Missionary work overseas can be an incredible experience. Even more so when you are able to share that experience with your family.
Thus, it stands to reason that experience would be all the more meaningful when you are able to have it as a child.
That was the idea Chris and Michele Darnell had when they decided to take their three children, Hope, Matt and Hannah, on a missions trip to Kenya through A Better World.
Once the children heard about the trip, it was clear they were very much looking forward to it.
“I was so excited,” said 15-year-old Hannah. “I almost couldn’t believe it. I was just so excited.”
Hannah’s siblings agreed, with Matt, 13, saying he wasn’t at all worried about the trip and Hope, 10, saying her biggest concern would be the medical shots she needed to get before leaving for Africa.
Matt perhaps has the biggest personal sacrifice to make among his family members by going on the trip.
A starting player for the Lacombe Raiders, Matt will be missing playoffs to go to Kenya.
Chris said that he and his family have supported several missions trips, through ABW and other organizations. However, the family had never been on one themselves.
As such, it took little convincing to get the Darnells involved in this trip once they had heard about it from another ABW volunteer, Michael Gouchie.
“We always loved supporting the kids going on trips,” said Chris, referring to the high school students who have approached them for support in the past. “I think we always had in the back of our minds to bring our kids on something like this.”
Michele agreed and said that getting the family involved while her children were still young was important to her.
“I think things make a bigger impact when it happens to you as a kid,” said Michele. “So I’m hoping that it will make a big impact on them.”
Gouchie himself has been involved with A Better World for the last seven or eight years, he said.
Together with his wife, Gouchie has taken several trips to work with ABW projects and all four of his daughters have lived in Kenya while working with school and orphanage projects through A Better World.
Also a member of the Lacombe Rotary Club, Gouchie is taking part in this trip for the opening of a new school in Lodwar, Kenya built through A Better World and funded in part by the Lacombe Rotary Club.
Gouchie said he enjoys making trips to project locations with ABW as it clearly demonstrates the difference the group and its volunteers are making in the lives of others.
He added that something as simple as the gift of clean drinking water has such tremendous implications in developing nations that it is impossible for them to fully appreciated here in Canada.
Last month, terrorists targeted a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in an attack that lasted four days and left 72 people dead.
Despite these recent attacks, neither Gouchie nor the Darnells have been deterred from visiting Kenya and working with A Better World.
Gouchie said that, while he was somewhat apprehensive about going to Kenya after he heard news of the attacks, he values the expertise and experience of Eric Rajah, A Better World’s founder and his organization greatly and added that A Better World has made it part of its job to enter areas when there is political unrest.
Chris agreed, both with Gouchie’s apprehensions and his trust in Rajah’s ability. He said that, as a father bringing his wife and children to Kenya, the news of the attacks in Nairobi did frighten him.
“That was a scare,” said Chris. “For me it was.”
“I was a little nervous and I still am a little nervous,” said Gouchie. “There is risk, but I think it’s minimal. I’m a little bit worried, but it’s such a valuable program that you don’t want to miss out on that opportunity. There is trouble everywhere for real, you have to be careful wherever you are.”
The Darnells will visit several A Better World projects around Kenya during their 16-week trip. Stops include orphanages, schools and even a visit to an Islamic community on the island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya.
Michele said the family isn’t sure yet what exactly they will be doing when they visit each location, but will probably be pitching in various ways once they arrive. Each of the children have also been collecting gifts to share with the children they meet at each of the projects.
Hope and Hannah have been collecting stuffed animals from school and Matt, an avid sports fan and football player, has been collecting footballs and other sporting equipment.