Word&Way News Writer
“Our trip to Kenya was a call from the wild,” Tom Shoemaker, member of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit, said. “And I answered it.”
Shoemaker joined with 11 others from five churches across the state to participate in the second of three trips the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri has planned to Kenya, Africa.
CBF of Missouri is working with CBF field personnel Sam and Melody Harrell to help meet the needs of AIDS orphans and other at-risk children in Kenya by partnering with the Ngerenya community to build and staff an Integrated Child Development Center.
The Development Center has now been built and is school to over 80 children between the ages of three and five, according to information Rand Swanigan, member of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, posted on the church’s missions blog.
“The community has ownership,” he wrote. “They see the success, and they have a vision.”
The team provided ideas and materials for the classrooms, medical supplies for a three-day health screening, fencing materials and a swingset.
“Although this exemplary mission experience produced numerous wonderful thoughts, feelings and impressions, I am most greatly impressed with the sacrifice of the parents and people of the community to provide education of their children,” said Verna Rhodes, member of First Baptist Church, Columbia. “We who have so much give so little.”
Teri Shipley, family minister at Cornerstone, agreed. “The people of the village, even though they are technically in the poorest region of Kenya, were working together with love and purpose,” she said. “They were pleased when they saw their children doing well. They have a desire to give generously to their community.
“I know the reality is that they need some help from those of us who have been blessed with much, but they also desire to give much even in their poverty.... We need to learn to give like they give, not out of our excess, but sacrificially.”
According to Sam Harrell, Ngerenya has been the perfect place for a Development Center. “It is not always the case that a community responds as positively to development initiatives as has the Ngerenya community,” he said.
“Involvement from parents and caregivers, the church, local leaders and the area administration has propelled this Integrated Child Development Center forward at a rapid pace, to the point where expansion is being considered.
“Of course, the willingness of partner churches through CBFMO to participate in this endeavor is critical, and together, great things are being accomplished.”
The Harrells, and their Africa Exchange project, work using a “ground-up” idea, where local people are required to work alongside skilled laborers. CBF does not “do for,” but “works with” according to CBF.
“So often mission offerings to me are like dumping money in a big, empty hole,” Jeff Langford, associate coordinator for CBFMO, said during a trip report at Second Baptist Church, Liberty. “But standing in the red dirt of Kenya, I saw the faces of children and adults and knew what missions was all about.”