Valerie Byrd: Ministering in Karagoto, Kenya

Valerie Byrd: Ministering in Karagoto, Kenya

Val ByrdValerie Byrd is a sophomore in the Secondary Social Studies Education Program.
She moved to Clarks Summit from Iowa with parents so her father could attend Baptist Bible Seminary. She enrolled at BBC because she felt this is where God wanted her.
Valerie loves kids and has a heart for children's ministry. She wants to teach history and social studies so she can teach children about the world and how to take an active part in change for the better.
In December 2008 she went with a group from her local church, Parker Hill Community Church, to minister to the residents of Karogoto, Kenya.

Insight Questions

How long where you in Kenya?
The Kenyan village where we primarily ministered was Karogoto. We spent five days there. It is 2 1/2 hours north of Nairobi. The town we spent our nights was neighboring Karatina, which is better equipped with housing facilities. On our last night in the country we paid a visit to the Havilla Children's Home in Nairobi, home of the Daraja Children's Choir. We were gone a total of 10 days.

Why did you go?
I wanted to get another perspective. Prior to this trip I had never been outside the United States. I knew I had a narrow view of the world. As Christians, we know what the world offers us in terms of long-term satisfaction will always fall short. I've always felt like living in the U.S. only amplifies this. We know we are spoiled and callous but we have no idea how bad it is.

How did you get involved?
Parker Hill Community Church works through the 410 Bridge to partner with Karogoto. For the past couple years, the church has been sending teams to work on projects together with the pastors and people of the village. The theme verse and goal for our partnership is Romans 1:12, "that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." Parker Hill also sponsored the Daraja Children's Choir performance at the Scranton Cultural Center in November 2008.

What was is like there?
It's hard to describe how different the country is as a whole, and especially so the community we served in. Everyone is friendly and at ease. It is perfectly normal to wave at everyone you pass on the road and shake the hand of every person you see. As far as the village itself, the people knew who we were and why we were there so the warmth of the welcome we received was overwhelming. Over 300 people came dancing and singing praise to God to greet us upon our arrival. Everyone made us feel at home throughout the week. They were just so happy that we would make the journey to visit them because it showed them how much we value them. Kenyans aren't so concerned with what gets done in a day; they are concerned with the relationships that are formed and deepened each day.

What kind of work did you do while you were there?
We helped paint a primary school, including a wall mural in the special needs classroom. It was a community effort so we were working alongside many of the Kenyans. We also handed out Christmas gifts and food to 300 families. The families who received food were selected by the pastors of the participating churches in Karogoto as the most needy families from within their midst.

How did your education and experience at BBC prepare you?
The ministries I have been involved in while at BBC have given me some experience in cross-cultural ministry. While cultural differences here are a far cry from actually entering another country, those ministries did give me a more open mind about the different ways people worship our same God.

Has this trip affected your career or ministry goals?
Yes, but I am still exploring the full meaning of the affects. I know I am called to love kids and I believe my goal of teaching is the best way to fulfill that calling. I will definitely return to Kenya but I have no idea how soon or in what capacity. Right now I am just trying to finish school and explore the opportunities that God gives me along the way.

What is the most memorable aspect of your trip?
I think the most memorable aspect was the community and unity we had, both as a team and with the Kenyans. Instant bonds were formed with our Kenyan leaders, pastors, and the village people. Despite so many obvious differences, we were all on the same level and had the opportunity to learn from and challenge each other. I went expecting to learn a lot from everyone and everything and I did. The depth of their faith and joy and the wideness of their love was something I had never seen before.

What have you gained from your experience?
I have gained an appreciation for life and relationships that I didn't have before. There is something beautiful in taking the time to enjoy life together and not worry about accomplishing tasks in order to move forward. Giving yourself and your time to another is more valuable than giving them something materially, even if it is just a wave and a sincere smile. Missionary Jim Elliot said: "Wherever you are, be all there." The Kenyans taught me this by example, and I will be doing my best to imitate them from now on.

Contact Information

Click here to learn more about the Secondary Social Studies Education Program at BBC.

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Posted on: 1/16/2009 10:46:33 AM

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