December 2, 2009

Mission trip to Africa leads to lasting memories for area church members

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

For many people, a vacation is a time of relaxation and pampering. But for six McKenzie County residents, relaxation and pampering were the last things on their agenda during a recent trip to Africa.
Members of the Watford City Assembly of God Church,   Toni DeFoe, Tyler DeFoe, Mike Ninneman, David Lawrence and Kurt Rockeman spent two weeks in Africa as part of a missionary trip.
“We went to Africa to plant a church,” says Combs. “Our mission was to build the structure for the church and evangelize with the people of Oyugis.”
The group traveled to Oyugis, a town of about 10,000, in Kenya. They spent the first week working on the church and interacting with the people of Oyugis. The second week included an African Safari and travels to other areas of Africa.
“The church we worked with was already established with a small congregation, but they had no permanent place to worship,” adds Combs. “They needed a structure that was paid for and complete. We provided funding for the materials and land through donations from our congregation, and we provided the labor to put up the frame and roof.”
The building is an open wall structure with a roof, but no floor.
“We didn’t finish the church because we wanted the members of the congregation to have some ownership in it,” says Combs. “The idea is that we purchase the land and get the structure started and they finish it.”
In addition to building the structure, members of the group interacted with people throughout Oyugis. As the group spread the word of God, they also helped people in need.
“These people have so little,” says Toni DeFoe. “I’m a nurse, but I didn’t go to Africa in that capacity so there was very little I could do to help people.”
Armed with some children’s first aid kits that had been donated by Barrett Pharmacy & Variety and lots of prayers, Toni did what she could to help people in need.
“I saw a lot of medical healing while I was there, and even though I helped these people with what I could, I know that the healing was not done by me,” adds Toni. “One lady I met had an infection on her leg the size of a softball, and all I had to help her was give some band aids, one packet of salve and lots of prayers. Within three days, her infection was gone and the wound was almost healed. That incident, along with others like it, really showed me the power of prayer. I know that she was healed by God and not the little medical attention I gave her.”
In addition to using her medical background, Toni had another special experience while in Africa.
“It was amazing to watch my son, Tyler, throughout this trip,” comments Toni. “I wanted him on this trip with me because it was something we could do together before he graduates and leaves home. But it turned out to be so much more. Watching him interact with these people and really see how life is for them was an amazing experience.”
While the group was in Oyugis, their accommodations were less than adequate compared to most people’s idea of a vacation.
“We stayed in an unfinished cement building,” says Combs. “I would definitely describe the accommodations as roughing it. But, the warm reception we received from the people of Oyugis made up for the roughness of the trip.”
Although their accommodations were less than desirable, the group was well taken care of during the trip. They had a cook who worked hard to provide adequate meals, like roast goat, and also made sure that they always had filtered water.
“The people were so happy to have us there,” comments Combs. “It made up for everything we were lacking.”
Once the building was complete, a worship service was held before the group departed for the second week of their trip.
“I had the opportunity to speak during the first worship service in this brand new church, and it was a truly amazing experience for me,” states Combs. “The whole group was very blessed during this trip. To have the opportunity to be used by God in such an amazing way is something that none of us will soon forget.”
After a week in Oyugis, the group spent three days on Safari in Masai Mara, a large park reserve in south-western Kenya.
“The Safari was a great reward for our hard work,” adds Combs. “We saw lots of animals including lions, zebras, giraffes and cheetahs.”
From Masai Mara the group traveled to Nairobi with an unexpected stop in London.
“London was great,” says Toni. “We missed our flight so the airline put us up in London for a day. We had time to do some sightseeing while we were there. It turned out to be an unexpected treat.”
The final leg of the journey was spent in Nairobi where the group was able to relax and spend some time shopping before they headed home.
“This was a very rewarding trip for everyone in our group,” says Combs. “However, it wasn’t just the church that made it possible. Area residents also made this trip possible by donating at our various fundraisers and they should be proud of this accomplishment as well.”