One clearly defined undertaking
Jeannie Burns and I find a far distant corner in the upper level of the Douglas County Library. After momentary pleasantries, we get down to business.
“In certain parts of Kenya, the value of women is low – very low,” Jeannie begins. “The number one son is first in importance, then the daughters (they receive a dowry), followed by a cow, and finally the wife.
Continuing on, Jeannie tells me, “The Mathare slum in Kenya (a former rock quarry) is a mile long and a quarter mile wide. It is also a garbage dump. Thousands of people live there. Slum living is something that children are born into and it’s so sad to see. If you are from a one-parent family, an orphan, or perhaps were left under a bush with a nametag around your neck, you can expect only the worst kind of future (if you are lucky enough to have one).”
Sensing a flood of misery coming, I blurt out, “You can’t fix everything, so why don’t you just throw up your hands and leave?” Jeannie forgives my petulant outburst and an almost magical tale, that began 15 years ago, unfolds. Jeannie tells me that Andrew, an exchange student, came to her house for Thanksgiving dinner and a solid friendship was forged. (That is when God piqued Jeannie’s spiritual side and she went to Kenya, for the first time.) Today, Andrew has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Community Development and oversees the Kenya Student Center high school (a project that has a 25-member graduating class each year). Andrew’s wife, Stephanie, (an American lady) has completed her residency and works in the Department of Family Medicine.
Jeanne whips out her cell phone. We see a line of children staring intently at 2-inch morsels of birthday cake.
“Children in slums don’t have birthday cakes or Christmas cakes, so through the generosity of a young child here, they are going to be introduced to birthday cake,” Jeannie tells me. The poignancy of what we are seeing stirs up the news that Alisia, her daughter, is now a full-time missionary. She and her husband sold their home, their car, the works, and are now in Kenya with Jeannie’s two granddaughters.
My absolute favorite fundraiser is “Hallelujah Toffee,” which donates 100% of its proceeds to a student scholarship and mentoring program, Jeannie says.
“St Gall’s lets us use their kitchen” she continues. “We come in at 5 a.m., finish at 3 p.m., and then do packaging and mailing. No one is paid. This year we will make 10,000 boxes of toffee. The good news is, my husband, Greg, is building me a kitchen facility over on Airport Road,” she says.
I am listening to a soft-spoken woman with boundless energy and an unfailing appreciation of God’s involvement in her life. If you ever need a speaker, Jeannie is your girl. Jeannie can be contacted at Bridge Ministries, P. O. Box 1958, Minden, NV 89423 or Email: Info@bridge-Ministries.net.
This is a mere tid-bit of the good these people are doing. They aren’t interested in successfully transforming the whole continent of Africa; just one clearly defined undertaking.
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.