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Emmitsburg Council of Churches Prepares for  Mission Trip to Kenya

Pastor Jon Greenstone

On July 12, 2009, the Emmitsburg Council of Churches Mission Team of eight departs for Kitale Kenya! The Kenya Mission trip is a first-ever event for the Emmitsburg Council of Churches (ECC). The team is made up of Rev. Jon Greenstone, pastor; Sam Valentine, pharmacy manager and woodworker; Phyllis Kelly, school teacher; Audrey Hallinan, nurse practitioner; Dr. Bill Currie, oral surgeon, and his daughter Clara; and Dr. Holly Hoffman, pediatrician, and her daughter Marie. The latter four team members all reside in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

It is interesting to see how this team has come together as they prepare to go and serve their Kenyan brothers and sisters in a place some 8000 miles away and in a culture, geography, and economy remarkably different than from the way of life here in Emmitsburg. There will be hardships for the Team, like the lack of water for bathing, but also great blessings to find in friendships, smiles and laughter of the children and absorbing the wildlife, human history and spirit of Africa. Pastor Jon Greenstone, leader of the Team, comments on the ecumenical spirit of the Mission Team, which is already noting how God is leading them in this project being shared by Lutherans, Methodists and Catholics who make up the Mission Team. "We are receiving the fullness of the prayers, moral support and economic gifts for the trip from all of the ECC members including Emmitsburg Presbyterian, Trinity United Methodist, St. Joseph's Parish, Incarnation United Church of Christ, St. Anthony's Parish, Elias Lutheran and Toms Creek United Methodist. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work in our midst!" says Rev. Greenstone. Connections are being made that literally span the globe, including the Daughters of Charity who are also lending support, advice and communications through members of their Order already on mission in Kenya.

There is a unique connection between ECC and the medical team members from Carlisle. who are offering their medical expertise, Christian faith and servants' hearts. "Let me try to explain," says Pastor Jon, "First of all, Dr. Holly Hoffman and her daughter, Marie, signed up to join the Mission Team because Dr. Hoffman and I became good friends when I did my Seminary internship at St. Paul Lutheran Church located in Carlisle, back in 2001. Then, several years later, Dr. Hoffman discerned a calling to the Diaconal Ministry within the Lutheran Church and enrolled in the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg. During her seminary studies Dr. Hoffman was 'assigned to Emmitsburg' where she learned from and served at Elias for two semesters."

Dr. Bill Currie, through his wife Sally, has a historic connection with Emmitsburg. Sally Currie was Sally Jones, whose mother was "Petie" Shorb. "Petie" was born at 211 N. Seton Avenue in the house which is now Shorb's hairdresser's. Sally's parents are remembered in a plaque on the front of the American Legion. Pastor Jon has become quite fond of telling everyone he meets these days, "All roads lead back to Emmitsburg." And this has proven true on more than one occasion. No doubt somewhere deep in the bush country of Kenya, the ECC Mission Team will meet some other Emmitsburg descendants while serving in Africa!

The most recent and final Mission Team member is Audrey Hallinan, whose family resides in nearby Carroll Valley and are members of St. Joseph's Parish. Audrey grew up attending the ECC annual Vacation Bible School, and remembers many of those special VBS programs that continue each summer through the efforts of the ECC. Presently, Audrey is a board certified family practice nurse practitioner in a rehabilitation hospital in Allentown, PA, providing internal medicine and rehabilitation needs to a wide population of patients. Previously Audrey was an ER nurse and has prior experience as a volunteer while in high school with a medical mission trip to Honduras in 1997. It is truly amazing that such a dynamic and experienced Medical Team has come together, while they don't expect their medical services to be desperately needed, nevertheless, the Team will be prepared for a wide range of field medicine and will be carrying several suitcases filled with medicines for malaria, dehydration, mal-nutrition, antibiotics and much more.

The ECC Kenyan Mission Team has three objectives to accomplish:

1. Provide a 500 Watt Solar Power System that can supply basic lighting for students to study at night, plus run about 6 laptop computers in the Pathfinder Academy School -- where there are some 300 children in attendance-- and possibly to power a new deep well pump.

2. Provide a Vacation Bible School experience for the children at the Pathfinder Academy.

3. Provide Medical and Dental Services for the Children and Families at Common Ground Project/Pathfinder Academy, as well as have the Medical Team volunteer at Sister Freda's clinic/hospital in Kitale, Kenya.

Pastor Jon wants to appeal to the good people of Emmitsburg to contribute their prayers and financial support. He points out that this is a tremendous undertaking for the Team to minister in the name of Jesus and to share their faith with their new Kenyan friends, young and old alike. Pastor Jon is leading the effort to acquire and assemble the components for the solar power system, which is projected to cost about $13,000. "The small system we will supply and assemble at the Common Ground Project/Pathfinder Academy will be based on the same components I have assembled here at my home," says Pastor Jon, whose 500 watt home system presently acts as a back-up power supply should the grid fail-he can also power his Ham radio in the case of an emergency with the solar powered battery bank. Where the Team is going, electricity is very expensive and often unreliable. The people there have never had refrigerators, freezers, or the numerous appliances and conveniences we take for granted.

Nevertheless, having a small but constant source of electricity can provide many benefits that bring about improvements in education, safety, communications and health, all of this equates to raising one's quality of living. Joshua Machinga, our Kenyan host, is very pleased to have the Team bringing the solar system to the Common Ground Project. He sees that just having the solar panels on the same site as the school is going to have a powerful educational impact on the children who attend school there. "The Mission Team's work and contributions can be viewed as a matter of establishing justice in a global way, i.e., sharing what is considered the most advanced technology we have and can (almost) afford- with those who have (almost) nothing, but everything to gain," says Pastor Jon. Recently, the Educators for Justice Society from Mount St. Mary's University offered to assist the ECC Kenya Mission by raising funds to aid the trip. This is another one of God's unexpected but most welcome blessings. The group recently made a presentation at the ECC meeting and turned over their recent collection of $170 with a hope of raising that much more.

The Team will be carrying at least 20 - 5 watt LED bulbs that will run exclusively on the Solar Power (at 240 volts AC) to provide light for students living in clay brick dormitories at the school. The two 14- year old Team members, Marie and Clara, will also be teaching an environmental class for their new Kenyan friends about solar power and proper disposal of used batteries. When the children complete this class each one will be given a solar flashlight along with a life-saving mosquito net to prevent malaria. These indeed are life preserving gifts. When one 14- year old can bless another with gifts of life and learning a world away -- great things are going to happen!

The Team is hopeful that fund-raising will take them over and above the $15,000 goal for medicine and solar components. If there is additional funding, then more solar panels can be added, making the system more powerful and possibly able to run the new well pump at the mission site. "We're trusting God for each step of the way. We are already beyond the halfway mark toward our financial goal, and things are looking hopeful on all fronts" says Pastor Jon.

The Pathfinder Academy is located within the 5- acre compound that makes up the Common Ground Project, Joshua's family also resides there. The school provides basic education to some 300 children -- about half of whom are orphans and live full time in the dorms on the site. The school's program is unusually rigorous for such young children. The school day begins at 5 a.m. and goes into the evening hours! But the school's intensity is paying off as the children are scoring far above the average of other Kenyan schools. The students and their families also learn techniques for growing their own food, using a method called Bio-Intensive mini-farming, which is based on a concept of growing food for the maximum caloric value and for the amount of carbon materials that can be composted and returned to the soil. This is sustainable agriculture done in a scientific and culturally viable way. Families also learn about ways to enhance their economic status with small business skills, personal health care and survival skills to enable them to rebuild or resettle in a worse-case scenario. The Team will be seeing all of this first hand, and hopes that the emphasis on faith, health and a sustainable future through solar energy will encourage the children to strive even more to learn and give back to their own villages, community and country.

What an amazing experience lies ahead for the Team! There will be approximately 9 days to do mission work; then the other days will be taken up with traveling and resting, ending the trip with a safari. Pastor Jon humorously remarks that he can't wait to see the wildebeests after seeing them on television for as long as he can remember!

Here are some upcoming events where you can participate or donate to help the ECC Kenya Mission Team get their goals accomplished. Several fundraising events are coming up: Spring Yard Sale at Elias Lutheran on May 1-2 (donations are welcome!); Bake Sale at Jubilee, May 9th 8a.m.-12 noon; Chicken Dinner at Elias Coffee House on June 12th, 5-7 p.m. Outright gifts may be made payable to: Elias Lutheran Church, memo: ECC Kenya Mission Trip. Thank you for all support.

For more information call 301-447-6239 or email: