WINNEBA, Ghana – For nine Missouri Baptist University students, the summer was a chance to share the love of Christ in a nation far from their normal stomping grounds in St. Louis. For Amy Harrison, assistant professor of higher education leadership, those two and a half weeks were like going back home.
Harrison first went to the west African nation of Ghana in 2010 where she did her student teaching. The next year, she began working with an organization that rescues children who’ve been trafficked into child slavery. She moved to a village there that was a source of the child trafficking while working on her Ph.D. Later, in 2015, she founded First Step Academy to help educate the community she had begun to call home.
“In Ghana, you never meet a stranger,” she said. “People are very friendly and it’s a very communal culture in that way.”
Last year, Harrison led her first group of nine MBU students to First Step Academy, and this summer took 11, along with MBU’s campus minister. There, they taught and hosted a Vacation Bible School in the mornings, and a sports camp in the afternoons (like in most of the world, soccer is huge in Ghana).
Even though many of the Ghanaians do not know Jesus, Harrison said it is actually a very Christian culture.
“I had students say to me, ‘I just want to go to Ghana and love on them and give them Jesus,’” she said. “I would kind of joke and say, ‘Hey, Ghanaians will give you Jesus.’”
Because of that, discipleship and Christian fellowship were also the focus of the MBU trip.
“It was great to connect like brothers and sisters in Christ and narrow that gap that says, ‘we look different, we speak differently, we’re from very different places, but we are brothers and sisters in Christ,” Harrison said. “There is a unity and a bond in that that is so much bigger than culture, politics, language, and all of that.”
As is often the case with mission trips, God works in the lives of those on mission just as much as He does those the team traveled to serve. That’s the case for Harrison as she’s moved from being on the ground doing hands-on work in Ghana to prepping a next generation of leaders.
“Of course I got to see the people that I love and am still close to, but my role has really transitioned to serving our students as they serve Ghanaians. A lot of our students are unchurched, and they would never seek out a mission trip as an arm of the Church.
“They come to Ghana and of course they want to serve and do all these fun, exciting things and post on their Instagram and whatever, but they also come looking for something. There are students looking for God to speak to them and to just reach across this chasm that is in their lives. This past trip, I saw God do that to four students, and it was just really incredible to see God work full circle and bless everybody.”