Africa trip gives Huntington student new perspective

Huntington, Ind.—This past February, Huntington University senior Tim Foster gave some of the biggest presentations in his college career. However, it wasn’t in his business classes, but at a large conference in Kumasi, Ghana, speaking to more than 300 African pastors and leaders.

Foster, an economics and finance major from West Chicago, Ill., traveled to Ghana as a partner of two local business leaders—Travis Holdman, president and CEO of Markle Bank, and Jeff Shelton, owner of Shelton Financial Group in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Holdman and Shelton have traveled to Africa five times in the last three years as volunteer associate trainers with the non-profit organization EQUIP. Founded in 1996 by John Maxwell, EQUIP develops effective church leaders around the world. Holdman and Shelton are part of an EQUIP initiative called the Million Leaders Mandate.

Jeff Shelton, Tim Foster, Travis Holdman
Started in 2003, MLM uses volunteers like Holdman and Shelton who are pastors or Christian business leaders. They teach Biblical leadership curriculum to 40,000 church leaders in countries across the globe. The goal is for each of these leaders to then mentor 25 other leaders in their own communities, resulting in a total of one million trained leaders. The volunteers commit to teach conferences every six months in the same city over a period of three years.

On their fourth trip, Holdman and Shelton decided a college student might benefit from the experience as well.

“On a previous trip to Ghana I realized there was a great opportunity to expose a young leader to the EQUIP /Million Leader Mandate material and to give that person the cultural experience of west Africa,” Holdman said. “Jeff Shelton and I talked about the importance of conveying the need to integrate faith and work for college students.”

Holdman serves as president of the Huntington University Foundation Board, and so he decided to invite a Huntington student along on their fifth trip. Dr. Ann McPherren, a Huntington University professor of business and economics on the Markle Bank Board of Directors, gave Holdman the names of two business students to interview, and Foster was chosen for the trip.

Foster raised money for the Ghana trip through writing support letters and petitioning to different boards and committees. The trio left for Africa on January 30, 2006, and returned home February 5, 2006. For Foster, it was his first experience doing mission service overseas.

“I’d never been on a mission trip to a foreign country to work for Christ,” Foster said. “What was appealing about this is it was just with Travis and Jeff. There was a lot of teamwork with them and it was teaching, not just doing work. I learned a lot from the lessons myself, and Travis and Jeff are incredible servants for God.”

As part of the MLM program, volunteers teach lessons in Biblical leadership at the two-day conferences. There are six lesson books for the six trips volunteers make. While in Ghana, Foster helped teach several lessons.

“The first lesson I taught was on partnership,” he said. “It was a case study on Samuel and Saul, how Samuel was a spiritual leader and Saul, or Paul, was a political leader.”

Foster’s business education at Huntington University was good preparation as he spoke in front of 300 African church leaders.

“Having to give presentations for almost all my business classes gave me confidence and the preparation to speak for such a large audience,” he said. “I had good training. I felt comfortable, down-to-earth with them.”

The pastors Foster taught will now use the lessons they learned to impact their own communities.

“There are leaders that are coming up in Ghana,” Foster said. “They are stepping up to the plate to teach people, to spread the word of God.”

Along with presenting their lessons, the trio also passed out two big suitcases full of ties to the pastors that Holdman’s church had donated.

“Each pastor got two or three ties,” Foster said. “It was a real treat for them.”

Foster said the Ghana trip was refreshing for his faith. “These people have nothing,” he said. “But they are so happy and their faith seems like a lot more than my own and people in America. It’s unbelievable.”

The trip also accomplished Holdman and Shelton’s goal of showing a college student how a businessman can be others-centered.

”It’s a completely different approach,” Foster said about integrating business and faith. “Instead of trying to pursue things yourself in terms of career and jobs, you’re getting the experience of service. It was nice to get my concern and focus off what I could do for myself, such as getting the best job or salary, and instead thinking about how I can serve these people the best I can. I learned a lot, just seeing the way Travis and Jeff sacrifice their time, doing it wholeheartedly.”

While there, Foster also had a chance to talk with local residents, visit different sites, and to learn about Ghana’s economy and government, using the knowledge he learned in his business classes. “They don’t have any infrastructure,” Foster said. “They don’t export. Even though it’s one of the safest African countries and one of the more developed of African countries, their gross domestic product isn’t big at all.”

Foster explained how Ghana is a land of timber and gold, resources that are reflected in the country’s flag. “The flag is yellow, red, and green with a black star. The yellow is for gold, the red is for the blood shed for independence, the green is for forests, and the black is for the African people.”

Foster hopes the trip to Ghana will not be his last. After graduation, he plans to search for a job in financial services, and this coming September he would like to return to Ghana with Holdman and Shelton on their sixth and final trip.

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Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  


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