Acts Project 2010: Africa
November 04, 2010

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As World Cup fever permeated throughout South Africa and the world, four Bryan students were given the incredible opportunity to spend their summer in Africa.

Acts Project: Kenya

Benscoter with Gethsemane children.
Senior Elizabeth Benscoter, elementary education major, and junior Carlin Nasiatka, psychology major, served in Kenya with Gethsemane International, a children’s village co-founded in 2003 by a family connected with Bryan.  Gethsemane’s goal is giving kids a family life instead of living in an orphanage. There are over 50 children in two houses, both of which have their own house-parents.
“I went to Kenya knowing that we probably weren’t going to change much about what was going on over there,” Nasiatka said, “but I was excited to get to be a part of their lives.” For Benscoter and Nasiatka, this meant knowing the children’s names, learning their stories, and being encouragements to them.
“We knew that we would be teaching Bible lessons and living daily life with the children and the family there,” Benscoter said. “As well as spending time with them and forming deep, meaningful relationships and loving on kids who definitely need the extra love.”
Along with preparing daily Bible studies for both the homes, Benscoter and Nasiatka tutored the students every evening. After noticing the large holes in the children’s clothes and backpacks, they also began mending while they tutored. They helped the business side of Gethsemane by organizing supplies, sorting paperwork, and even typing projects in one-tenth of the estimated time. 
Nasiatka with friends from her church.
Nasiatka said one of the most rewarding experiences of the summer was her involvement in the global body of Christ. “I was able to get involved in the church there doing worship ministry with them; I played the guitar, which was a lot of fun. I didn’t know what we were singing half the time!”
Gethsemane hosts a worship and fellowship time with the children twice a week. Benscoter often remembers these times: “Every Sunday and Wednesday night, I think about them doing their praises to God and remember the testimonies that I heard.”
In a country with an 80 percent unemployment rate, poverty and slums are very common. “It’s interesting how fast you adjust to culture when you are surrounded by it.” Nasiatka said, adding that it was incredible to see people willing to give to others and love them selflessly “in the midst of their own needs.”

Benscoter is preparing to travel to Budapest, Hungary, next semester to complete her student teaching. Until then, dozens of photographs of the Gethsemane children plaster her wall above her desk. “When times get rough with school and I ask myself, ‘Why am I staying up late studying for this?’ it’s a good reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
When asked how the summer changed her thought process, Nasiatka said “This experience gave me the chance to learn what I say I believe.”

Acts Project: Zambia

Davis doing laundry in Zambia.
A couple of countries south, Andrew Davis, a May 2010 English major graduate, and Anna Rustebakke, a senior communications major,  were also living out African lives in Zambia.

“I expected to have a job, a task… or something!” Davis said. “In a very naïve and selfish way, I expected to save the world in some respects.”

Davis learned that the Zambian culture is primarily based on relationship, not on what tasks could be exchanged among friends. His housemates—he had over twenty—just enjoyed his being there. “They didn’t need a lot…which was hard. I just made sure I was ready whenever they did.”

Rustebakke suffered from feelings of uselessness as well. “I still wonder why I wasn’t using my gifts and talents; but after a while, my expectations changed from wanting to be great and known, to wanting to be a brick laid by God for the building of his kingdom.”

Rustebakke with Zambian children.
Living near a missionary training school (Davis lived on the campus itself) provided a unique opportunity to sit in on a few classes. Davis and Rustebakke also visited schools and hospitals weekly. Davis also played a lot of soccer, which he found to be slightly different in the more relationally-driven culture. Instead of a goal-driven game, the Zambians seemed more concerned with everyone getting a turn to dribble the ball up the field.

“When you know someone in Zambia, you know them well,” said Davis, who created several meaningful relationships with guys living on the missionary school’s campus. “Relationships aren’t efficient, but they’re important—and sometimes we forget that.”
Davis didn’t bring any books to Africa except his Bible. He spent the summer going through the Psalms, and began to see Scripture in an entirely new light through events in Africa.
“I learned that God doesn’t work like I expect Him to,” Rustebakke summarized. “He works sometimes in ways that don’t make sense, in ways I don’t see, and may never see, and God using me looks far different than what I expect it to look.”