Civil Unrest Introduces ‘Lesson on Flexibility’

Post a Comment » Written on June 15th, 2006     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (June 15, 2006) – A recent mission trip to Africa proved to be a “lesson on flexibility” for a group of North Park University students when political unrest at their originally intended destination forced them to change their plans.

Nine bombings in the capital of Ethiopia a week before the scheduled trip sent the team scrambling for a new site, eventually finding opportunity in Lesotho, a small mountainous country within the borders of South Africa.

Bjorn with kids The group of 10 students and one faculty adviser learned of the violence in Addis Ababa on Friday, May 12. After consulting with United States government officials, the team decided to change locations. By Tuesday, they made plans with Habitat for Humanity to travel to Lesotho (pronounced Le-soo-too), where North Park students had worked the previous year.

Getting to Lesotho took several days. The group left Chicago on Thursday, May 18, spent a long layover in Paris that gave them a brief time to tour, flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then took a small prop airplane to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, on Saturday afternoon.

The team began with some students visiting a local church while others joined a hunger awareness march with about 1,000 other people. “Our plans changed about every other day, but we laughed a lot in the midst of the chaos,” says Rachel Ekstrand, a newly graduated student who is scheduled to serve as a short-term Evangelical Covenant Church missionary in Cameroon.

The students were divided into two teams, one digging a foundation for a house and the other digging pit latrines. The work was tiring as students had to use pick axes to break up the ground of rock and clay.

“I think it’s safe to say that if any of us never saw another pick-axe, that would be just fine,” wrote Paul Johnson, the adviser for the trip, on a blog that kept people informed of their work. Johnson also is the program coordinator for University Ministries.

At other times during the trip, students visited AIDS hospitals and orphanages for children with AIDS. They spent several hours playing with the children. “The orphans definitely took a piece of all our hearts,” Ekstrand says.

Thirty percent of the Lesotho population has AIDS – one of the highest rates of any underdeveloped country. The current life expectancy has dropped from 51 to 37 years in less than a decade, according to the World Health Organization.

“Most of us had never heard of this tiny little country two weeks ago, and now our time in this place is sure to leave it’s mark on each of us in unique and special ways,” Johnson wrote.

The team returned June 1 – learning yet another lesson in flexibility. Flights had to be changed and all 16 bags checked at Lesotho arrived in Chicago three days after the students had returned home.

In addition to Ekstrand, students who traveled to Lesotho include Bjorn Amundsen (accompanying photo), Erik Anderson, Janey Blair, Erik Hjelm, Lyndsey Hyatt, Evan Kolding, Tim Knight, Jessica Manning, and Alisha Tillman.

To read the group’s blog, visit Lesotho Blog.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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