News Archives: Academic Travel

HPU group experiences God’s work in South Africa

HPU group in South Africa for webBROWNWOOD – September 18, 2015 – Five Howard Payne University students and two faculty members that traveled to South Africa during the summer were reminded that God is at work – in huge ways – around the world.

Led by Dr. Melody Maxwell and Dr. Derek Hatch, both assistant professors of Christian studies, the students spent two weeks touring the country, volunteering with Christian organizations and worshipping with more than 2,500 Baptists from around the globe at the 21st Baptist World Congress. They joined more than 60 other individuals from Baptist churches across the United States in serving through the South Africa Ministry Network.

The trip is a component of Dr. Maxwell’s International Missions Practicum, a capstone course for cross-cultural studies majors. The students spent the semester before they left learning about short-term missions and the history, culture and people of South Africa.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the trip was seeing things that we had learned about in class,” said Rachel Ellington, senior from Garland, mentioning sites such as the Apartheid Museum and Lesedi Cultural Village. “The world is a much bigger place than I thought. God is much more creative and the church is much more diverse than I ever dreamed.”

The group spent the first week working with the Refilwe Community Project near an informal settlement north of Johannesburg. Refilwe is a multivalent Christian organization that focuses on child care, community care and skills development.

Dr. Maxwell said the HPU group got to experience a bit of many of the ministries Refilwe has to offer such as farming, child care, kids clubs and more.

“It was a really incredible opportunity for us all to see how God was at work and how we could participate in God’s work,” she said.

The next several days were spent participating in the Baptist World Congress. The host of the event, the Baptist World Alliance, is a fellowship of Baptist believers comprised of 42 million members from 121 countries and territories.

“Experiencing the Congress really expands your boundaries and understanding of the global church,” said Dr. Maxwell.

Scripture was read or presented in approximately 25 different languages during the worship services.

“The Congress’ location on the African continent promised to bring a great deal of diversity to its attendance,” said Dr. Hatch. “I think it really made good on that promise.”

The students were required to seek out people from other cultures to learn about life and Christianity around the world.

“Getting to share life and experiences with people from all over the world was such a remarkable and eye-opening experience for me,” said Mikayla Warren, senior from Salado. “The trip was full of a lifetime of stories and memories and friendships.”

Among the things they learned from leaders of the South Africa Ministry Network was to embrace a “pilgrim’s posture.”

“People go on pilgrimages to seek the presence of God in other places,” said Dr. Hatch. “We weren’t going to bring Christ to South Africa but to encounter Christ in South Africa. He was already working there.”

The Congress served as a good reminder of Christ’s actions around the world.

“It’s really powerful to worship with brothers and sisters in Christ, saying the Lord’s Prayer in your own language and hearing everyone in the room do the same,” said Dr. Maxwell. “It’s fascinating to watch the room explode with dancing and singing and music from different cultures. It’s a privilege for us to be able to travel with, learn from and serve alongside the global Christian community.”

Lance Rhodes, senior from Corsicana, said the trip reminded him of his calling and passion for missions.

“This course rekindled the previously forgotten passion in my heart to go among the nations and proclaim the glory and the grace of Christ,” he said.

Additional students on the trip included Cristalyn Fitzgerald, senior from Burleson, and Paul Warren, May 2015 graduate from Salado.


Photo cutline: While in South Africa, HPU students and faculty met up with HPU alumni Dr. Chris and Mrs. Cindy Liebrum who were also attending the Baptist World Congress. Left to right: Cindy Liebrum, Cristalyn Fitzgerald, Paul Warren, Lance Rhodes, Mikayla Warren, Dr. Derek Hatch, Rachel Ellington, Dr. Melody Maxwell and Dr. Chris Liebrum.

HPU honor student interns in Washington, D.C.

By Jaclyn Bonner, HPU sophomore
Katie Bonner dc for webBROWNWOOD – September 16, 2014 – Katie Rose Bonner of Lytle, a senior political science, history and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major at Howard Payne University, represented HPU this summer as a participant in The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) internship program.

