Operation Kenya Clinic Spawns Two Spinoffs

Date Posted: 10/9/2014

Members of Christ UMC, College Station never dreamed their medical clinic mission project would create a domino effect via two additional spinoffs. Read how a North Texas Conference church and student project got started as a result of their work in 2013.
What are the chances that one shipping container converted to a portable medical clinic on the parking lot of Christ UMC in College Station last fall, would inspire up to a dozen more to be constructed by other groups – in a matter of months? Christ UMC member Tommy Merrick is one of many who have been surprised at their ministry project’s inspirational ripple effect that has taken place since last fall. “This time last year, our church started converting a used shipping container into a medical clinic,” he explains, “which we finished in 2014 and shipped to Maua, Kenya. During that process, Dr. Frank Alegria of First UMC Duncanville read about our construction project in the TAC Cross Connection newsletter and their Missions Leader visited us to learn how their church could do the same.”
Spinoff #1
Missions leader Betty Dunn shares the backstory. “Dr. Alegria forwarded that article to me with a note saying, What if… and I presented the article at our January meeting, “ she shares. After a lot of prayer, and lots of correspondence with Christ Church, they decided to build a clinic. “We call it Project 3.7 because an empty 40' X 8' X 9' shipping container weighs 3.7 metric tons,” she adds. Christ Church has consulted First UMC Duncanville, providing blue prints, supply lists, and ideas.
Adds Betty, “God has had His hand in this project from the very beginning. Not only do I view Colin, a project leader at Christ Church, as part of God's plan, but when I connected with missionary Cindy Ceballos in Panama to ask if she could use such a clinic, I found out that her Dad and I grew up together in the little farming community of Spade, Texas. He lived one mile from where I lived, we started to school together and graduated together.”  
Betty was very nervous about the shipping part of the process, so she visited with a relative of a church member who works for a shipping company in Houston. I visited with him for answers we all had about how to ship the clinic. The young man answered my questions, looked at the notebook I had put together and told me not to worry about any of this – that he would present it to the board of his company and tell them he wanted to do this because it is his grandfather's church." Now, how else can that be explained except God was saying to us, You can do this - I will help you - what are you waiting on?"
Recalls Betty, “When the container was delivered to our parking lot in mid July, there were 50 people there to greet it! Some 70 church members volunteered to work in some way - carpentry, painting, electrical, plumbing, clean up, bring food to the workers. We have learned of capabilities and talents of members that we never knew about. Friends have been made. Excitement builds with every passing day. Project 3.7 has brought our church members together as one. First United Methodist Church, Duncanville is a most unlikely church to have taken on such a project. We are not the wealthiest church in the district or conference  - but then God works through the most unlikely people -- look at the disciples.”
Betty realizes, “Through this project, our church has taken on a new life for mission. David and Cindy Ceballos, the missionaries in Panama who will receive the clinic, will be in our church November 9. We hope to have it completed when they arrive.”
One Year Later

Last month, three members of Christ UMC (Colin Wilkinson, Gordon Carstens, and David Boyle) went to Kenya to set up the clinic in a rural village. They also repaired the water system for the Methodist hospital there in Maua.
As Colin shares, “Ours was not a typical mission trip, as only three of us traveled and we were primarily going to set up our unit in a village about 25 miles from the hospital. Things don’t happen on a schedule in Africa, under normal conditions, but as God would have it, the container arrived on the day we arrived!” Colin knows God was actively working amidst the challenges. “Getting it to the location on the trailer was a feat in itself because the branches on each side of the dirt road were impairing our progress. However, the people were so excited about it’s arrival that they came with their machetes and chopped a path to our destination.” The biggest challenge proved to be unloading the heavy container without the aid of a hoist or modern machinery. “Our Kenyan friends constructed an innovative winch and pull system on the spot,” he adds, “but we were afraid it would not be enough. Then when it did work we were convinced that God was with us all the way.”
A team member from another community project there blogged about meeting the Texas Conference team and being able to help at the opening day of the clinic. “On opening day in a small rural community called Ithata,” she writes, “people walked for miles to reach the clinic, some of them carrying family members to receive treatment. There was excitement in the air as the Texas Team spoke about the journey to this point, shared their blessings and handed off the keys to the clinic.” Colin admits he expected a few hundred to show up, but quit counting as the number approached a thousand.
The blogger continues to share that, “In my life, I have had some moments of overwhelming feelings and many of those happened in Kenya on that Friday at the clinic. I remember the moment of moving beauty seeing a gentleman weep because his community has been given a way to care for themselves, moments working in the pharmacy and showing adults how to stand on a scale for the first time. These are moments I will remember forever.”
Colin adds, “What a blessing to hear them sing in their language: Praise God, this is a miracle. The whole ministry experience was more of a gift to us Texans than the container was to them!
Spinoff #2
Meanwhile, back in Texas, a second spinoff has been launched by a student group from Texas A&M. Students in an aptly-named organization called BUILD plan to construct at least four Mobile Medical Units called The Texas Aggie Medical Units this semester. Christ Church member Gordon Carstens is also BUILD’s faculty advisor. Gordon shares that “each unit will be constructed to contain 3 examination rooms and a laboratory, and will be equipped with a generator to enable them to be self sufficient regardless of the surrounding infrastructure they are deployed to. To facilitate this project, we have partnered with Medical Bridges™, a non-profit organization in Houston. Upon completion of the TAMUs on campus, we will work with Medical Bridges to procure medical-surgical supplies and equipment before transporting them to communities in Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras, and Columbia.” He is particularly excited that “all students will have an opportunity to swing a hammer and share in the Spirit of Aggieland, as the TAMUs will be constructed on campus at “The Grove” next to Simpson Drill Field through November 15th. Our goal is to eventually construct and deploy 12 TAMUs in honor of the Aggies who tragically lost their lives during the 1999 Bonfire collapse. This service project is intended to honor the Spirit that those Aggies, like thousands before them, cherished and became so passionate about while students at Texas A&M.”
Drew Allen, who serves BUILD as the student CEO says, “Out of over a thousand student organizations on campus, BUILD is the only one with a mission to promote campus unity by encouraging students to help others in need.” Adds Drew, “The coolest part is seeing students from all nationalities, college majors and walks of life unite and live this out together.”
If all goes to plan, the students will showcase their Aggie units at the November 15 football game for alumni and students to see what it is all about. “We started with 25 students helping,” Drew shares, “but thanks to the excitement on social media and word-of-mouth, I think we will have benefited from the help of over a thousand different students by the time we finish.”
Adds Christ Church member Tommy Merrick, “Considering all of the additional units that were inspired by our original goal, this has been an amazing project that God has truly blessed.”