Adventures in Africa

Jul. 10, 2013 - by Kelly Chesley

Adventures in Africa

By Kelsey Luffman

Through The Lens of a Missions Journalist

When Brad Livengood (’04) graduated from MNU with a degree in business administration, he didn’t intend to spend his life serving on the mission field. But just five years later, Brad was forever changed when he participated in a mission trip to India.

“India blew my mind,” Brad says. “For the first time in my life, I saw how the majority of the world lives. Poverty is horrendous. However, the biggest takeaway from the trip was my impression of the [missions] staff. Those Indians were some of the most godly men and women I have ever met. Humble, loving, energetic and well-disciplined. They represented who I wanted to become.”

In Brad's Own Words

The word “Pioneer” conjures up images in my mind of astronauts launching into space or brave explorers battling the elements as they venture into the unknown, not knowing if they’d ever make it home again. Though setting out into missions in Zambia isn’t quite that extreme, it has definitely been a step of faith for me.

I’ve never worked as a professional photographer or journalist, so this role is a brand-new experience. I had never been to Africa and couldn’t locate Zambia on a map. Really, I had no idea wha`t to expect. The organization provided me few details and looking back, it was probably for the best. My friends and family wouldask me lots of questions before I left, and I had to keep answering, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.” All I knew was that I had made a two-year commitment, that it would be tough, but the Lord would get me through it and, in the end, it would be completely worthwhile.

My role with OM requires that I pioneer into new places and experiences regularly. In just over one year I have set foot in seven African countries. Recently I travelled with a small team to Bujumbura, Burundi. We set off from the port of Mpulungu, Zambia, at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika, the longest freshwater lake in the world. Burundi lies at the northern tip. To get there we boarded the Liemba, a ship that’s as old as the Titanic and was originally used by the Germans as a gunboat in WWI

After two days on the ship, we found ourselves ashore in Tanzania. Next we had to take a series of taxis that were so beat up you worried the wheels would fall off at any moment, and mini-buses so cram-packed that you couldn’t move or even lift your head without hitting the ceiling. One day later we arrived and the team put on a sports ministry course that was attended, in part, by former child soldiers. What an adventure!

Another time I found myself in a wooden boat that was taking on water as we travelled to the remote village of Chibanga that borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I watched as one of our national missionaries took a rock and the shaft of a flathead screwdriver and began to pound torn up strips of clothing into the gaps between the planks to stop the leaks. “T.I.A (This is Africa),” I thought.

Those staff Brad admired were partners of Operation Mobilisation (OM), a Christian mission organization that works with 6,100 missionaries in 100 countries around the world. Specifically, OM works with local churches for evangelism and church planting, as well as relief and development.

Once he saw OM’s compassionate work in developing countries, Brad began to explore the possibility of becoming a missionary. Now, four years later, Brad is an OM journalist, using writing and photography to tell the stories of God’s work in people’s lives. The experience, he says, has been an unforgettable adventure.

“My role with OM requires that I pioneer into new places and experiences regularly,” Brad says. “In just over one year I have set foot in seven African countries.“

Though mission work may seem far removed from his former corporate ambitions, Brad believes the business administration knowledge he gained at MNU equipped him to excel in his current position.

“Through class projects at MNU, I learned how to effectively collaborate with other team members for a common purpose,” Brad says. “Now I communicate with people in different countries, from different cultures, with different talents and abilities. The previous school experience working with others has been very helpful.”

His former professors agree that Brad grew tremendously, both personally and professionally, during his time at MNU. Yorton Clark, chair of the department of business administration, remembers Brad as a spiritual leader who challenged his peers through his Christian walk. Dean of the School of Business Jamie Myrtle describes him as “hardworking, definitely committed to Christ in his life and committed to excellence in his work.”

OM Support Services Leader Holly Steward, who works with Brad in OM’s Tanganyika field, says his contributions to OM have helped the ministry thrive.

“Brad’s gift for photography is exceptional and has had a big impact for many of the fields in OM Africa,” Steward says. “His photos and articles have raised the bar of what we are able to share with supporters.”

What’s more, says Steward, Brad has proven to be an invaluable source of spiritual encouragement for his fellow missionaries.

“We really appreciate Brad’s openness and willingness to share what God has been teaching him during his first year in Africa,” Steward says. “He is very authentic and doesn’t try to hide it if he is struggling with something. He is always faithful to spend time with God, and it is an inspiration to others.”

Indeed, as Brad reflects on his past year with OM, he does not recount his own accomplishments. Rather, he describes his work as a testimony to the grace of God.

“I can’t thank the Lord enough for calling me to himself and to this role with OM,” Brad says. “He takes people that are willing to give him control and he changes and shapes their lives for his Kingdom. He will change you and use you if you truly mean it when you say, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Overall, Brad says that being willing to surrender to God, regardless of cost or comfort, is what makes him a Pioneer.

“Looking back at the entire process from contemplating joining missions, to raising support, to traveling to new places and working new roles, I see the Lord asking me to make small steps of faith, one at a time,” he says. “Maybe that’s what Pioneers do. They take steps of faith. The Lord has been faithful through it all.”


Want to learn more about Brad’s work, art and passion? Connect with him on www.blivengood.com.

To learn more about Operation Mobilisation and to find out how you can participate in their outreach, visit www.om.org.

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