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San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added -  January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company

Area group volunteers in Kenya, Africa
San Jacinto News- Times - January 2009

TRINITY -- 258th Judicial District Judge Elizabeth Coker, along with fi ve other members of Dorcas Wills Memorial Baptist Church, Trinity, Texas recently spent some time in Kenya, Africa. Those volunteering time along with Coker include Brother Jason and Kristi Burden, Rick and Cindy Renfro and Roger Lowri. The group left on Sunday, Nov. 9 for a 10 day mission trip. After two days of travel, they landed in Nairobi, Kenya and then proceeded to drive six hours over rough terrain to the eastern part of Kenya. The area borders Somalia and a number of Muslim refugees from that country live in the area of Kenya. “Even though Kenya is 80 percent Christian, the Somalian refugees have brought some of their rituals and customs with them, including arranged early marriages and female genital mutilation,” Coker said. The church group met with mem- Cindy Renfro, Susan Stewart, Kristi Burden and Elizabeth Coker are pictured with girls who live in Kenya, Africa, where they worked recently as volunteers from their Trinity, Texas church group. bers of a non-government organization (NGO) who work with Somalis who live in Kenya. The NGO builds water purifi cation systems as well as other projects to help improve their quality of life. One such project was building playground equipment at a Muslim all-girls’ orphanage. “Over the course of four days, the church group and the NGO built swing sets, tire swings and slides. We also set up a volleyball net and tetherballs,” Coker said. “The ages of the girls that lived at the orphanage ranged from fi ve to 14 (though many did not know their actual birthdates). Around eighty girls actually lived on the premises with many more girls from the surrounding areas attending the school. The women were able to interact with the girls while the men worked under the hot, hot African summer sun. The girls were precious. Very well mannered and inquisitive about America and how we celebrate Christmas. They loved having their pictures taken and enjoyed wearing the women’s sunglasses and baseball hats. Though the women were able to wear t-shirts, long ankle-length skirts were required. The girls were covered head to toe, but as they gradually befriended the women they were less guarded and became more playful,” Coker said. Each woman had her own way with interacting with the girls. Burden, as a teacher, brought games and crafts. Renfro, as the official photographer, snapped pictures at opportune times. Kenya From page 1 Coker, as a judge, brought her gavel pencils which the girls loved. “The Somalia society is dictated and dominated by men; the women do everything and receive no formal education. Yet, the girls had dreams – to be a pilot, a teacher or a doctor. They were quite impressed that a female could be a judge in America,” Coker said. “The men faced many challenges building the playground equipment. No tools, bad tools, no electricity to charge batteries, wrong size bolts, chains, nails. But finally the swing set was ready, the slides in place and the tire swing secure and it was time to see how the girls would react. And react they did. They completely swarmed over the playground. Two girls swinging on the same swing, up to six little girls on the tire swing, the older girls screaming in delight as they slid down a slide for the first time in their lives. When asked if it was worth it, Coker said, “Yes. All of us were overjoyed with what we saw and the laughter we heard. And the whole time these girls came up, thanking us and hugging us for what we did for them. But words will never be able to accurately describe what these girls did for us. The sheer gratitude and innocence in such a harsh environment, their joy and exuberance towards so much we take for granted. “All of us who went on the trip have been affected,” Coker said. When asked if she was glad she went, Coker said, “Yes, even though it was a very arduous, physically demanding and challenging trip. I really missed my family. But those precious children – that is what made it worth it.” Coker said she is ready to go back again. “The Lord had a purpose for me on this trip. We actually had the chance to talk about Jesus with a few of the girls. A seed has been planted. I am so grateful God gave me the opportunity to have been a part of this extraordinary trip,” she said.


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