Twenty-three Collegedale, Tennessee, Church members left March 11, 2020, for the Olmalaika Home (www.theolmalaikahome.org) in the Sekanani community next to the Massai Mara, in Kenya, Africa. This home is a mission, housing young girls who have endured or are escaping female genital mutilation and child marriage.
The goal was to form relationships, provide a medical and dental clinic, and help build new cabinets for the 40 girls. The Tennessee church members also prepared to offer a daily Vacation Bible School, and assist with teaching, team building, and one-on-one tutoring.
Things started well. The team arrived Friday evening to unload and meet the girls. Unfortunately, the management was concerned due to COVID-19 and the team couldn’t unload.
Sabbath was a high day. The church members had worship services with the girls and staff, and watched them warm up through worship and small group activities. The craft time provided opportunity to deepen the quickly forming friendships, and as they left they bestowed red Olmalaika polo shirts to each girl and staff member compliments of the Collegedale Church.
Joe Milholm, D.M.D., church member and a Chattanooga, Tennessee, area endodontist, set up to the dental clinic Sunday to assess each girl’s needs. Sunday afternoon was spent in groups with the girls learning Kenyan culture, including going to the river to experience how they washed clothes.
Sadly, the girls were harassed on the way back from the river, with people saying the church members were “corona carriers.” Richard Moody, M.D., head deacon at Collegedale Church and a family practice physician from East Ridge, Tennessee, explained COVID-19 and allayed fears.
That evening the president of Kenya announced that Kenya had nine confirmed COVID-19 cases, and anyone who entered the country had to quarantine for 14 days. The church members now had to stay at camp.
Surely, God had not brought them to Kenya for a 2 1/2-day encounter? After talking with the management of the Sarova Mara Safari Camp, they mutually agreed to set up their projects at camp and focus on the 100-plus staff. The medical, dental, and dental hygiene clinics set up in the conference center, and the cabinet shop in the camp’s maintenance area.
The cabinet team, led by Bud Platt and Steve Ericson, took that challenge personally, saying that they now had four days. The crew was determined, and through many challenges, completed the cabinets Friday.
The rest of the week, the team provided free services to more than 100 staff members, offering medical, dental fillings, extractions, restorations, and perhaps the highest number of teeth “washings” Jodi Wheeler has ever done.
The president closed Kenya to all flights on March 25, and the mission team was to fly out March 26. Nine team members were able to purchase new tickets and left. The 14 remaining had five different flights arranged, but had issues with cancelled fights or boardings denied. The group finally left Kenya early on March 25, on one of the last flights. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, they were pulled from the flight and told they could not enter the U.S. through Houston, Texas. They spent an entire day at the airport to have flights five and six changed. The team praises God they all did finally make it home safely.
Georgia-Cumberland | June 2020