WMU focuses on missionaries - Word&Way

WMU focuses on missionaries

By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor

Joplin — The Woman's Missionary Union of Missouri annual meeting was a homecoming of sorts for Bill and Beverly Curp, David and Robin Stow and Iracema Kunkel.

The Curps, who currently serve in Mapaville where Bill Curp is director of missions, shared some of their family experiences first as missionaries to Ethiopia, then in Kenya.

Now daughter Robin and her family serve in Kenya where she grew up.

In a question-and-answer format, Robin explained that she was just 3 years old when the Curps arrived in Ethiopia in January 1973 as Foreign (now International) Mission Board appointees. There Curp served as chairman of the mission and as business administrator. He also ran the mission's recording studio.

The Curps could not return to Ethiopia when Emperor Halle Selassie was overthrown in the mid-1970s. They asked to be transferred to Kenya.

Robin described her experience as an MK (missionary kid) as "absolutely awesome."

She met her future husband in Kansas City. A Springfield native, Stow moved to Kansas City after graduating from college. A "friend of a friend" knew Robin's sister who set the couple up on a blind date. Today, the pair has four children — Anna Marie, Caleb, Chloe and Samuel.

Stow serves as business manager for the Baptist mission personnel in six East African countries.

Going back to Kenya with four children of her own is "a whole different ballgame," Robin admitted.

Asked how they deal with having their children and grandchildren so far away, Curp responded, "It's not bad to have my children far away, but now I know how my parents felt about our children."

The Curps see their grandchildren at least twice a year because the couple heads mission trips to Kenya each spring and fall.

Stow asked meeting attendees to pray for the couple in their walk with the Lord, that they would please God above others, that they would have wisdom in raising their children and that the children would come to know the Lord.

Robin's prayer is for more opportunities to work directly with Kenyans. She explained that with Stow's work primarily with other missionaries and her focus on the children, little time is left to build relationships with nationals.

The Curps asked attendees to pray for protection for the Stows. Even though Kenya is fairly stable, dangers still lurk, particularly while traveling.

Iracema Kunkel

Although she has no strong ties to Missouri, Brazilian-born Iracema Kunkel had several opportunities to speak Portuguese and to celebrate with her long-time "mission family," retired missionary Nona Renfrow and daughter Cindy Santos.

Early Baptist heritage

Kunkel explained that the Brazilians did not like missionaries and that the Catholic Church did not want the people to attend mission services. But Kunkel's grandparents and other relatives accepted Christ, and her grandfather helped start a Baptist church.

Renfrow was appointed to South Brazil when Kunkel was a child and served as Iracema's Girls Auxiliary leader.

Kunkel had planned to become a Wycliffe missionary. But she learned about an American who wanted to be a missionary to Brazil.

She began corresponding with Tim Kunkel and spent some time studying in the United States.

Then Tim Kunkel visited Brazil, where the two met face to face. He proposed the first day and they married a month and a half later.

The Kunkels have served the past 15 years in Uruguay, where she has worked with children, youth and women. She has been particularly effective in training leaders to work with autistic children. The couple has an autistic child.

The Kunkels will transfer to Paraguay when they finish their stateside assignment in July.

Iracema encouraged women to consider serving in missions. "I'm here because [people] went to Brazil…. I wouldn't be here [if they hadn't come]. I would still be lost," she said. (05-04-06)