Bridge to Kibeho: All Day FORE Africa embarks on mission trip
700 bracelet sets.
Turns out, it wasn’t lofty at all. All Day FORE Africa volunteers have already signed up 700 Prayer Partners and are now ordering more bracelets so they can “build a bridge of prayer” between the U.S. and Africa.
An ‘ace’ of an idea
All Day FORE Africa was initially conceived in 2010 as a one-day, one-girl fundraising event. With the help of her family and friends, Kate Lesnar, the daughter of Jim and Kathy Lesnar and then a Worthington High School golf team member, raised more than $10,000 by playing a marathon round of golf and gathering pledges for the effort.
That same summer, Kate traveled to Rwanda with genocide survivor and best-selling author Immaculée Ilibagiza and personally delivered the money she had raised — enough to put in a water system at a school in Kibeho, Rwanda. She also saw firsthand the great need that exists in Africa and returned home determined to raise more money and help more people.
Kate is now a freshman at Colorado Christian University, and All Day FORE Africa has blossomed into a full-fledged, multifaceted charitable organization. Over the last few years, ADFA events have taken place across the country. The local golfing marathon has become an annual summer undertaking with many participants, supplemented by other fundraisers throughout the year.
“All Day FORE Africa Inc. believes that children from around the world have a lot to learn from one another,” explains the organization’s website about its mission. “One child’s talent may inspire another. One child’s joy may give another hope. This is why we pursue the dream of ‘kids playing for kids’ by organizing fun all-day events throughout the United States, where kids collect money for the children of Africa. One of our goals is to promote education about the basic needs of those less fortunate. We encourage these kids to use their passions and talents to make the world a better place.”
Seeing is believing
With that purpose in mind, ADFA’s first official mission trip is being planned. A group of 40 people — 23 from the Worthington area joined by others from California, Nebraska, Montana and Mexico — will travel to Rwanda this summer. After raising money the past three years, ADFA volunteers will witness what has been accomplished in Kibeho, including the water system, bathrooms and a sports area for the school and most recently, the building of a medical clinic.
“I spent many years in Africa, and I know that the first people you greet when you go there are the elders,” explained the Rev. Jim Callahan, priest at St. Mary’s parish in Worthington, recounting a previous visit to Kibeho. “So we began talking with them about what the needs are in the community, and what came up was a medical clinic. They shared with us that their ambulance is a stretcher, and they would have to go 10 miles carrying the person to the hospital.”
When Father Leszek, the priest who runs Blessed Stanislaus School in Kibeho, visited Worthington, he sat down with ADFA organizers and began to give serious consideration to building a medical center. Ground was broken last summer, and the clinic is slated to open in April. One component of the ADFA trip will be its first medical mission.
“We’re trying to do immunizations first,” explained Judy Alm, who is organizing the medical effort. “Our main priority is to take the basics with us — thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, bandages. They have nothing there. We’re going to teach them hand-washing techniques. And we’re going to plan for the long-term. We have to keep this clinic functioning.”
A nurse will staff the clinic, and it’s hoped that missionary doctors will visit the clinic regularly. The American visitors will also assess future needs, such as eye care and dentistry, and lay the groundwork for fulfilling those needs.
“But it’s important that the people there take ownership of it, make the decisions and be operating it,” stressed Callahan.
The fundraising goal for the medical center is $200,000.
The Prayer Partners program arose out of a desire to “make the world a little smaller,” explained Kathy Lesnar, and connect people here more directly with the individual students in Africa.
“People here are buying bracelets and filling out forms, and they will be matched with kids over there, and they will be praying for each other,” explained Anna Meyer, 13, the daughter of Kelly and Heidi Meyer. Anna and her mother are going on the mission trip.
Local people sponsor a child by purchasing Prayer Partner bracelets for themself and a Rwandan child for $10. During the mission trip, the Prayer Partners matches will be made, and the children will be presented with their bracelets.
