Students, families minister to Kenyans on mission trip 

July 29, 2010

The first time Ashley Ratcliffe traveled to Kenya in 2005, it was to accompany her grandmother there as she taught a class for Wayland Baptist University’s Kenya degree program there. That trip awakened in her a desire to return to the African nation, this time with a bigger purpose.

Ratcliffe got her wish recently as she participated in the Wayland Mission Center’s three-week endeavor to Kenya for missions work. A junior secondary education major from Lubbock, Ratcliffe was primarily part of the trip’s education team, charged with working at the Christ-Like Academy in Limuru for the duration of the trip. Aside from a few short trips into other parts of Kenya, the group worked with the small Christian school started in January 2009, serving lunch daily and helping the four teachers with their duties. The group also led a Vacation Bible School for one week and brought new clothes in extra suitcases for the students, who range in age from 6-12.

“I had always wanted to go back to Kenya, and I liked working with children in the schools,” said Ratcliffe, who said she’s long felt a call to missions and wants to be a teacher. “Even after the first time, I thought maybe Africa would be a good place to teach and minister.”

This second trip, from which Ratcliffe and the group returned on Sunday, was not a disappointment. Ratcliffe said she also got to work with the medical team as they set up a clinic in Masailand, treating minor medical issues for about 800 people. All of those experiences made an impression.

“What really stuck with me, I think, is the joy of the people there,” Ratcliffe said. “They have nothing, and they don’t know they have nothing, but they are so grateful for a smile and someone to talk to them in English. It always seemed like they were in good spirits.”

Another experience that blessed Ratcliffe was being able to live with the Kirimi family for the final week of her stay in Kenya, immersing herself in the Kenyan culture and learning how to cook some of the native meals. Linus Kirimi, who serves as the vice-principal of Kenya Baptist Theological College – which partners with WBU to offer degrees to native residents – and his wife Liz, who is the Wayland program coordinator on-site at KBTC, started the Christian school at which Ratcliffe served.

Besides the education team, a construction team built desks for the teachers at the school and put a tin roof over the kitchen area in order to free up more classroom space. The medical team served Kenyans in various locations, bringing along several extra suitcases of medicines including basic pain medications and antibiotics to treat minor medical cases. Discipleship and evangelism teams also were able to make many visits and share the Gospel, with great results.

“The Kenya trip was quite successful, and quite a few persons professed faith in Jesus for the first time,” said Dr. Rick Shaw, director of the Wayland Mission Center and the Kenya program and the trip leader.

The entire group got to travel to Western Kenya and the city of Kakamega, where they visited a church pastored by a Wayland-Kenya graduate and ate dinner at the home of the deputy mayor.

The education team also included Courtney Warren, an incoming freshman at Wayland and the daughter of WBU assistant professor of management Dr. Kelly Warren, who traveled with the group in order to teach a leadership class for the three-week session. Son Cameron, a junior media specialist major at WBU, and Warren’s wife Sheri, a first-grade teacher in Kress, also made the trip, making it the first international excursion for the family of four. While Cameron took the class his father taught at KBTC, Sheri and Courtney made the full mission trip experience with the rest of the WBU contingency, serving at the Christ-Like Academy. 

C ourtney also enjoyed her work with the medical team in Masailand and in the city of Kakamega in Western Africa as well, especially since she is a pre-nursing major. The experience made her realize how much Americans take for granted as Africans would travel from far away just to receive ordinary non-prescription pain medication and treatment for minor medical cases that are so easily treated in the U.S.

But the African church services made the biggest impression on the young coed.

“The most impressive thing to me was the worship,” she said. “They were free in their worship services and it is a lot different than ours. It taught me a lot about worship.”

The Warrens shared an impression of the African people are warm and welcoming, even when they had little to share with the visiting Americans.

“The thing that impressed me the most was how friendly and hospitable the Kenyan people are. In the slum areas, they welcomed us in and would fix tea for us and apologize that they didn’t have food to give us,” Sheri said. “They have so little and yet they’d offer their best to us.”

Sheri said she also marveled at how few resources the teachers have at the school and how large the classes are – one teacher had 37 children alone – and yet the students are well-behaved and attentive.

“They have benches to sit on and her homemade posters but nothing else to work with. It amazes me that they are able to sit there and pay attention all that time,” Sheri noted, also surprised by the education system in general. “They promote according to ability, not age, so there are some older than others but on the same learning level. I was amazed by the whole thing.”

Sheri said the trip was quite rewarding in all aspects and she “can’t wait to go back over there,” though she initially was anxious because there were so many unknown variables and things to do in preparation. Her daughter agreed, noting that she’d “go back tomorrow” if possible.

Religious education and English major Bradley Sell, a senior from Clarendon, spent his three-week stint on the construction team but got the added bonus of preaching twice on the trip. In his first venture outside the United States, he said the experience was different than back at home thanks to a translator.

While Sell said he feels a call to ministry with students, he knew the trip was ordained by God to open his eyes to His work around the world. And though he originally planned to go on the mission trip to Kosovo and Macedonia, other conflicting events left Kenya the next opportunity for overseas mission work.

“It was good for me because we have several Kenyan students who go to my church, so it was good to know more about their culture,” he said. “Over the past year, the Lord has been working on me and making me realize I know nothing outside the Bible belt. I think He wanted me to experience (Kenya) to help in my ministry here in the future.”

Sell said the trip made an impression on him spiritually and also reflected on the joy of the people as several of his teammates had.

“I was really affected by how universal the need for the Gospel is. The people there who knew the Lord were so joyful, even though they didn’t have a lot of material things or even food. Those without the Lord were not joyful, even if they had more,” he said. “It put things in perspective for me. The people were very giving and it was neat to see that. It’s also made me see the urgency of sending people out everywhere and how big the world really is, yet how small it is at the same time.”

The visiting Americans were also able to attend the graduation ceremonies at KBTC on July 23, where 30 students earned degrees from Wayland. The event lasted four hours – quite a change from the Plainview campus version of around 90 minutes – which Ratcliffe attributed to the celebratory nature of the event.

“It’s really a big deal for people there to get a college degree, so they really have a big time,” she said.