OHIO VALLEY — Going off to college can be a huge adventure for a student fresh out of high school, but for some it can lead to even bigger adventures.
When West Virginia University student and Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School graduate Elijah McClanahan returned to the Bend Area after his first year of college, he was already planning his next trip away — a five-week mission trip to Botswana, Africa.
McClanahan said he is glad he was able to get drawn in to a campus ministry at WVU, which led him to the chance for the trip.
“At WVU, I got involved with an organization called CRU, which stands for Campus Crusade for Christ. They challenge everyone to draw closer to God and through that a big thing they stress is mission trips,” McClanahan said. “Jesus called us all to go into all the nations and I felt called to go, so I figured since I had the opportunity I should do it. I didn’t think I would get an opportunity like this. In all honesty, I thought I would go off to college and figured I wouldn’t be as close to God away from my church, but through the organizations I actually got closer to God.”
Elijah also said he is glad he has had so much support for his trip.
“It hasn’t been too stressful. The most stressful part was deciding where to go, but I picked Botswana because I’ve always wanted to go to Africa and got accepted,” McClanahan said. “Finding funding has been a little stressful too.”
McClanahan said he is eager to go abroad and serve on a mission trip.
“I’m super excited. I’ll be gone for five weeks and it will be fun to just work and serve with everybody on our team.” he said. “We’ll be at the only four-year university in that entire country, so we’ll be trying to make conversations with the college kids and introduce them to Christ and we’ll be spending time with AIDs orphans.”
The challenge for the trip — coming up with more than $5,000 to get there. McClanahan’s church, New Life Church of God in Gallipolis, has helped raise some of the money through fundraisers. This past Saturday, the church put together a “Bluegrass and BBQ Benefit” with a love offering to help get him to Africa.
Rick Towe, pastor of New Life Church of God, said he is glad Elijah has the chance to travel abroad.
“It’s a good experience for him and an opportunity to do the Great Commission, which says to go unto all the world and preach the Gospel. He feels called to do this, so we want to help with his first mission endeavor,” he said. “My first thought was ‘Wow,’ a missionary being resurrected from our church is wonderful. The rest of us around here haven’t been called to go on that far of a mission trip, but he has and we’re going to support him.”
Towe brought in the Bluegrass Gospel band “Open Rail” to perform at the fundraiser. “Open Rail” band member Brian Ison said the band was happy to help.
“We want to be a part of it anytime we can come out and support somebody that’s planning to go spread the Gospel to another part of the world, since the Bible tells us all Christians should do the Great Commission,” Ison said.
Rhonda Williamson, a friend of the church, said she thinks the opportunity McClanahan and the other students have is thrilling.
“I think it’s exciting that all of these bright, young kids are going to Africa on a mission to meet other Christian leaders and help kids orphaned by AIDS,” Williamson said. “I think helping them raise money and raising awareness of their efforts is a tremendous way to support tomorrow’s Christian leaders.”
Elijah’s father, Jamie McClanahan, says he is proud of his son and very thankful to Towe, “Open Rail” and the church for the support they have shown him.
“He’s a God-fearing child and I really am proud of him as a parent,” Jamie McClanahan said. “This is his first trip abroad by himself. I know he’s going to enjoy it and I’m going to enjoy the fact that he’s able to do that and work for the Lord at the same time. It may be easier for him to communicate with the younger generation than to have an older person try to approach them about the Lord. I believe God’s going to bless him on this trip.”
Elijah’s mother, Lori McClanahan, says she is happy for her son and is amazed with the support he has gotten for his first mission trip overseas.
“I’m really excited because of the adventurous part of it. I also worry but I really feel the Lord is going to take care of him,” Lori McClanahan said. “After he explained it, I became more comfortable with it and I think he’s been led to do this. It’s an honor to have the church help. It’s an honor to have anybody rally behind a single person in our community. I’m overjoyed with the support he’s gotten and the people who are helping us work toward his goal. I think every young person needs to experience something like this. Knowing that he’s doing this for the Lord is the main thing.”
Botswana is a flat country in the southern part of Africa that is 70 percent covered by the Kalahari Desert. McClanahan will leave for his five-week mission trip July 2.
The deadline to fund McClanahan’s trip is June, 30. Those interested in helping him can go to give.cru.org/0790249, CRU’s secure giving site.
For more information on CRU, visit www.cru.org.