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‘Echoes’ from across the sea

A compilation of J-term testimonies

By Kassidy Weemhoff | Echo

Taylor students had the oppurtunity to experience a different culture in rural Southeast Asia. (Photograph provided by Jacie Smeltzer)

Taylor students had the opportunity to experience a different culture in rural Southeast Asia. (Photograph provided by Jacie Smeltzer)

While some of Taylor’s students were tackling on-campus classes during J-term, many enjoyed the month traveling across the globe. One category of these endeavors is Taylor’s Lighthouse program. With opportunities to serve and learn in the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Southeast Asia and Spain, Taylor students shined overseas. With each trip comes different experiences, perspectives and stories. We asked a few students to give us a glimpse into what these Lighthouse trips looked like, and here are their takes on what this past month looked like.

Amanda Heggem: Czech Republic

Oh you better believe the snowy, beautiful Czech Republic has a piece of my heart. The month of January for me was one of challenge and a time where God revealed to me the beauty of the body of Christ. My team was made of individuals of different gifts and abilities and together, enhanced our ability to reach others. What I might have counted as weakness in myself was a strength of another. We leaned on each other during the hard days and rejoiced in the good.

One of our main priorities of the trip was to plant seeds and encourage the body of Christ in the Czech Republic’s primarily atheistic society. Because of the nature of the trip, it was difficult at times to see the fruit from the seeds that had been sown. There was one day in particular that I had been discouraged by this, but God came in just in time as He always does. That day, one of the Czech leaders shared with us her testimony. Six years ago, God had brought a Taylor team that initially sparked her interest in who He was, which was the seed that eventually bore fruit to her faith in Him. Because of my time in the Czech Republic, I have seen that God is in the midst of everything, and is at work even when we don’t see it.

Jake Helton: Czech Republic

My team and I spent the month in classrooms of local schools giving students the opportunity to practice speaking English. The time outside of the classroom was spent with the leaders of Signal Church and their student organization, Crossroads. We were a point of connection for the students in Chotebor to get involved at Crossroads. The Czech leaders organized outreach events throughout the month such as sporting events and lock-ins. Throughout all of this, God started revealing to me a little about humility. Within the first couple of days, almost every member of the team came to the realization that we were very unneeded in the town of Chotebor. The things we were doing in the classrooms and in the community seemed tedious and insignificant. Easily something the Czech leaders could have done, and have been doing, without us. But they still wanted us there. In the same way, God didn’t need me or my team to minister to the Czechs. He easily could’ve just used the church that already exists there. Yet, He still called us to do it. The fact that the maker of the universe has specifically chosen me by name to do any task He could easily handle Himself, is an extremely humbling thought.

Sammi Lawson: Southeast Asia

In countries where sharing the gospel is illegal, missionaries must get creative. This is the case in some of the most rural areas of Southeast Asia, where my team and I had the pleasure of spending J-term. In the name of cross-cultural exchange, we stayed in host homes on three different islands of an Islamic people group. We ate their food, wore their clothes, spoke their language (or at least tried to), learned their stories and shared some of our own. We made friendship bracelets, mixed cement, drank super sweet tea and learned to love public “mandi” (showers). We played hand-clap games, held many tiny hands and posed for many, many pictures. They welcomed us like family and treated us like honored guests. They opened their homes and their hearts to us. They laughed with us, cried with us, played with us and enjoyed being with us. Presence is a powerful thing. Too often, the joy and sorrow of simply being human is overpowered by schedules, expectations and productivity. On the islands, we saw Immanuel revealed through the consistent presence of our hosts, each other and the holy spirit.

Aaron Voss: Ethiopia

Junior Jake Hirsch spends time with the Ethiopian students on his Lighthouse trip. (Photograph provided by Michelle Nathan)

Junior Jake Hirsch spends time with the Ethiopian students on his Lighthouse trip. (Photograph provided by Michelle Nathan)

This past January, I had the opportunity to travel to Yetebon, Ethiopia, a small village two hours from Addis Ababa, with twelve other students to work at a place called Project Mercy. Project Mercy is an organization which uniquely caters to the needs of native Ethiopians with a commitment to Christian values and ministry. Primarily, this organization focuses on education, sustainable development and promoting healthy living. The group I travelled with came from all different backgrounds and majors and various reasons for going but with a common goal of being used for God’s work.

So, onto what we did. Our days in Ethiopia were spent teaching English to precious students ranging from kindergarten to second grade. Although absolutely none of us were education majors, we found ourselves growing more comfortable and competent in teaching the longer we were there. We learned as much as we taught and we grew as much as we sought to plant seeds. I was astoundedly blessed to witness the vibrancy of the Church in Ethiopia and witness just how lively worship can really be. All in all, our purpose was to bless the people of Yetebon through the incredible work already being done at Project Mercy. We were pushed to our physical limits by their energy, encouraged by their commitment to serve and challenged by the simplicity of the Ethiopian church. God revealed Himself through the beautiful subtlety of His love being poured out through Project Mercy, its school and the beautiful kids we have come to call friends.

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