Youth group leaves on mission to Africa
Kangundo is a small agricultural town in the mountains of eastern Kenya, just 36 miles west of Nairobi, the country’s capital, and not far from Mount Kilimanjaro.
On Friday, six youths and three adults from the Haines Presbyterian Church will begin the journey there. Hunter Badgley, Devin Braaten, Abby Jones, Margaret Jones, Jolene Lemieux, and Hannah Wing will travel with chaperones Al Badgley, Ramona Holmes, and Mark Jones more than 10,000 miles through 11 time zones, on a mission to Kangundo.
The team of teens and adults will fly to Seattle, New York, London, and then Nairobi. They admitted they don’t know what to expect when the plane touches down in East Africa. The farthest and most foreign place most of the group members have been is Mexico.
"For a lot of these kids, Whitehorse is a big trip," said parent and chaperone Al Badgley.
They do know they’re in for a culture shock: people dressed in clothing unlike what rural Alaskans tend to wear, food with different tastes prepared in new ways, traditions and habits of being and living they’ve never imagined. Uncertain of what their access to the Internet or phones will be, they don’t know if or how often they’ll be able to communicate with family and friends at home.
"People think Alaska is real remote," Badgley said. "They think we don’t have much, but really (in Africa) they don’t have much. Remote takes on a new meaning. Food is an issue. Sometimes people walk five miles to get a bucket of water. There might not even be an outhouse. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing, or what we’ll experience, but we’ll be involved in a variety of the area’s 14 churches."
The Haines mission trip will be in Kenya a little more than a month, during which time they will primarily be involved in a cultural exchange, with a focus on connecting with youth. Members of the Alaska group will pair off and stay in homes with families in Kangundo, which has a population of about 10,000. Joint church services have been planned to share U.S. and African religious music.
The purpose of the trip is mostly to "serve other people," said 16-year-old Hunter Badgley. "I don’t really know (why I wanted to go). I would say it was a calling from God."
Badgley decided he would go to Kenya more than two years ago, after hearing about interim pastor John Zimmerman’s 12 trips there. One by one, the other youth decided to join him.
Together, they have raised more than $40,000 to fund the trip. Last September’s Time and Talent Auction raked in $9,000 alone, and a concert by the Infinite Life Youth Group netted $6,000. Badgley wrote letters to family friends at Christmas asking for tax-deductible support and received $7,000 in response. Local doctor Gregg Higgins, who is currently in Kenya, donated the sale of his car. Numerous breakfasts, dinners, car washes, and hiring out for odd jobs made up the rest.
"The tickets alone cost $20,000," Al Badgley said. Other costs include food, housing, immunizations, a one-day tour of a game park, and a service project that will take place during their stay in Kangundo.
"We want to contribute to something (the people in Kangundo) might really need, but we don’t know what that is because we’re not there yet," Al said. "It might be there’s a church there that doesn’t have water in their building." Whatever the project is deemed to be, the Haines team will donate $5,000 to make it happen.
"I think we’ll gain a lot more than we’ll give from going over there," Hunter Badgley said. "I am trying not to expect anything because I don’t want to be disappointed about what we can and can’t do."
Al Badgley, a fireman, paramedic, and host of a local weekly radio "Safety Talk", said keeping the group healthy has occupied a large part of his mind in preparing for the trip.
"I’m worried about illness," he said. "My role is to bring along half the local pharmacy to Africa. If someone gets sick I’ll be making the decision of whether we can deal with it there or need to send them home."
The group members have made the rounds at the public health office, getting inoculations for diseases such as typhoid, meningitis, yellow fever, and hepatitis A and B. Malaria pills have also been packed.
"Our parents keep telling us to keep our money (out of sight) and safe," Braaten said.
"I don’t think my mom’s worried at all," said Lemieux, whose sister has traveled to Kenya to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. "She’s getting used to her kids going to Africa." Lemieux, however, admitted she’s nervous. "I think we’re all a little anxious."
"It seems so surreal (that we leave this week)," Hunter Badgley said. "It’s always been so far in the future and now we actually have to pack and call the airlines and make sure everything is set to go. We don’t have time to slack off anymore."
"One of the issues comes down to if we’re going to forget anything," Al Badgley said. "Nairobi is our last stop to pick stuff up. As we’re unpacking there, I don’t want to be saying, ‘Why did I bring this? I don’t need all this stuff.’ But I also don’t want to be without what we need."
In their bags, the Haines teens are taking soccer balls, Frisbees and 1,000 pencils to share with children in Africa.
"In exactly four days, six hours and 10 minutes we’ll be on our way," Braaten said Monday afternoon. "But who’s counting?"
Well wishes, prayers, and advice were given to the local youth and adults Wednesday at a commissioning at the Presbyterian Church.
The group will return from Africa June 24.
Depending on a reliable Internet source, the group’s travels can be followed online at atk2010.blogspot.com.