By Sara Katherine Johnson
Seven women with no knowledge of how to speak Russian set out for four weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia, to teach the Bible lessons to orphans, all part of the Buckner International faith-based ministry.
One of those women was Ba Haughton, La., sophomore Erika Arvidson.
“I’m a neuroscience major and a religion minor,” Arvidson said. “I’m fascinated by how God has wired us, but I’m also passionate about ministry. This summer, God showed me what pure religion looks likes.”
Arvidson took part in the ministry program over the summer and said she was unprepared for the trip. She had never traveled internationally and her previous mission experience was limited to Wisconsin. Ultimately, Arvidson said she was able to take away from the trip that she does have something to offer others.
“I don’t have any special talents,” Arvidson said. “But God has blessed me with this story that has the ability to impact others. Having realized that this summer is something I’ll be able to carry with me the rest of my life.”
Lauri Ann Hanson, senior media relations coordinator for Buckner International, said their organization deals mainly with humanitarian aid, foster care, adoption and more. Like Baylor, they are an affiliate with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
It was during a similar Chapel last year that Arvidson learned about the opportunity to serve in Russia. She said the Russia trip caught her eye because it was hosting vacation Bible school for orphans.
“That hit close to my heart, because I’m an orphan,” Arvidson said.
“Erika was one of the students that really stood out to our team leaders,” Hanson said. “She was really able to relate to the kids on a personal level that was really refreshing.”
The team of seven girls went to three orphanages during their trip ranging from five to seven days at each location. It was hard to get a footing in the beginning, Arvidson said, because they did not know how many kids to prepare for or how old they would be.
“The first couple of days is spent getting them to be OK talking with you,” Arvidson said. “After they let go of that original boundary, that wall they have to guard themselves, and let us in then those relationships thrive so quickly.”
Despite language barriers, missing home and not liking the food, Arvidson said, the hardest part was always saying goodbye. She said she felt blessed to have a story that meant she could connect to the kids.
“Our primary role there was not evangelizing,” Arvidson said. “We wanted to tell them about Jesus and that we were there because of Jesus, yes, but our primary role was to love on them and to give them security and make sure they know they’re loved.”
Buckner International will be at the Missions Fair from 9 a.m. to noon today in Waco Hall during Chapel and noon to 3 p.m. in the Bobo Spiritual Life Center.
Information about Buckner International and their mission trips around the world can be at www.buckner.org or from representatives at today’s Chapel services.