Most college students spend their summer working, possibly doing an internship or taking a family vacation. For some Anderson University students, summer provides the opportunity to experience life and service in a different culture.
Last summer, AU students Faith Kellermeyer, Hannah Monroe, Kimmie Icenogle, Michael Pritchett, and Sarah Buck spent two weeks with a native tribe in Tanzania through the university's AU-East Africa program. For these students, it was the summer of a lifetime.
[Photo: The AU-EA ambassadors pose in front of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.]
AU-East Africa exists to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in East Africa. This year, the program officially joined the ranks of Campus Ministries at Anderson University. AU-EA’s ambassador program offers a unique experience for any freshman through junior student to travel to East Africa and gain first-hand education on the AIDS pandemic and life in Tanzania.
The group spent the first four days of their excursion in Sanya Juu. There, they visited a school where children performed songs for them. At two orphanages, the students prepared crafts, sang songs, and shared Bible stories with the orphans. Other activities included visiting widows and going to a church service spoken in Swahili. The group also watched the World Cup every night.
They traveled in Range Rovers for over three hours to spend time with the Maasai tribe. The students got to bathe in hot springs and watch the tribe perform the “jumping dance.” They were generously given a hut to sleep in during their visit — a dwelling constructed of goat manure, twigs, leaves, and anything else the Maasai found useful to build a safe shelter.
Sophomore Faith Kellermeyer said the experience made her realize holiness can be found in unexpected places.
"God can be found in the mountains, in the smile of a dirty kid named Lepazo, in the sounds of goats crying at three in the morning," she said. "God is just as untamed and uncontrollable as the wildlife in Africa. I learned so much about being open to new experiences. I also gained so much from my conversations with Moose and Josh Mlay (fellow AU-EA team members) about the way African aid is distributed — how what we really need to do is let Tanzanians find a way to help themselves rather than blindly throwing money at the problem and hoping it will go away.”
Sophomore Hannah Monroe always wanted to go to Africa because her parents were in the Peace Corps in Gabon, near west-central Africa. Growing up hearing their stories, she felt she had to experience it for herself. And she was amazed.
“AU-EA chapel last year was the deciding factor for me,” said Monroe. “Just seeing all of the pictures and hearing the stories, I knew that this trip was right for me.”
[Photo: Hannah Monroe poses with a group of children at a school in Tanzania.]
Monroe enjoyed her experience in Africa so much she is now the co-coordinator of AU-EA.
“Life in Tanzania was slow and very relaxed,” she said. “Tanzanians, in general, are polite and everyone was very welcoming. The landscape was majestic. Time didn't matter anymore. I have never felt more connected to the rawness of my own humanity. I was dirty, sweaty, tired; yet I had never been so happy.
“The red earth of Africa has forever stained my feet," Monroe continued. “I'm sure that whatever I do and wherever I go from now on will have a direct connection to what I learned and experienced in Africa.”
Junior Kimmie Icenogle had a similar awakening. She was amazed to see how happy the African people were.
“Life in Tanzania was definitely not what I had expected,” said Icenogle. “I expected a sad environment. When I think of Africa, I think of poverty. Life in Tanzania was anything but sad."
Sophomore Michael Pritchett, the only male of the five ambassadors, felt astounded by the happiness surrounding the tribe.
“I remember seeing kids run around barefoot because they can't afford shoes, yet they always seemed to have the biggest smiles on their faces,” said Pritchett. “Just seeing situations like that can change your perspective on a lot of things in life.” vSarah Buck discovered the trip changed her more than she expected.
“I went on the trip thinking of all the things I could do for Africa and all the ways that the people needed me,” said Buck. “Leaving Africa, I realized that Africa did not need me; rather I needed it. I needed to see this new way of life and joy in the midst of poverty and suffering. I needed followers of Christ in this new environment. I am never going to bring change to Africa, but it has forever changed me."
[Photo: Sarah Buck holds a child in the sanctuary of a church in Tanzania.]
The AU-EA ambassador program benefits the Tanzanian people as well as the students who participate in the trip. It brings understanding about an impoverished part of the world, and it creates lasting memories for students each summer.
Current AU students can apply now through Nov. 30 for next summer's AU-EA ambassador program by visiting www.anderson.edu/au-eastafrica/.
— Jonathon Hosea is a sophomore from New Castle, Ind., majoring in communication arts. Hosea is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh 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.