Harding Outside the Searcy Bubble by: Abby loring and Katelyn Perrett

Harding University's Global Outreach

Harding University's College of Bible and Ministry designed a program known as "Global Outreach" to recruit, train, and send students all over the world on global mission campaigns. The Global Outreach program partners with missionaries around the globe to allow students to participate in summer mission and internship opportunities. Global Outreach currently has twenty- two different short- term mission trip options along with fourteen internship programs.

Summer Mission Locations: Albania, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Ghana, Fiji, French-speaking Europe, Hawaii, Haiti, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, St. Lucia, St. Thomas, Thailand, Ukraine, Vanuatu, Angola, Bolivia, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey

Global Outreach helps match students with the best summer program based on their own unique talent and interests. Harding will be sending a math and science mission team to South Africa this summer that will help teach math and science in local schools while also help planting a church there. The university will also send a science team to Ghana to work with schools and community development in rural areas.

"We try to look at the gifts God has given to people and match them with sights where they can use those gifts," said Dr. Ken Graves, Director of Global Outreach

The program has a variety of sites to choose from. Some sites are designated for speaking and teaching English, some pertain to a certain skill-set, some are camp oriented, and others are focused on youth and congregational encouragement said Dr. Graves.

Dr. Graves spent eighteen years as a missionary in Brazil where he helped plant churches in Florianopolis and Campinas. He moved back to the states and began working for Harding as a Bible professor who teaches classes designed for students looking to pursue mission work.

As Director of Global Outreach, Dr. Graves travels to visit the various sites every year to make sure the campaign is a beneficial and rewarding experience. He also surveys sites to send future teams to encourage or plant new churches.

Global Outreach does not just consist of the individual trips to the sites. The program requires training for students to help prepare them for their specific site. Depending on certain mission destinations, some students will spend a few days in a mission training village known as "HUT" (Harding University at Tahkodah) which is designed to simulate real life scenarios and living conditions out in the mission field. Students also receive debriefing when they come home.

The program continues to expand. Harding sent its first mission team to Lviv, Ukraine last year along with missionaries to plant a new church. Coming this summer, over two hundred students will be sent out around the world. Forty students will partake in internships with missionaries, and thirty-seven teams will be sent to thirty-four different countries around the globe.

What are the benefits? What difference does it make?

Long term and short term mission trips create an eye opening experience on the residents, as well as the students making the commitment to serve.

Tim Henderson, a missionary in Aruba for almost eight years, just moved back to the United States. Henderson grew up in the mission field with his family in Trinidad, but is originally from Searcy, Arkansas.

Henderson was the preacher at the Church of Christ in Aruba and had mission trips from Harding and Faulkner University come for various weeks at a time. The groups have been involved in activities such as holding a VBS, door knocking, church building projects, community outreach, and students have the opportunity to practice preaching for the congregation.

“I love when groups come because it encourages the local brethren and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Henderson said. “The students show the members that the church is more than just one room of people.”

Henderson said he could see the impact of the mission trips in the church well long after the groups had returned home. For example, teens were encouraged to come back each week and members found ways that they could get involved in church services.

Todd and Debbie Gentry have led multiple short term mission trips to Australia and St. Lucia over the last eight years.

The Gentry’s teams have held VBS day camps, mini carnivals, service projects, spent time with neglected children, distributed food, and visited juvenile detention centers.

“There is so much you can do on a short term mission trip,” said Debbie Gentry. “Even if all we did was encourage, it would be well worth it.”

Students gain the experience of doing various ministry tasks and using each of their unique, individual gifts to enrich the kingdom of God. Students also get the opportunity to shadow the mission leaders and learn from their experiences.

“I come back from a mission trip feeling a sense of embarrassment toward myself,” said Carter Burks, a student that has been on two Harding mission trips. “I feel like we see ourselves as higher than others in the Kingdom because of our physical blessings, but mission trips show me that I am such a small part of a bigger picture.”

Mission trips are another way to make relationships with Christians outside of your everyday realm. Bonds can be created with the elderly, adults and the children through teaching bible classes and playing with them.

Suzanna Richter, a student that has gone on two mission trips to Romania and Aruba, said she loves to see how God’s church is prevalent all over the world.

Richter said she enjoys making relationships with people that are millions of miles away, different age groups, and different cultures.

With technological advances, students can maintain the relationships they have made on these trips through various social media platforms.

"I come back feeling encouraged to give my whole life to Christ, to always live with a positive energy, and to be more intentional with each person I come in contact with," said Kyle Toillion, a student that has been on two Spring Break mission trips.

Who will go this summer?

One of the mission trips that will be taking place this summer is the Harding University music department's mission trip to Italy. A team consisting of eight student and faculty members from the music department is preparing to leave on a six week summer missions campaign to visit multiple locations across Italy.

The team will leave on May 28 and will spend time encouraging and participating in activities with the local Church of Christ congregations. The mission team plans on using their musical talents to perform for the congregations and also hold vacation bible schools for young children. The trip will also include bible studies, preaching, and also participating in service outreach programs with the local churches.

Dr. Jay Walls, Assistant Professor of Music from Harding, will lead the campaign alongside his wife, Alicia Walls. Dr. Walls has lived in Italy for 10 years and this will be his second team to send to Italy.

"The churches that are affiliated with Churches of Christ are not very many and they're generally pretty small," said Dr. Walls. "Our goal when we go over is primarily to encourage them to keep pressing on, to be perseverant, and we lend a hand with whatever special activities they would like to do."

The mission team also plans on using their musical talents to put on a benefit concert open to the community in Florence to raise money for families whose homes where destroyed after a series of earthquakes struck central Italy earlier this year.

Dr. Walls gave each of the students small New Testament Italian Bibles to help students learn and prepare for the upcoming trip. The team will arrive back in the United States on July 8.

tips on how to prepare for a mission trip

A mission trip is not a spur of the moment activity. A mission trip has boxes that need to be checked before beginning.

  • Raise the funds: According to Global Outreach FAQs, Global Outreach Mission Trips cost between $1,200 - $3,900 depending on the location and length of trip. Students can ask family members, friends, teachers, and churches to contribute to this cost. “The money is easy, God can always bring donors,” said Debbie Gentry on why finances should not hold a student back.
  • Create a team: Harding normally chooses Harding faculty to be the leaders of these trips, and sometimes even students help lead the groups. Students can sign up for a team in the Bible and Missions office located in the McInteer building.
  • Have biblical knowledge: “It is more than just knowing Bible facts, it is about understanding what it is saying,” said Tim Henderson.
  • Research the culture: “Know about the country before you go there. Don’t change the culture, just change the hearts,” said Tim Henderson.
  • Learn the basic language: “I knew I wouldn't be able to speak in conversation, but having a few words and phrases in mind before would have helped tremendously,” said Carter Burks.

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