The following article was just published today in the local Fairfield newspaper the Daily Republic. Great thanks to reporter Ian Thompson for his work.
Prayers and donations are gladly accepted.
SUISUN CITY — The small sign greeting people as they leave the First Christian Church’s parking lot reads “You are entering the mission field.”
On July 19, 13 members of the Suisun City congregation will extend their mission of helping the less fortunate halfway around the world to a small village in western Kenya.
Pastor Steve Kiefer will be one of those going, putting into practice their belief that it is the work of Christians to take care of those in need both in the local community of Suisun City and far away in a small Kenyan village such as Shisisari.
The mission’s genesis occurred when Trisha and Anthony Isayi came from Kenya to settle in Suisun City and joined the First Christian Church of Suisun City five years ago.
Anthony Isayi’s story of his village’s extreme poverty and his need to help moved the other parishioners, particularly to help the population of 250 HIV orphans “who didn’t even have enough nourishment to go to school,” Kiefer said.
His village, Shisisari, is located in western Kenya not that far from Lake Victoria.
The Isayi family was already making efforts on their own to help by forming a nonprofit group called Operation Orphans International.
With the help of First Christian, they created a daily feeding program for the orphans “to make sure they have a good breakfast and lunch, and make sure they have a good education,” Keifer said.
Four years ago, Michelle Kiefer and their daughter Emma Kiefer went to Shisisari and saw the extreme need for themselves.
“For most of the orphans, the only clothes they had were their school uniforms and a lot of the children had boils. They were well fed only because we were feeding them for the past year,” Michelle Keifer said.
The schoolhouse was “a run-down, one-story building with classrooms with dirt floors,” according to Michelle Kiefer.
The primary mission of Michelle Kiefer’s two-week trip was to establish a rapport with the people, meet the orphans personally and to let the village know that First Christian’s assistance will be a continuing mission to help them.
While there, Michelle Kiefer was able to work with Engineers Without Borders to start building a well, lay concrete in some of the classrooms and put new tin roofs on some areas of the school.
On July 19, a 13-person team from the church that included Trisha and Anthony Isayi are returning to the village with clothes for all of the orphans, sports equipment and medical supplies to do vaccinations.
“The team is using vacation time and are digging deep into their pockets for the financial costs. I am so very proud of these people,” Steve Kiefer said.
Anthony Isayi left Thursday after ensuring each member of the team will be carrying one of the boxes of clothes when they leave for Kenya in an effort to cut down on shipping costs.
The clothes, dresses and shorts, were made by parishioners both here and from a parish in Florida
During his own packing Anthony Isayi stated he got part of his own education as a youth from the Peace Corps and took the goal of educating Kenya’s youth as his own. A large part of his reason for coming to America was to work as an informal ambassador for Kenya and help his homeland.
The July mission’s top project is getting the village a safe, fresh water source, according to Steve Kiefer.
Villagers presently draw water from springs “where mud and animals are causing people to get very sick,” Steve Kiefer said.
The plan is to improve and protect two springs for human use only and leave a third one for animal use.
One of the mission members will also be vaccinating all of the orphans as well as about 1,000 other people in the community.
“We will also be conducting a regional soccer tournament to foster good will and to offset some of the political fracturing in the region,” Steve Kiefer said.
The mission will also assess the needs for future groups with the goal of returning in 2013 with an even larger contingent.
Steve Kiefer stated all the effort to meet the needs of such a village so far away is part of the basic bedrock of why his congregation exists.
He states it is the work of Christians to take care of those in need both in the local community of Suisun City and far away in a small Kenyan village such as Shisisari.
“It is something that we can do and we believe honors God,” Steve Kiefer said.