Hasiet Joy Negash spent her final days on earth living out a dream. Alongside a team from Biola’s Student Missionary Union, Negash traveled to India during the first two weeks of 2015 to share the good news of Jesus Christ. She played and fished with orphaned children. She washed the feet of untouchables. She gave a gospel message in a town where the mayor, a member of parliament and hundreds of teachers were present.
Then, on Jan. 15, the vibrant 19-year-old Biola student collapsed after complaining of asthma-related breathing difficulties. She was taken to a local hospital, where doctors were unable to revive her.
“The only thing my sister ever cared about was doing God’s will,” her brother, Hosana, said at a campus memorial service on Feb. 5. “She always wanted to spread the gospel in a foreign country, and when the opportunity arose, there was no changing her mind. The trip to India was all she ever talked about from the day she learned about the trip to the day she left.”
Negash’s death — the first ever to occur on a Biola mission trip — brought an outpouring of emotion on the university’s campus, where she was a familiar and friendly face.
A communication studies major from the Seattle area, Negash had been heavily invested in the Biola community since arriving in August of 2013. She gave campus tours and welcomed prospective students as an admissions ambassador. She helped incoming students transition into college life as a Student Orientation Services leader. And she bonded with and encouraged other students of diverse backgrounds through her involvement in Multi-Ethnic Programs and Development (MEPD). “Joy was one who crossed cultures daily here at Biola, embracing a wide variety of people, building bridges wherever she went,” said Glen Kinoshita, director of MEPD, who remembered Negash’s love for sharing her Ethiopian heritage with others. “May we follow her example, to love across cultures, to live fearlessly and to build God’s kingdom while here on earth.”
Negash was someone whose faith, boldness and love were evident to all, family and friends said. She wore a wide smile and made friends wherever she went.
“Anyone who spent time with her knew that it would take at least 20 minutes to get anywhere on campus simply because of all the friends that she needed to stop and talk to and give hugs to,” said sophomore Hudson Tam. “She was so loved by the Biola community.”
Fellow members of the Student Missionary Union’s “Team India” said Negash embodied the team’s mission to “spread a passion for Christ through calloused knees and calloused hands.” During one of her final days, she got up in front of an auditorium filled with hundreds of people from the lowest caste, opened her red Biola Bible, and spoke of Jesus’ love for the woman at the well, said team leader Brady Lee. She told them of how the savior of the world cared for and spent time with the lowly and the outcasts.
“At the time our team didn’t know this, but in the hundreds of people out there, there were five unreached people groups — there were people who had never heard the name of Jesus, and Joy was the very first person to introduce them to Jesus,” Lee said.
At the campus memorial service, friends urged Biolans to follow Negash’s example by not allowing fear to hold them back from following God’s will. President Barry H. Corey encouraged the community to respond in prayer.
“Pray that the Spirit of God would help us see the way forward, renew hearts, and that the seeds of Joy’s life would bear fruit immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” Corey said. “Pray that many from the Biola community will step into her shoes and walk the next leg of the journey, carrying on the high calling of Christ she lived so fearlessly.”
In honor of Joy’s life and legacy at Biola, the university has established a scholarship in her name. To offer support, visit giving.biola.edu, select “other” under designation and type “Hasiet Joy Negash Scholarship.”