“We can find love, fun and everything we need in Jesus Christ.”
It is these words that Chip Bii read from a composition notebook in his office; the message that Pastor Kipla wanted to impress upon Bii and his team’s hearts as they left to return to the States.
Kiplangat (Chip) Bii calls Kenya home — specifically, three hours west of Nairobi and two hours away from where he led a team of 14 students this January.
Bii is the director of Taylor World Outreach (TWO), a ministry at Taylor that coordinates and oversees programs related to Lighthouse ministries, spring break missions, community outreach and world opportunities.
This is his fifth year serving in this capacity.
Though Chip and his wife, Debbie, have returned to Kenya every couple of years for various reasons, this was the first time that Taylor’s Lighthouse program partnered with Kipla and his church, Africa Gospel Church in Kericho, Kenya.
The goals of the trip were threefold: ministry engagement, cultural immersion and mutual encouragement.
Together with graduate assistant Sarah Hagelberger, Chip and Debbie supported the team in their involvement in several events.
For nine days, members of the church hosted the students in their homes. During this time, they helped put on a concert in celebration of the new year and a week of Vacation Bible School (VBS) before moving to a nearby high school for a five-day youth camp.
The homestays became a crucial aspect of the team’s ministry engagement.
“I think staying in people’s homes allowed us to really see the culture very well,” Bii said. “It allowed us to come alongside them and learn from them, and then the things that we were doing then ended up being meaningful…That is, to me, how missions should be in the 21st century.”
In preparation for the trip, the students participated in a semester-long Lighthouse class.
Through various reading materials, discussions and activities, the class was beneficial in orienting the teams with the cultural differences they would encounter.
It also served as a way to connect as a team before the trip and provided a space to talk about strategies they would use in ministry — for example, coming up with VBS curriculum, prepping games for the youth camp and choosing songs for worship services.
Each student sent out 85 letters to friends and family prior to leaving for the trip, hoping to raise support and ask for prayer for the work they would be doing.
The trip was mutually encouraging for both Africa Gospel Church and the Taylor team. While there were apparent cultural differences between the way of life in Upland and in Kericho — specifically, the concept of time — it was a blessing for both groups to encourage each other in their respective ministries.
“The philosophical idea of standing with the church really came through well,” Bii said.
Something the Taylor team was able to bless the church with was equipment they brought from the States to use at the concert. The team allowed them to keep the microphones and technology for future youth events and church services, which see about 3,000 members come through each week.
Juniors Olivia Jeanette and Alysia Anderson were thrilled to be a part of the Kenya team this J-term.
“I think (the trip) probably will be one of my most favorite experiences I’ve had while at Taylor,” Jeanette said.
Among many other instances of God’s faithfulness, Anderson and Jeanette both reflected on the spiritual encouragement that it brought them to witness firsthand the faith of the young children.
Their joy was palpable as they engaged in vulnerable small group conversations, volunteered to lead prayers and recited Bible verses.
“It’s just so cool to see God at work,” Anderson said.
Bii’s encouragement to any students considering a Lighthouse trip in the future is to think about how they can leverage their God-given skill sets for the kingdom.
He emphasizes the value of assuming a posture of availability before the Lord.
“The one thing to really think about is like — you have something to offer, and you can offer that in Upland, or you can offer it elsewhere in the world,” Bii said. “And God uses that, for you and for others, as long as you’re using it to glorify His name.”
Bii and the Kenya team are especially thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness in protecting them as they traveled, smoothing out the many logistics of a trip of this nature, and paving the way for future connections with Africa Gospel Church.
He and his team are already working with Kipla to prepare for another trip to Kenya next school year.
“I’m energized and excited to continue doing the work that I’m doing,” Bii said. “I pray that this continues into the next generations that are coming, that they will see that God is faithful — because I can see that for myself, that God is faithful.”