By Susan Mires
VIBURNUM—Rebecca Knight may be only 20 years old, but the dream of going on mission to Africa has been in her heart for years. Going to a Girls in Action camp as a young child, she had her first encounter with missionaries.
“They were career missionaries to Africa and I remember being captivated by the stories they told,” she said. “I have wanted to go to Africa as a missionary ever since!”
Knight got to live that vision as a semester missionary to South Africa through the International Mission Board’s (IMB) HandsOn Program. She returned home to Missouri in December after four months on the field.
“I have learned so much about what a BIG God we serve and that He does not change even though the culture changes,” Knight said through an e-mail interview from the mission field.
Knight is the daughter of Michael and Kim Knight. Michael Knight is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Viburnum and a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board who sits on the Administrative Committee.
“She comes from a little town of 800, but she has a big vision,” Michael Knight said. “She’s the star of our little town.”
They are proud of Rebecca, their youngest daughter.
“She’s just a good product of Southern Baptist life and of missions education,” he said.
Through Girls in Action, Knight’s heart for missions developed. As a student, she participated in mission trips to locations including East St. Louis, Jacksonville, Fla., and Tulsa, Okla. Along the way, she developed a particular passion for urban missions, a sharp contrast to her small-town upbringing.
“To be 20 years old, she’s got a lot of mission experience under her belt,” Michael Knight said.
Knight is now a missions major at Williams College in Walnut Ridge, Ark. She learned about IMB’s HandsOn program and prayed for several months until she felt led to apply. Although her first choice was Niger, she trusted her parents’ advice and applied for the South Africa program, which involved tutoring children in a village.
“Out of all the places in the world God could have sent me, He has continually given me peace and assurance that He wanted me here in South Africa,” Knight said.
Michael Knight said they certainly had some concerns about potential dangers of sending their daughter to Africa, but had faith the IMB would look after her safety.
Knight lived in Grahamstown, South Africa, and worked among the Xhosa children. She tutored children in second through seventh grade in math and English and helped them study the Bible. The semester missionaries also worked with a career missionary to share Christ with families and support local Baptist church ministries.
Getting to know the precious African children has been the greatest experience of the four-month mission, Knight said.
“I have sincerely fallen in love with each one of them (even when they are difficult!) and I am leaving some of my heart here with them,” she said.
Many Africans practice ancestor worship and sharing Christ at times is difficult, Knight said.
“Many Xhosa Christians still cling to some aspects of ancestor worship out of fear and in efforts to please the ancestors, and therefore never fully experience the freedom found in Christ,” she said.
It took awhile to get to know the people because they do not readily open up to others, Knight said, and culturally, women do not show their emotions.
“But once they finally trust someone enough to allow a friendship to develop, they are very loving and protective,” she said.
Knight will return to Williams College next semester to complete her degree. She was the first student from the college to participate in IMB’s program and professors hope she will serve as a role model for other students.
As the MBC begins a new missions partnership with West Africa, Knight urges believers to pray for people of other cultures.
“I have seen God do amazing things while here through the earnest prayers of family and friends back home,” she said. “Imagine what could happen if more people were praying for those all over the world who are living without the knowledge of Christ. God can do anything with a prayer of faith!”