Pacific Union College students know Alicia Barlow-Teferi as the face, voice, and director of PUC world missions; one of the few and proud female drummers on campus; and religious vice president of this year’s senior class. She frequents the stage to help lead song services at worship and studies hard as a religion major preparing for medical school. Add these factors together, and it is not surprising that Alicia’s dream is to work as a missionary doctor in a country dear to her heart: Ethiopia.
It was during her first mission trip at age 16 that Alicia felt impressed by God to become a missionary. Traveling to Tijuana—her first time out of the U.S.—with a non-denominational Christian team changed Alicia’s life. “God really stretched me, and after that time … I just knew God wanted me to [work] in missions,” Alicia explains.
Alicia returned home enthusiastic about the new-found direction of her life, which met with moderate support from her family. A few years later, following the sudden death of two relatives, the energy for mission work among Alicia’s family grew to match her own. Although shocked and saddened by their loss, the family remained filled with the hope of one day meeting those deceased family members again and a desire to grow the kingdom of God. Alicia, her parents, and siblings exclaimed an enthusiastic, “Let’s go tell the world!” and shared a collective desire to spend a year on a mission together.
As it happened, the family began their journey as missionaries by celebrating the life of one of their recently deceased relatives with a three-week memorial mission trip to Ghana—where the relative had previously completed a Share Him evangelistic series. This positive mission experience left the family eager to do and give more; they just needed an answer to their prayer of “Where?”
It did not take long for the Barlow family to receive mail promoting missions in Africa. “We started getting stuff in the mail that said specifically ‘Ethiopia is Calling!’” recalls Alicia. “It was cool how God put that together.” The family’s prayers answered, they set off to spend a year volunteering at Gimbie Adventist Hospital in Ethiopia.
The year Alicia spent in Ethiopia—between her sophomore and junior years of college—effectively reaffirmed her ambitions. While there, Alicia had the opportunity to assist in surgeries and test whether she was truly cut out to be a doctor. The results turned out positive.
According to Alicia, there were only an estimated five or six surgeons working in Ethiopia outside of the country’s capital. “I would like to [create] some rural clinics and then maybe develop them into a hospital a little further out,” Alicia says. “It seems like everything is an emergency because people don’t have the money to come in for check-ups … I want to be a missionary doctor for sure.”
Not only has Ethiopia provided an outlet for Alicia’s passion for sharing God’s love, it also furnished her with a God-fearing, multi-lingual Ethiopian husband, Benjamin—who shares a vision for his life that compliments Alicia’s dreams for her future.
While Alicia prepares academically for her future medical work, she has actively involved herself in many of the local mission and Bible study opportunities available at PUC. “[The campus] is very spiritual,” Alicia shares. “I’ve seen it [grow] over the time I’ve been here.” She is impressed by and happy about how student-initiated Bible studies occur nearly every day of the week, and the extent to which major projects and ministries such as REVO and Kidzreach are service-oriented. Alicia is enthusiastic about everything she is currently doing at PUC, all in preparation for her answer to Ethiopia’s call.
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