Serving while we can, where we are

During the 2000-2001 school year, I had the opportunity to work as a student missionary in Kenya.

As my plane touched down at the Nairobi International Airport I knew that my life was about to change. I didn’t know what my job description was, who was going to be there to meet me, or when my work started—but I did know that I was in for an adventure.

As I came out of Customs, with my baggage on a cart, I looked here, there, everywhere, for signs of anyone who called out my name or held up a paper with my name on it. A very tanned woman with curly black hair finally called to me. Debbie Aho, the accountant for Outpost Centers Inc. (OCI) and the wife of my boss for the next 10 months, rode with me for 13 miles or so until we arrived at the small town of Utung Rongai. Dirty shacks and hundreds of little plastic bags waving in the wind were the first sights to greet me. It reminded me of the poverty I had seen growing up in some parts of Asia. I could already see that there was much to do and many to help in this country. For the next few months, I worked in various locations within Kenya doing construction projects and helping out with mission groups. In the process, I learned many things: cooking, building trusses, mixing cement, and driving an old army truck with entirely too many gears and a very touchy clutch. Most importantly I came to know the African people around me.

I mostly worked with the Masai. One of my jobs was to teach gardening. This was difficult because their rival tribe of more than 2,000 years, the Kakuyus, are known for their farming skills. Now I was teaching the Masai skills similar to those of the Kakuyus.

Since there was a drought and the Masai livestock were dying, it became more and more necessary for them to learn how to work the soil. So, slowly, painfully, I taught the village kids to garden while they tried to teach me Swahili. It was a long process both ways. Through it all, I learned that this life on Earth is temporary. God taught me a few things while I was in a strange place far away from home. He taught me to look around. My comfortable home, my wonderful family and friends are a minority. Many people of the world out there are suffering, living in cardboard boxes, and yet some people live as though time will last forever. Not me. Not anymore.

Millions of people haven’t heard the Good News yet. But the message is spreading quickly. I am thankful I had the opportunity to go to Africa as a student missionary. However, to be a missionary for Christ, one does not need to go very far. I know people in my neighborhood who still need God desperately. Look around. I’m sure that there are some in your neighborhood, too. Christ is still looking for those that He can take with Him. There is little time left. Why not use it?

Heidi Ryan is a second-year student at Columbia Union College, Takoma Park, Maryland. OCI e-mail: