From one culture to another
I (Tyler) was standing in front of the group of students just before we began our first session. I had spent weeks before planning each session for the two and half day conference, gathering supplies, figuring out the budget, and making sure every detail I could think of was covered. And yet I still was unsure about how this experiment would go: our family and the Weeks family was hosting a team of five students and one college minister from CMF Globalscope Salamanca for a conference about student ministry with around twenty Ethiopian students from Nekempte. The Globalscope ministry in Salamanca, Spain had been operating for over a decade and we were just getting started with our college-student ministry in Nekempte. Hosting this team from Spain seemed like a great opportunity to introduce the ministry potential among college students to our students in Nekempte. But the Spain students were in a very different cultural setting, the Nekempte students were being introduced to very new ministry ideas, and to top it all off, everything had to be double translated from Oromiffa to English to Spanish or vice-versa.
The idea for the conference began when our seminary friend and colleague from CMF, Cody Spencer, asked if he could bring a team of students on a short-term ministry trip to Ethiopia. Cody leads the Globalscope ministry in Salamanca, Spain. When we thought about the amount of experience in college student ministry that was coming to Ethiopia through these 5 students, we started planning a conference all about college student ministry. Our idea was two-fold: first, because college student ministry is new idea in Ethiopia, we wanted to draw on the experience of the Spain students in order to show how God can use a well-functioning ministry to spread His kingdom among students. Secondly, we wanted to give the Spain students a different kind of short term mission trip—we did not want them to build anything or do anything that the church in Nekempte couldn’t already do for itself. Instead, we wanted for members of the body of Christ to meet on equal footing and learn from each other.
Our conference went like this: for two days, we met for a session in the morning, broke for lunch, and returned for another session in the afternoon. During these sessions we tried to cast a vision for the Ethiopian students about the shape that we hope the Nekempte college student ministry will take: we spoke about the importance of a healthy community that cares for one another and learns the habits of becoming a disciple of Jesus; the need for leaders that guide the community and model the characteristics of Jesus themselves; and finally, the importance of our community to become a ministering community, not only serving one another, but also serving those outside of our own group. On the third day, we took time to pray for one another and for the two groups of students (one from Spain, one from Ethiopia) to write a blessing for one another. It was on this final day, while listening to the students speak blessings to one another, that I knew that our conference had been a success. They spoke thoughtful words of blessing, and the students who were formerly strangers, can now call each other brothers and sisters. The offering of our meager labor had been taken up by the Spirit and multiplied far beyond what we could have hoped to perform ourselves.