Family to take supplies to missions in Africa

May 29, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

A carpenter, a nurse and their three children will carry tools, health supplies and friendship from Carroll County to missions in Africa this summer.

"We want to be a shot in the arm to them," said Jerry Rebert, 41.

Although the family luggage will "go to the max" weight limit on the way to Kenya, their first stop of a two-nation visit, little of what they carry will come home, said Lillie Rebert.

"We are taking whatever we can leave. These people need everything from children's clothing to tools," said Ms. Rebert, 39.

"They can't go to the local store and even buy a hammer," Mr. Rebert said.

The Rev. Craig Schoenberger, pastor of Westminster Bible Church where the Reberts are longtime members, said, "Most families plan summer trips to Disneyland. This family is dedicating its time and resources to Africa."

Mr. Rebert calls the trip "a great opportunity to serve where the Lord wants us to serve."

His wife said, "We don't look on ourselves as brave."

In addition to four weeks in Kenya, the Reberts will work three weeks at a mission in an outlying area of Tanzania.

"The missionaries there are already saving gas in anticipation of our coming," said Ms. Rebert. "They are giving up so much for us."

Mr. Rebert said the hardships inherent in mission life are difficult for Americans to imagine. In Tanzania, one family is without transportation until the Reberts arrive with a motorcycle battery. The Westminster residents also are packing books for a library that Jerry Rebert will help build in Tanzania.

He has envisioned the trip for years, he said. The couple TC expected roadblocks -- but encountered none -- as they planned their visit to the two East African countries.

"As we pursued our goal, the doors kept opening," said Mr. Rebert.

Local sponsors

The "open doors" included 82 sponsors, several in the Westminster business community; support and contributions from their church; extended job leaves; and the blessings of family, friends and co-workers.

"People have really gotten behind us, and it has been really exciting," said Mrs. Rebert, a nurse with the Carroll County Health Department.

"My boss had been in the mission field several years ago and she understood why I wanted to go. She also promised I would have a job to come back to," she said.

Through donations, the couple have received the estimated $10,500 they needed for travel and living expenses abroad. They have chalked up lost wages and home expenses to the experience, said Mr. Rebert.

The Reberts' extended family, who live in two neighboring homes, will keep a daily watch on the house and care for the pets.

After 12 years building elaborate custom homes, Mr. Rebert said, he is eager to build the basics for people who "would never be able to have the things I have built for others."

While her husband works on the library at a mission school, Mrs. Rebert will help provide medical care for the American construction crew and area residents.

"We will meet a lot of people who need help," said Jill Rebert, 12. "I just hope we will be able to help them."

"And maybe see elephants," said 8-year-old Heather.

The girls and their youngest sister, Leah, 5, will be attending classes at Rift Valley Academy, a large mission station in Kenya run by John and Pattie Schuit, family friends and members of the Westminster church. "Our good friends have been serving over there for several years," said Mr. Rebert. "We have been drawn into it and what they are going through."

Mrs. Rebert writes weekly to the Schuits. Her daughters are excited about their reunion with the six Schuit children, she said.

Difficult life

"Their life is very different and difficult away from family and friends, but they are content," she said. "They are excited to have someone come over and share."

And bring a few luxuries, said Mr. Rebert, such as disposable diapers, Kool-Aid and M&M's. "Anything you bring is a treat," said Ms. Rebert.

The children are counting the number of inoculations left until departure. Ms. Rebert assured Leah she had to endure only one more.

"We are not kidding ourselves," said Mr. Rebert. "We all will get sick but hopefully nothing serious."

Ms. Rebert thinks the family will remain healthy. "We will be fine," she said. "Our pediatrician has given us lots of preventive stuff."

Rwandan refugees

The couple said they have no fears about the political climate in Tanzania, where thousands of Rwandans have taken refuge from the fighting in their country.

"We have heard from missionaries in Tanzania that they have not been affected by the situation just across the border in Rwanda," said Mr. Rebert. "The big fear now is a cholera outbreak, not violence."

The Reberts are the only Carroll County residents to travel with the team, which includes nine members of the Otterbein United Brethren Church in Waynesboro, Pa.

Members of the Pennsylvania church built and sold a house in their town to finance the trip and pay for building materials for the library in Tanzania.

The Reberts are hoping to squeeze a little tourist time into their schedule. The Schuits have promised a safari, hiking and fossil hunting in the Riff Valley.

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