Last summer, Meredith Wilkinson traveled to Uganda with 12 other college students to experience how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s efforts intersect with the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals (Photo: Jennifer Wilmore)
ATLANTA (CBF) – For 50 days last summer, 13 students toured six countries to see for themselves how the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations, which aim to eradicate poverty, interact with their faith.
At the end of their trip, they were asked to create projects that would allow others to understand more fully the people they met and the situations they experienced. The trip was part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's Student.Go mission program for students.
Carson Foushee, a first-year graduate student at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology is planning to lead a group of students to Uganda this summer.
Working alongside CBF field personnel Jade and Shelah Acker, the students will deliver mosquito nets and conduct soccer skills camps for youth. Partnering with His Nets, a nonprofit organization focused on distributing nets to areas plagued by malaria-infected mosquitoes, Foushee's goal is to raise $15,000 to purchase 2,500 nets for people in Uganda and Nicaragua.
"I feel that this project embodies CBF's mission in being the presence of Christ by meeting the physical and spiritual needs of people," said Foushee.
Mary Beth Gilbert, a junior at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., returned from the trip and hosted a simple meal of black bean soup for 12 of her sorority sisters to raise their awareness of poverty and hunger. Gilbert's next idea is to have all five sororities on Samford's campus join together to raise money for mosquito nets to send with Foushee and collect toys for the Children's Hospital in Birmingham.
"What better way to live out the gospel of Christ than to be who God has made me to be, and to meet people where they are, just as Christ continues to meet me where I am," said Gilbert.
Caitlin Sandley and Jacob Smith, seniors at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., are developing curriculum for young adults to learn more about the MDGs.
"Jesus often challenged the rich to give up their possessions, stating that it is much easier to follow God without an attachment to the things of the world," said Smith. "That is what our guide to MDG-friendly living is all about: examples of ways one can give their resources (their possessions) to those who have not been given the same advantages."
"I know that God, throughout scripture, commands us to seek justice," Sandley said. "The MDGs are a wonderful blueprint for how the developed and the developing world can partner together to pursue justice for the poor and oppressed. As a young person in one of the wealthiest, most powerful nations, one of the most important tools I have for seeking justice is my voice. Through this project, I can use my voice to educate others, especially my peers, about our role as people of faith in the pursuit of social justice."
Jennifer Wilmore, 23, left in February for a seven-month stay in Uganda through the Fellowship's Student.Go program, to work alongside the Ackers, whom the group met on their trip.
"Jesus' ministry on earth was one of mercy, healing and redemption," Wilmore said. "Through this project I pray that God would make my attitude like Christ's and use me to make these aspects of the gospel known: to show mercy and bring some sort of healing and redemption to the poor, the neglected and the outcasts."
Rosie Stafford, 22, is currently interning with the ONE Campaign in Washington, D.C., through the Student.Go program. Stafford will soon begin writing a series of e-mails sharing her experiences from last summer's trip and educating readers on practical ways they can respond to poverty both at home and abroad.
"I wanted to find a way to connect my life here in the U.S. with the life I witnessed and was inspired by on our travels," Stafford said. "By sharing the stories of the work of God's people around the world, I'm inviting other people to share in this ministry, the ministry Jesus began and calls us to continue here on earth."