This year’s Harding University in Zambia (HIZ) group has made it to Africa. According to Dr. Jeffry Hopper, Dean of International Programs at Harding, the entrance requirements for HIZ are different than other international programs.
“Rather than first come, first serve, we collect names until about December for the following year, and the students will have to submit to an interview and some testing to see if they’re adaptable to extreme cultural variances,” Hopper said.
Students must also have a GPA of at least 2.5 instead of 2.0. HIZ students then enroll in a Healthcare Missions class offered in the spring semester before they go to Africa, and for Intersession they attend Harding University Tahkodah (HUT).
According to Oneal Tankersley, Missionary-in-Residence of the Center for World Missions, students take Development Ministry (BMIS 388) while at HUT intersession and undergo simulations that help them to identify with different cultures.
“It’s very formative of who (students) are and who they grow to be,” Tankersley said, regarding the Development ministry class curriculum and experiences. “The experience at HUT during intersession helps students to understand practically the struggles of everyday life for people around the world.”
According to Hopper, students at HUT live without running water or electricity for two weeks in “relatively less-developed” housing. There they work with fire and candlelight, learn how to purify their own water, and begin learning to speak Tonga, “a language for which there is no written version.”
HIZ students returned to HUT Sunday, Aug. 24 to worship and review important cultural aspects before heading to the airport on Wednesday, Aug. 27.
With the students’ departure, there has been much circulation and concern about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but Hopper said it isn’t a threat based on geographic location.
“Ebola is in west Africa. We’re in south Africa,” Hopper said. “The question is prompted from what is perhaps not a complete understanding of the geography or the size of Africa. At present, there is no impact. I don’t want to make light of it, however, the distance is so great. As bad as it is, we have not placed them near to the outbreak at all, and we are watching it almost by the hour.”
Dr. Shawn Daggett, Director for the Center of World Missions, and Janice Bingham are accompanying the students this semester to the Namwianga Mission in Zambia.
The Namwianga Mission has been an exceptional host and treated us like honored guests,” Hopper said. “That relationship is essential to the success of this program; it would not be possible without the cooperation of the mission and the Zambians that operate that mission.
The HIZ day starts at six in the morning before breakfast with Harding classes. African Christians also come in and lecture on African history, culture and literature under the supervision of the director who is there, Hopper said.
International Programs Receptionist Aleece Kelley said students also spend time working in three havens that take in orphaned babies up to two years of age, who have lost at least their mothers.
“Not all the fathers have died,” Kelley said. “Fathers can’t nurse their babies. That’s why they’re (at the mission). I think there’s a misconception that these are AIDS babies; they’re not. Some of them do have AIDS, and a lot of them may have had mothers who died from AIDS, but a lot had mothers who died in childbirth, or sometimes they died from other diseases.”
According to Kelley, the nearest African city is Kalomo, about 6 kilometers north of the Mission, which is too far a journey for fathers to undertake to get baby formula when they could be spending that time working to earn money.
“It takes about 30 dollars for a monthly supply of formula for a baby,” Hopper said. “That’s a monthly income for a family. If you have a baby and no mother to nurse the baby, then you have to buy formula which takes your entire income to feed the baby, then that means that you can’t eat.”
Once the babies are able to eat solid food, they get sent back to their remaining family members.
Although many students will spend a lot of time in the havens caring for the infants, there are many other opportunities the students participate in as well.
“It’s really neat for them to get experiences that aren’t going to be found in their field of study, or their profession, but they get to experience it while they’re in Zambia,” Kelley said.
According to Kelley, students go out every weekend and visit and encourage churches that have been planted, attend gospel meetings, and take weekend trips to villages.
“There’s something about going and serving other people, whether you’re on a study abroad to Zambia, or a mission trip, or just serving at your home church here in the states, that will bring you together, not only as people, but as brothers and sisters in Christ.”