The 4x4 pickup truck was coming around the curve just a little too fast, and the driver lost control. The truck rolled and slid 30 yards across the tarmac. Amazingly, the passengers left the scene without a scratch. “I knew the hand of God was in that,” says Anderson University student Oscar Ndao, reflecting on the accident that could have taken his life three years ago.
Ndao grew up in Zambia, where both of his parents are pastors with the Church of God. It wasn’t until after the accident, though, that Ndao truly gave his life to Christ. “My mother said something profound to me that has stayed with me up to now. She quoted Jeremiah 29:11,” reflects Ndao. “She said, ‘Oscar, God has saved you for a purpose and it’s now up to you to find out what that purpose is.’”
He began thinking about his mother’s words. “What if I had died in that accident? It was a real turning point in my life,” he says. Now, as a student leader at Anderson University, Ndao is in pursuit of that purpose.
[PHOTO: Oscar Ndao and his sister spent Christmas break in Maryland. During their trip east, they enjoyed a visit to the nation’s capital.]
It was his mother’s connection with the Church of God that brought him to AU. In 2005 she came to speak at a conference where she met people interested in sponsoring Ndao’s education. Education for college students in Zambia is different than in the United States. While the grade school system works well, universities are rare and not dependable.
“Growing up, I really had a dream of wanting to study outside of Zambia,” says Ndao. “Back home when you hear of people going to study outside of the country, it’s usually reserved for people of higher status and my family was just middle class. So when the opportunity arrived for me to be here I just had to accept it.”
[PHOTO: Oscar Ndao and friends celebrate their differences in culture and heritage during the 2008 International Student Association International Dinner.]
A year later, Ndao left Zambia behind and came to campus for international student orientation. The International Student Association (ISA) helps international students through the transition process and gives them a chance to learn about other cultures.
Some of the most common issues among international students are culture shock and the sudden status of being a minority. He appreciates the important role ISA plays in making international students feel more comfortable.
“The first day [of classes] was a big shock,” remembers Ndao. “A professor actually encouraged students to call her by her fist name. Back home it’s considered rude to call somebody older by their first name.” During his freshman year Ndao had to learn a lot about American culture but was pretty well acclimated by the time he was a sophomore. Now, as a junior business management major, he’s still learning. “It’s a process,” he says with a smile, “but I’m getting there.”
This year Ndao serves as president of the ISA. He meets with the leadership council weekly to organize and plan campus events. Their main purpose is to get rid of the misconception that ISA is only for international students, because everyone is welcome. Ndao is also student coordinator of Anam Cara, where he mentors with individuals.
[PHOTO: Oscar Ndao performs at the 2009 “Spring Into Dance” performance at Anderson University.]
Ndao’s advice for student leaders is to look at leadership not as a position but as a service. “Too often we get caught up in the position and we forget why we are in that position,” he said. “I think if you are a leader you really have to focus on why you are there. If you make that your goal you will have a great experience in leadership.”
— Rebekah Shirar is a student writer for 5th Street Communications at Anderson University.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.