Bonner received a full scholarship from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation and an expense stipend from the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy.

In addition to this honor, Bonner excelled in the Economics of Regulation and Ethics & Leadership courses she and other TFAS scholars took through George Mason University, where she was recognized as the top student in Ethics & Leadership with the Outstanding Student Award.

“I am immensely proud of Katie for receiving the George B. Peabody Award as the 2014 Outstanding Student from The Fund for American Studies and George Mason University’s Institute on Business and Government Affairs,” stated Dr. Justin D. Murphy, director of HPU’s Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and dean of the School of Humanities. “It is an honor to have a student of her caliber in the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy at Howard Payne University.”

Through TFAS, Bonner interned for the American Chemistry Council, the largest trade association in the chemistry industry. Her responsibilities included researching and drafting an advocacy letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee, attending House Committee hearings and conducting a study on the National Science Academy’s committees that issue toxic chemical reports for legislators and regulators.

Bonner was selected by TFAS as the student speaker at the annual Congressional Student Awards Dinner which garnered more than 400 senators, lobbyists, CEOs and program sponsors.

Bonner voiced her appreciation for the program.

“TFAS has provided me opportunities to visit government institutions I might have otherwise only encountered through reading,” she said. “Interacting with individuals who play a critical role in our nation’s government allowed me to make some incredible contacts and receive sound career advice from highly successful individuals.”


Photo cutline: Katie Rose Bonner, an HPU senior from Lytle, completed a summer internship in Washington, D.C. She is pictured in front of the Washington Monument.

HPU group travels to Slovakia for cross-cultural mission trip

HPU Slovakia group for webBROWNWOOD – June 13, 2014 – Dr. Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies at Howard Payne University, and five students from her spring International Missions Practicum course recently traveled to Važec, Slovakia, for a week-long mission experience. The course is designed to give students firsthand experience in cross-cultural service.

The group led ministry activities among the Roma and Slovak people and learned from the missiology of Shane and Dianne McNary, the field personnel with whom they served.

“We spent the semester at HPU learning about the history and culture of the Roma, a minority group in Europe that is often mistreated, and were grateful to get to serve among the Roma in Slovakia and learn from the McNarys’ long-term ministry there,” Dr. Maxwell said.

Ministry activities included teaching English in a local school, leading a daily kids club and planning various evening activities. According to Dr. Maxwell, she and the students prepared both academically and spiritually for the trip.

“We studied best practices in short-term missions and prepared for the specific activities we would lead during our trip,” she said. “Among other assignments, students kept journals while in Slovakia and submitted a reflection paper after we returned. All of these activities helped class members grow academically as well as personally through the trip. It was exciting to see students grow in their cross-cultural leadership abilities as we served together.”

The reflection papers reveal the students’ improved knowledge of international missions.

“The biggest thing I feel I can take as a challenge from this trip is that I need to really try to love everyone as God loves everyone,” wrote Mackenzie Gill, a junior from Brownwood.

Sean Locker, a senior from North Richland Hills, wrote, “From this trip I’ve been better able to understand the importance of reading and experiencing different cultures and how it all pertains to global missions. Now that I’ve seen and experienced so much with my own senses I want to study about the world and its affairs all the more.”

In addition to Gill and Locker, students on the trip included Faye Lasserre, senior from Brownwood; Rachel Runnels, senior from Paradise; and Jack Wells, senior from Terrell.

According to Dr. Maxwell, cross-cultural experiences remind students and faculty alike that God’s kingdom is much bigger than HPU, Texas and the United States.

“Experiences like this allow us to participate in the work that God is doing around the world,” she said. “What a privilege!”


Photo cutline: A group from HPU stands with missionary Dianne McNary in Važec, Slovakia. From left: Jack Wells, Sean Locker, Mackenzie Gill, Dianne McNary, Dr. Melody Maxwell and Faye Lasserre.