April 7, 2015
Grace Christian University students have been helping at Drop Zone for years, but few have traveled from as far away as Gerald Asong. A native of Cameroon, Asong started volunteering at Rush Creek Bible Church’s after school program last year as part of his Christian Ministry for a class at Grace Christian University. He has remained involved because he enjoys being a part of it. For Asong, working with students is a blessing for him because it gives him a chance to learn more about American culture, and a blessing for the students as they learn about Jesus Christ and salvation in Him.
Dan Neymeiyer, who started the program at Rush Creek Bible Church in 2011, says Asong is loved by the students and they like having him around. “They like his accent,” Neymeiyer says.
Around 110 students from Byron Center Public Schools regularly attend Drop Zone every Tuesday and Thursday. Asong is one of 15 helpers from the church and community who help run the program. Neymeiyer says they could always use a few more. Students arrive around 3:00, sign in, have a snack, and spend the next few hours playing games, doing activities, and working on homework. They’re also given the opportunity to participate in a Bible Study. Neymeiyer says he started Drop Zone when he noticed a gap in outreach to students in grades 5-8. The program is intended for students who are too young to be independent, but too old for day care programs.
The path from Cameroon to the United States wasn’t a direct one for Asong. He had a cousin who lived in China, so he moved there to continue his education when he was 21. “I moved there to study, but ended up working,” he says. For the next six years, Asong lived in China teaching English to middle and high school students. In 2014, he moved to Michigan to enroll at Grace Christian University.
Asong is studying business hoping to bring his skills back to Cameroon one day. “I’d like to get involved in business to help sustain the church,” he says. He’d also like to continue the work of the Grace churches there, started by his father, Lawrence. Lawrence Asong was the head of the Prison Mission Association in Cameroon, and was connected through this ministry to Grace Ministries International and the Grace Gospel Fellowship. It was this connection that eventually landed Gerald at Grace Christian University.
The cultural divide has made working with American kids challenging for Asong at times. “Kids here are more carefree,” Asong says. “They’re more loose and hard to control. They think nobody but their parents should be able to tell them what to do. Kids in Cameroon are taught to respect elders, but some kids here often think they can do whatever they want.”
Still, Asong appreciates the opportunity. “I’ve learned a lot about how people act and think. Cameroonians aren’t exposed to opportunities like this – to see how kids here look at life and their future.”
Asong says service like this is important for those who have been blessed by others. “Someone volunteered and helped me. God sent His Son to die for my sins. That makes me feel like I should do something to help and serve others. I am who I am today because of what others have done for me. I want to help them come to know Jesus. I love what I do.”