking if they were American. She shared with enthusiasm how her American friends had told her about Jesus.

For the first time, Liberty sent a team to Zimbabwe, which was an answer to prayer for alumnus Albert Mavunga. Mavunga returned to his home country in 2008, after graduating from Liberty, to start Smile for Africa, an organization that works with orphans and children affected and infected by HIV and AIDS. The trip was in partnership with WorldHelp.

The team went around the country distributing literature and medical supplies, visiting orphanages, clinics, shelters, and schools. They also helped Mavunga by working on a farm he has built to help sustain his work.

Perhaps the biggest impact the team had on Mavunga’s organization was not even planned. When unexpected complications delayed some of their work, the team was able to spend the time with the fourth most powerful person in Zimbabwe’s government, the Minister of Information. This connection led to an invitation from the president to visit the capitol, where the team met more members of Zimbabwe’s cabinet (the president was unable to attend). They were even invited to walk in the VIP section of the country’s first national parade. Mavunga told the team that these connections brought Smile for Africa 15-20 years ahead in terms of credibility, said Ian MacIntyre, a team leader.

MacIntyre (’09, ’13 M.A.R.), CGE financial administrator, said the trip opened his eyes to the importance of child sponsorship. The difference in conditions for those with and without sponsorship was drastic, he explained.

He said he is thankful for his role with Liberty and the Center for Global Engagement because he gets to see Liberty’s students make a difference in the world.

“There is no telling the impact that Liberty has had for the kingdom of God. We send students all over the world … we invite the students to be a part of that. I really believe that Liberty is changing the world with the Gospel message through the Center for Global Engagement.”