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Generosity sends foreign student home for holidays

Jan. 22, 1997

By Kristin Nelson

Lariat Staff Writer

Felix Chiota had no plans to go home for Christmas. For him, home is across the Atlantic Ocean. His visits with family are few and far between. Financial constraints did not allow Chiota to plan a trip home this year.

Chiota is a sophomore from Harare, Zimbabwe. He has spent the last 16 months here at the University away from his family. However, due to the generosity of students, faculty, churches and private donations, Chiota was able to travel home for the Christmas break.

On Dec. 10, some of Chiota's friends first heard that he was not going home for Christmas. It was then that they pulled together and set themselves on a mission for God, they said.

'We really felt that God wanted to send Felix home,' said Heather Mersser, a Fairfax, Va., sophomore.

The group of friends wanted to raise enough money for Chiota's plane ticket to Zimbabwe, so in the middle of finals week they gathered for lunch and set themselves to raise $1,900. Each person would need to solicit about $150.

Chiota's friends were confiden they would be able to raise the money before the end of finals week when students would part for the holidays. Some people, however, argued that finals and other end-of-semester commitments would keep many from embracing what they felt God had told them to do.

Within 30 minutes after parting from lunch the group had already gathered $200. Four hours later the total was at $600.

The group of students contacted Bobo Baptist Student Center, and they were put in contact with individuals and churches that would possibly help in this fundraising effort.

Chiota did not know of his friend's efforts until the following evening when they had exceeded their goal and presented Chiota with a plane ticket home. In less than 48 hours, all the money needed for Chiota to travel home was given.

'It was really neat to see people have faith,' said Mersser.

Chiota said he was speechless when he was first told that he would be traveling home.

'I had not anticipated anything from them [his friends],' Chida said.

Chiota did not have plans to travel home to Zimbabwe until possibly May of 1998.

Chiota's parents' first reaction to the news of their son's homecoming was one of disbelief.

'My mother's initial reaction was that perhaps I'd been kicked out of Baylor,' Chiota said.

But disbelief turned to rejoicing as friends and family gathered at the airport in Zimbabwe to welcome Chiota home.

The Christmas of 1996 was a special one for Chiota's family as they celebrated the two-day holiday. Chiota spent three weeks at home in Zimbabwe with family and friends. Chiota said his family celebrates Christmas much as Americans do,with a traditional large family gathering, a big meal and gift giving.

'I've really been humbled by this whole experience,' said Trisha Hause, a San Antonio junior and friend of Chiota. 'I didn't dream this would come true for Felix. If there's something God wants, he's going to take control and make it happen.'

Chiota confirmed that this was not an act of publicity on the part of his friends, but instead what he felt as God's way of performing a miracle. Chiota was able to share this miracle with members of his church in Herare.

'It's amazing what God can do,' said Chiota. 'The Bible says, 'Ask and it shall be given.' Sometimes even when we don't ask, God still knows.'

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