Africa (MNN) — Biking through the desert to put Fulakunda villages on a
map. Helping Nigerien villagers with
basic first aid. Running sports clinics
and self-esteem classes for South African high school students. These are just a few ways that 44 short-term
missionaries with Hands On Africa, a project of the International Mission Board, advanced the cause of the Gospel
in the spring of 2008.
Hands On is designed to give Southern Baptist young people,
18 to 29 years old, a taste of life on the mission field. Teams of four serve alongside experienced
missionaries and field supervisors for four and a half months, scheduled at the
time of a typical semester. They receive
language and cultural training before beginning their ministry.
Some Baptist colleges and seminaries offer credit for
completing the experience. Currrently,
the program is offered only in Central, Eastern, and Southern
Africa, but it will go worldwide in 2009.
"I think with coming for a longer period of time, you really
get to experience the culture," said Chris Reasner, a student at the University of Montana. "You really get to see what life is like because it becomes your
Reasner and Jay Dannelley worked in a rough area of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where 70 percent of
the city's crimes are reported. Drugs,
abuse, and gang activity abound in the lives of high school students. Because so many people have committed suicide by
jumping off of one bridge in Port
Elizabeth, the city has installed a camera and an
"The schools are the most dangerous [areas] of all," says
Wayne Barros, a local Baptist pastor and Cape Malay
resident who has been working in high schools for the past 12 years. "There have been a lot of cases of stabbing,
getting guns into school."
Nevertheless, Reasner and Dannelley have been able to reach
students with the power of God to change lives. "They come to school having a lot of baggage with them," Dannelley
said. "We try to tell them, ‘You can
change your school. You can make it better … if you are on fire for the Lord.'"
Kelsi Kelso and Brittany Breedlove left the comforts of
their Texas homes to immerse themselves in the
daily life of a Niger
"I have been stretched more beyond measure on this trip than
I have ever been in my life. Nothing else matters than serving the Lord, no
matter what you do," Kelso says. "Whether you're sitting at a desk back in
the States or being a real missionary in Niger, you need to be a missionary
wherever [you are]."