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December 5, 2003

ETBU students fall for intercultural ministry during break

From: Dallas Baptist Standard, TX - Dec 5, 2003

By John Hall

Texas Baptist Communications

HOUSTON--While their classmates were busy catching up on sleep, a group of East Texas Baptist University students served seven distinct cultures during their fall break.

Nine young adults from the ETBU Baptist Student Ministry led Sunday School classes, worship services and Bible studies during their mission trip to Houston Oct. 26-28. They also helped clean several churches.

The weekend effort included visits to six ethnic churches that served Nigerians, Filipinos, Laotians, Cambodians, Chinese and Indians. The trip, arranged through the Baptist General Convention of Texas intercultural initiatives office, helped the group get a taste of international missions without leaving the state, said ETBU junior Mike Vela.

"We didn't want to go in and help them, go in and change them, but we wanted to serve God," he said.

Although the majority of the students' work was in ethnic churches, their help building a stage at Woodhaven Deaf Church touched Pastor Arthur Craig's heart. The stage will support the church's annual Christmas drama, which draws about 1,200 people from the surrounding communities. The play, penned by Craig, depicts the life of Jesus from a different perspective each year.

"Deaf people love drama because it is so visible," Craig said. "The hearing people mostly have a connection to the deaf community, but some do not. They just come because it is so unique."

Cooperation between ETBU students and volunteers from the church helped students understand the deaf culture, Craig reported. The two groups used a combination of sign language, gestures and spoken words to get to know each other during the project.

The students' visit continues to encourage Woodhaven Deaf Church, Craig added, explaining that the volunteers' energy and willingness to help has urged the deaf congregation to be more outreach-minded.

"It's a blessing to our people," he said. "They are seeing people who want to do something. They're like missionaries or examples of Christian servants. It inspires them to want to go out."

ETBU students also were blessed, Vela responded. The congregations were grateful for the effort and cared for the volunteers throughout their trip, providing ethnic meals.

"People can be so sacrificial and excited for other people," Vela said. "It is so humbling. People want to give what they have or sometimes don't have."

The trip helped the students realize they can reach many cultures by living like they are on mission every day, Vela added. By following what they felt was God's will, the students furthered the work of the Houston churches.

"These guys wanted to give up their fall break--well, not give up, but wanted to share," Vela concluded. "If we would have gone home, we would have missed so much."

© 2003 by Baptist Standard Publishing Co.