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Union University students learn that “faith must come before the harvest”

JACKSON, Tenn.Aug. 31, 2001 – Dan Dillingham, a senior at Union University from Dawson Springs, Ky., had never been on an overseas mission trip before, so he wasn’t quite sure of what to expect when he agreed to serve on a team assigned to witness to an isolated people group somewhere in North Africa recently this summer. The group of six Union students and two leaders knew that it would be a challenging trip. With more than 4 million people within the people group’s population, there are only 12 known individuals outside of the people group that can speak their language.

Students in North Africa

Six students and two leaders participated in a summer missions trip to an area of North Africa. Pictured from left to right, bottom to top - Katie McBride of Union Avenue Baptist Church, Memphis; Dan Dillingham of FBC, Dawson Springs, Ky.; Matt Glass of FBC, Metropolis, Ill.; Nicki mcDowell of Calvary Baptist Church, Linwood, Kan.; Matt Thomas of FBC, Somerville, TN, and Marc Glass of FBC, Metropolig, Ill.

“It was very humbling to see people who had absolutely never heard of Jesus Christ,” said Dillingham, who is majoring in sports management. “Sometimes, it was hard to believe that it was real.”

Todd Brady, minister to the university, agreed.

“The area that we were in has a very high population rate of Muslims,” explained Brady, who made his third trip to this particular area with the recent missions team. “It was very eerie waking up the first night and hearing the Koran being chanted in the distance.”

For 12 days, the team prayer-walked and visited as much as they could with the people, assisting the missionaries already there and building relationships as they could. This is the second year they have visited the same village in this particular location, done purposefully, in order to develop friendships and more opportunities to witness. On one of the days they were there, Dillingham was able to strike up a conversation with a young man named Bryan. Young, clean-shaven, and in his late twenties, Bryan owned a shop that the group visited on one of their walks and as they were talking, he noticed Dillingham’s WWJD bracelet on his wrist and asked if he could have it.

“He wanted to give it to his friend,” explained Dillingham. “He had been given one of the PUSH bracelets – Pray Until Something Happens – a few months earlier by another American, and he wanted his friend to have mine,” adding that this opened up a wonderful opportunity to share Jesus with the young man.

While no obvious conversions were made while the group was out in the field, there were many divine opportunities that came about to share the love of God, allowing seeds to be planted, said Suzanne Frost, director of student outreach and a graduate of Union. A former prayer and advocacy coordinator for the International Service Corps of the International Mission Board, Frost is now responsible for coordinating mission trips and outreach for Union students. She said she enjoys seeing other students experience what God can do when trust and faith are relied on.

“It is very humbling to be there and a part of worshipping God for who He is,” explained Frost, who was excited that the group had been able to participate in the Day of Prayer Round Africa, a world-wide prayer day organized by the International Mission Board. “We may not have seen 500 come to Christ, but we were still part of the harvest. We were the plow – God can use someone else to harvest the seeds we were able to sow.”

“The whole trip was spent in trusting in the promises of God and knowing that His word will not return void and truth was being spoken there,” added Dillingham. “Though we couldn’t see anything happening visually, we knew that God was at work.”

During the trip, the group members were able to spend a few days in a family’s home, learning about their culture as well as building relationships. Noting that the society is very gender-oriented, with women doing most of the work inside and outside of the home, Frost was especially struck by the children in the home.

“I looked at these little boys, these small children, and I wonder – will they ever hear the truth?” asked Frost, relaying how they were told that the children start studying the Muslim teachings and the Koran at a very young age. “In the case of this people group and others like it, it’s not a question of when, but will they?”

It is that question that the university has emphatically answered yes to, explained Brady. More than 17 trips are planned this year for students to participate in overseas and local mission projects – with the overseas trips concentrating mainly on the 10-40 window – the area of the world in which there are still people who have never heard the Gospel.

“The most exciting thing for this was that we had the opportunity to explicitly share the Gospel with people,” said Brady. “When you go into the Muslim culture, you assume that you will mostly pray, and if you’re fortunate, be able to share a little with the people. But the students on this trip went over and beyond, aggressively seeking out opportunities to share their faith. And that’s what we’re trying to impart to all of our students.”

Due to concerns for security and protection of the full-time missionaries who work with the people-group mentioned in the above story, all specifics related to the location and people have been omitted.

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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