Along with five other college students from across the U.S., senior Christopher Franklin traveled in a school bus this summer to speak to thousands of people at youth programs in churches and schools.
Leaving from Washington, D.C., and ending up in Seattle, Wash., the Living Hope Bus trip covered 16 states and was sponsored by World Vision.
Franklin was teaching about AIDS in Africa. Through 30-minute presentations to as few as four and as many as 9,000 people, the members of the Living Hope Bus Trip gave devastating statistics, like the fact that five people in Africa die of AIDS every minute.
Initially, the goal of the trip was to raise enough money to build one school in Africa. By the end, they had raised $45,000, enough to build a school in Zambia and to support the local economy by hiring African builders.
Chris and the Living Hope crew netted more than money, however. They inspired many and were also inspired by those they met.
The bus traveled on one occasion from populous Chicago to an empty place called Mineral Point, Wisc. As they arrived, they met three young women, ages 18 to 25, who they assumed were volunteers where they were going to speak.
It turned out that the 25-year-old runs the youth center in the area. At age 22, she tried to bring the local churches together to meet the needs of struggling youth in the community. Unfortunately, they could not come together because of denominational differences.
This, however, did not stop her from following the call of God, Franklin said. Her center now has 40 to 60 kids coming in every night.
“To see somebody embody [our goal] early in the trip–it just made a huge impact,” Franklin said.
Franklin also developed his passion for poverty and Africa during a missions trip to Malawi.
“The spirit of people who are so resilient to death, to starvation and all this, to be so hopeful and just pushing on–I just fell in love with the tenacity of people pushing on every day even though they don’t have much,” Franklin said.
The 70-day bus trip made Franklin realize, he said, that God was actually moving outside of a few committed people in ministry here and there. He mentioned that even he had become complacent with what God was doing.
“Only when one is able to get outside of his community, out of his comfort zone, can you see God working,” he said.
Franklin wants daily to make our generation aware of injustice and our obligation to deal with it. He said he has recognized that, on a large scale, our generation is too selfish. According to him, Christians are called to serve the lowest of the low.
“In a lot of cases, it takes an experience, whether that be a personal experience, a death, something outside the United States, poverty – extreme poverty – to kick our butts a little bit,” Franklin said. He admitted that, including himself,we take our his power to change things for granted.
Though he acknowledged not understanding fully for himself the concept that Jesus was God yet hung out with sinners, Franklin knows that we Christians must see that example and live it ourselves.
“If God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, who was nailed to a cross for each one of our individual sins, then I then see my own behavior and my own selfishness and say the least I can do is care for at least one other person,” Franklin said.
One ten-year-old at a church where Franklin spoke was able to grasp that point easier than we can even understand it. After seeing Living Hope’s tapes, he went around asking people to sponsor him for every lay-up he made on World AIDS Day.
The boy has raised $80,000 for the organization now known as “Hoops for Hope” to support the cause of AIDS prevention and health in Africa.
“We cannot make the excuse that we are too young,” Franklin said. What matters in the end, as far as he is concerned, is that “whatever [we] do, these people can not be forgotten.”
For more information on the World Vision’s Living Hope Bus trip, please visit LHBUSTRIP.COM.