“We will assemble a card with your picture, and it will tell a little about yourself and what you want the person to pray for,” explained Kathy Lesnar. “When we get down there, we will sit down with them for 10 or 15 minutes, introduce them to you, then take their picture and gather information to bring back to you.”
Since the mission trip participants come from a number of local churches, the idea was to explain the program and offer the bracelets during presentations at each church. But the 700 bracelet sets were snatched up quickly, so more bracelets must be ordered.
“The original 700 bracelets were donated,” said Pam Wendland, who will make the trip with her husband and children. “Because of that donation, all of the $10 goes to the medical center. We will have to pay for the next 700.”
In addition to the medical center, another building project will help attract better teachers and improve educational opportunities for the children of Kibeho. Simple dormitories are being built to provide housing for the teachers at Blessed Stanislaus School, who currently have to walk two hours each day to work.
There is also a need, however, to provide advanced educational opportunities for the children.
“The kids there go through the sixth grade, then they have to pass a test to go on to high school,” explained Pam Wendland. “Four kids have passed, and we want to put together a scholarship for them.”
The cost for a child to get advanced education is approximately $500 for room and board — a yearly salary for most Rwandans.
“If we can offer a scholarship, we believe more of them will study harder and more kids will take the test,” Wendland said. “It can have a snowball effect. I think these kids want to learn, but if it’s totally out of reach, it’s not in their thought process.”
“We’d like to plant the idea with churches or organizations to sponsor a child,” added Kathy Lesnar. “That way they can walk with a child through the process.”
Kids playing for kids
Many of the mission trip travelers will be young people, who were inspired by Kate Lesnar’s original concept to make a difference in the world.
At just age 13, Anna Meyer has already participated in ADFA activities for a couple of years.
“She was just completely inspired (by Kate’s golf effort) and wanted to see what it was all about,” said mom Heidi.
The Wendland family also got involved early on in ADFA.
“My brother, Kyle, started with Kate the first year, golfing,” explained Kailey Wendland, 17. “Then me and my mom and Annie (Lesnar) sewed dresses the first year for kids in Africa. The second year, we drove golf carts and brought treats and water around. Annie and I weren’t big golfers, so we started playing guitar and singing at BenLee’s. This year we got more people to sing, and I also golfed last year.
“It’s going to be fun to see what we’ve been starting over there.”
Isaac Fest, 16, from Heron Lake, first heard about ADFA when he attended a fundraising concert at BenLee’s Café in downtown Worthington.
“My mom thought it would be good for me to get involved in a mission trip,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a lot different than here, just seeing how they live differently.”
The entire experience will be documented by a videographer.
“I had told Kate over Christmas that we needed to pray for a videographer, because if we’re going to continue to grow, we need to tell the story,” related Kathy Lesnar. “So we sat down and prayed about it. That same day, we got a message on Facebook from a girl from Montana that I know. She’s getting her master’s degree in documentary work and was wondering if we needed a videographer.”
In addition to their mission activities in Kibeho, the group plans to visit the Rwandan genocide memorial and will also have the opportunity to go on a safari. But what they are all anticipating the most is connecting with the people of Kibeho.
“Love is universal,” said the Rev. Luis Vargas, who will also be part of the Worthington contingent. “We are working together, one family — God’s family.”
When the next batch of Prayer Partners bracelets arrive and are distributed, the travelers anticipate having 1,400 people going along with them on the journey through prayer. Besides the bracelets, the group is selling brightly colored ADFA T-shirts and other items to raise funds for their projects.
They may not leave on their actual journey for a few more months, but the mission is already well under way.
“Our mission trip isn’t really in June. It starts right now, and continues through our whole life, hopefully,” said Kathy Lesnar.
All Day FORE Africa is a 501c3 non-profit organization. For more information, go to www.alldayforeafrica.com. Donations can be sent to All Day FORE Africa Inc., Box 234, Worthington 56187. Questions can be directed to Judy Alm, 372-2350.