ABILENE–What started as a meeting in the Hardin-Simmons University cafeteria has grown to an international partnership with multiple departments of the university.
When Grey Hoff, associate vice president for marketing and global engagement, met Kisemei Kupe three years ago, he quickly discovered the student worker had a heart for God and a calling to minister to his people in Kenya.
The two have partnered with the HSU cross country team, university recreation, the HSU physical therapy program and the physician assistant program to empower and learn from people in Kajiado County.
Kupe knew his community had a need for medical and athletic equipment for their clinics and youth center. After HSU constructed the new Fletcher Fitness Center, he had the idea to donate the old fitness equipment. Treadmills, leg press equipment, weights and other equipment were donated to help youth train in Kenya.
HSU also partnered with Global Samaritan Resources to donate medical supplies including surgical equipment, wheelchairs, exam beds, and chairs.
Group from Kenya visits HSU campus
In late May, the deputy governor, director of social services and chief officer of medical services from Kajiado County, Kenya, visited the HSU campus to explore possibilities for partnerships with the university.
They inspected the medical equipment to be donated from Global Samaritan, discussed recruiting partnership with HSU’s global engagement office and met with Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams to learn about the city’s health services, education, water services and garbage collection.
From June 25-July 5, the HSU cross-country team visited Kenya to train with internationally acclaimed Kenyan runners at the Ngong Hills Facility. They also had the opportunity to experience an African safari at Amboseli National Park.
“I want to see the cross-country team to experience the expertise of the Kenyan runners,” said Kupe, global engagement ambassador at HSU. “It is so valuable to train and run in another country.”
In addition to training, the team participated in a community service project at the AIC Childcare Center, helping children with physical disabilities.
Representatives from the physical therapy program also attended the cross-country trip to explore opportunities for a medical mission trip next year. The physician assistant program is exploring a missions partnership with Kenya, as well.
Working together to empower
Kupe’s inspiration to connect HSU with his home county came from a Maasai elder who told him: “We have sent many of our people to America, and they forget about us. Don’t forget about us. Anything good you see, bring it back and connect it with us.” Kupe took the words to heart and remained dedicated to creating a partnership between HSU and Kajiado County.
“I want to see HSU and the members of Kajiado Country work together in raising students and empowering people in my country,” said Kupe. “I have a lot to give back to HSU. HSU has given me more than I expected. I feel like I belong here, but I want to give back to my country.”
The vision for global partnerships at Hardin-Simmons University, beginning with founder James B. Simmons. In a letter to an Abilene pastor he wrote: “To tell you the truth, I have no use for Christlieb College (HSU) if it isn’t the College of Christ’s Love all round the world. …This whole round Globe for Christ is the least we ought to think or say. And for that we should work, and sacrifice, and pray ‘till Jesus comes.”
HSU’s emphasis on missions and global impact was at its peak under the administrations of HSU president Jesse Fletcher and Lanny Hall, Hoff noted.
“During that time, HSU was one of the leading mission-sending universities in the U.S.,” said Hoff. “We had scholarships for missionary families, the Connally Missions Center was constructed, and we held a Horizoning Conference for missions experts. …We want to jump-start these things again and reanoint what we’ve been gifted for the nations around the globe.”
Hoff’s vision for global engagement is far more than recruiting international students.
“We want to welcome the nations here, but we also want our American students here to connect their degrees and passions to something beyond themselves,” he said. “A global education is a transformational experience.”