Howard Payne students learn about Islam firsthand in North Africa

Before Grace Davis traveled to North Africa, she expected to be immersed in the Muslim culture and to be tested and challenged in ways she had never experienced. The journey did not disappoint.

Davis, a junior at Howard Payne University , traveled to North Africa with seven classmates as part of a cross-cultural studies program. The group, led by Mary Carpenter, assistant professor of Christian studies, worked primarily with Muslim university students—helping them with their English and building relationships.

Howard Payne University students Deya Baldazo, Allysa Pendly, Jackie Phillips and Grace Davis visited a coliseum while in North Africa. (Grace Davis Photos)

Working directly with Muslims allowed the Howard Payne students to learn about Islamic culture. Although Davis thought she understood the culture before leaving, she found that it was not like what she expected. She felt humbled by the experience as she worked with students her own age.

“They were very friendly, loving and welcoming. In spite of all of our differences, it was still easy to connect with them,” she said.

Evangelism looked quite different to the students, as they grew to recognize the value of simple conversations about their faith in the Islamic culture, not traditional methods of personal evangelism. And they discovered the importance of prayer.

“The best impact and strongest influence that we could have was on our knees praying for these lost people,” she said. As they drove across the foreign land, Grace would look out the window of the bus and pray for each person she saw.

Jami Oliver, another student on the trip, also shared about the significance of prayer. “There is a spiritual darkness in North Africa that I can’t even describe,” she said, “but I gained an understanding on the importance of prayer – the greatest way for us to shine a light in the darkness was to saturate every area with prayer.”

Through their class, an international missions practicum, the students have been learning all semester about all of the details involved in planning a mission trip.

Howard Payne University students Ovi Reyna (left) and David Kampfhenkel (right) explore caves in North Africa.

“Many of our students will be workers in cross-cultural settings or as leaders of global missions in their local churches,” Carpenter said. “Students need to be trained in how to discern and work effectively in diverse types of partnerships.  They also need to know the practicalities of budgeting, raising support, orientation and re-entry. More than just a trip to North Africa, this course is designed to offer them hands on experience on how to create those connections both locally and globally, and give toward kingdom goals.”

The students left North Africa encouraged by the work that God is doing there, they said. “It was very overwhelming to see the multitudes of people who are lost,” Oliver said. “But it is awesome to be able to confess that we serve a God who is much bigger than the multitudes and perfectly capable of reaching these people through his power. I was honored to be an instrument used for his glory.”

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