Hands-on ministry: Students sample life in developing nations at workshop
Harding University Tahkodah, or HUT, was the setting for the 50th annual World Mission Workshop.
The 1,350-acre site, north of Harding’s campus in Searcy, Ark., was designed to be “a kind of missionary boot camp, where we … prepare prospective missionaries for cross-cultural ministry through rigorous simulations,” said Monte Cox, dean of the College of Bible and Religion at Harding.
In 1961, the university, then Harding College, hosted the first World Mission Workshop for 80 students. The event rotates annually among colleges and universities associated with Churches of Christ.
More than 700 students attended this year’s workshop, sleeping in cabins or tents at HUT or across the street at Camp Tahkodah, a Bible camp and retreat center also owned by Harding.
At Camp Tahkodah, they listened to guest speakers and participated in Bible studies. At HUT, they attended classes among “villages” made to resemble real-life settings in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Appalachia.
Chris Nicolay, an Oklahoma Christian University sophomore from Helena, Mont., participated in a class on filmmaking in the mission field. He and fellow students developed a short film based on the biblical story of the prodigal son. Then they filmed it. “Stinkin’ Creek,” a shack that simulates rural poverty in America, was the setting.
The workshop was “more experiential” than its predecessors, Nicolay said. “You’re actually out there doing stuff instead of talking about it.”
Not all the participants came for the hands-on events.
Asia Todd, a freshman at Abilene Christian University in Texas, was interested in meeting other students. She grew up in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where her parents are missionaries, and recognized the workshop’s role in forming mission teams for the future.
“This is a magnetic, hot spot for mission-minded people,” Todd said. “I don’t care about composting or rocket stoves. I just want to meet people.”
Tom Ngobi, a junior at Rochester College in Michigan, said he was impressed by his fellow students’ dedication to reaching a lost world.
“These are definitely students with special hearts,” said Ngobi, a native of Jinja, Uganda. The students’ concern for souls in Africa was particularly inspiring, he said.
“These people want to help my country,” Ngobi said. As a result, “I should have more passion for my place. It’s really challenging — in a good way.”