Nineteen volunteers from Community Heights Baptist Church of Cedar Bluff, Va., went to Kyela, Tanzania, for two weeks in July. Hundreds of churches take mission trips—what makes this one different is that it began 15 years ago.
Pastor Allen Jessee of Community Heights Church visited Tanzania in 1991 as a young pastor. While there, Jessee had a life-changing experience, one which impacted his ministry. Since then, Jessee has always wanted to take a team from his church to return to Kyela, but there was no resident missionary in the area and he didn't know who could help him.
In January 2006 Edson and Renda Knapp had accepted medical positions in the Cedar Bluff area and needed to find a home for their large family of six children. Realtor Vicky England of Richlands offered to help them. Hearing that they were Baptists, England insisted on first introducing them to her pastor, Allen Jessee.
During the introductions, Knapp mentioned that he was an MK (missionary kid) from Tanzania in the Kyela area where his parents, Douglas and Evelyn Knapp, had been Southern Baptist missionaries for 26 years. Jessee was astounded and knew in his heart God had sent the Knapps to help him fulfill his dream. After becoming members of Community Heights, Knapp agreed to lead a team to Kyela.
Jessee's dream came true when the team of 19 visited 65 schools and 130 churches, resulting in 12,289 men, women and children who prayed to receive Christ in eight days of intensive evangelism ministry.
It was especially rewarding when two young people on the team came forward the first Sunday home, dedicating their lives to full-time Christian work and to missions.
Knapp's older sister and brother-in-law are Southern Baptist missionaries in Ethiopia. They had written to him about the successful use of Artemisia plants in curing malaria. Knapp remembered his frightening encounter with malaria as a teenager in Tanzania. He dreamed of introducing the plant in the Kyela valley to the 250,000 Nyakyusa people who suffer from malaria on a regular basis and often die from the disease.
Last summer the team planted 2,000 Artemisia cuttings at the Uhai Medical Clinic and Demonstration Farm as another dream was fulfilled.
A dream come true for Edson and Renda Knapp was to attend the dedication of the 80-bed orphanage built by the Makwale Baptist Church.
Two years ago on a volunteer mission trip to Kyela, the pastor of the church, Oscar Mwakipesile, told the Knapps of a problem the church was having. Parents in the area were dying of AIDS and their children were not being cared for by the community. In the past the few orphans in an area were gladly taken in by the extended family, but the vastly increased numbers had overwhelmed them. The church had offered its building for the children to sleep on the floor, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for the nearby church families to feed the children as the numbers rose to 30 and then 40 with no end in sight.
Renda had a dream one night after her return from Africa, and she saw herself taking care of many children in an orphanage. Upon waking, she immediately knew what they must do. Another Kyela supporter, Bob Caudill, a member of First Baptist Church of Naples, Florida, confirmed the Knapps in their desire to care for the children. He, too, had seen the need and felt God's leadership in this direction.
Other churches helped also and $126,000 was raised. In October 2004 the first funds were on their way and plans and blueprints drawn up. Construction began in January 2005 and the building was finished in June 2006. Each member of the Makwale Baptist Church made at least 300 bricks; the Uhai Medical Clinic next door donated the land for the orphanage and a dorm parent home. They promised free medical care for all the orphans.
Today, the dream of the Knapps, Caudills and others have been finalized as the dorm parents are in place and 80 orphans are housed and fed in the modern, attractive facility.