Africa trip meaningful for missionaries, Kenyans


    On April 2, a team of 12 traveled to Nakuru, Kenya, on a 10-day mission trip. This team consisted of two clergy, four youth (one of whom was reluctant to venture so far from home), an individual sensing a call to ministry, two mother-daughter pairs, a husband and wife, a senior level corporate executive and a pair of cousins. The team represented three churches—Dacula UMC (Atlanta Emory District), Newnan First UMC (LaGrange District), and St. Mark UMC (Augusta District). 
       The team took the trip as part of North Georgia Annual Conference’s commitment to shared ministry with the East Africa Annual Conference, and was under the care of Start With One Kenya, SWOK, a 501(c) 3 organization with a pulse on the needs of Kenyans and a commitment to fulfilling those needs. The SWOK team includes individuals from the North Carolina, North Georgia, and the Virginia Annual Conferences. Bill Coble and K. Chat Uken, UMVIM trained missionaries, along with their team are working tirelessly to meet the needs in Kenya. 
      SWOK’s ministry is focused on five areas: Hygiene and clean water, healthcare, education, micro-finance, and building infrastructure to help individuals displaced by the violence that stemmed from the 2007 elections. 
       This trip was meaningful for each member of the North Georgia team.  Even the most reluctant member wants to return in the future to be a part of what God is doing in Kenya.  The youth were encouraged to lead and did so effectively.  They facilitated the hygiene presentations during the water distribution events, led some of the team’s evening devotionals, lay brick and engaged many young people in conversation, games and other forms of ministry.  One clergywoman preached a powerful message during the Sunday worship service in Gilgil and the other clergywoman facilitated an impactful youth conference in Sobea.  Both were received well and were invited to return in August 2014 to offer the same level of ministry on a larger scale.
         While on this trip, the team had many meaningful conversations and also observed ways that the various entities of our annual conference could become involved and have a profound impact. The following are recommendations for strengthening our relationship with the East Africa Annual Conference. 
1.      Because our trip was offered during spring break, a third of our members were youth. We suggest offering mission trips during times easy for youth to participate.
2.      Offer a payment schedule to make trips more affordable.
3.      Suggest ways that members of the North Georgia conference can be involved without traveling.
4.      Determine a sponsorship program for children of Kenyan pastors, most of whom are not paid.
5.      Offer a way for individuals and churches to become involved by raising funds to purchase water filtration systems.  At a cost of $60 per unit, this could become a meaningful project for a Sunday school class, a youth group, or a church.
       There are many other observations made by the team and recommendations too numerous to name in this column. Kenya is a paradoxical place where the Lord is doing AMAZING things in the midst of struggle for and through amazing people! Start With One Kenya is making a difference there.  Bill Coble and K. Chat Uken are missionaries that can help our annual conference cultivate sustainable relationships in Kenya.  They are committed to the people of Kenya and to those who support their ministry by being accountable and transparent
 Tonya N. Lawrence is associate pastor at Dacula UMC.