by J. Robert Ladd
The members of a relatively small congregation in rural south-central Pennsylvania believe that no task is too big for God. Almost ten years ago the lives of Lucas and Limi Ndaro intersected with the people of Cornwall United Methodist Church. Lucas came to nearby Evangelical Theological Seminary on a scholarship to seek his Master of Divinity degree. Soon after he arrived he was invited to attend Cornwall church and the congregation welcomed him as family. They soon agreed to help bring Lucas’ wife Limi and their two sons to the U.S. and adopted the family as missionaries to Tanzania.
In 2001 a group of twelve from the church, including Lucas, spent a total of ten weeks in Buramba, Tanzania, building a new church in this village where Lucas had grown up. When Lucas and Limi returned to Tanzania in 2007 to teach and serve as administrators at Nassa Theological College, they had accumulated four masters degrees. Limi’s degree was in Marriage and Family Therapy. The congregation has been anxious to have an impact on their ministry in Tanzania, and the need for a counseling center was soon identified.
The congregation’s mission committee adopted a two-year plan in 2008 and began fundraising. An exploratory trip to Africa by the project chairman and his wife in March 2009 led to site analysis, architectural plans, a basic ministry plan and cost estimates for construction of a two-story building on the shore of Lake Victoria just off the college campus. The building would be a two story structure with three separate counseling centers on the first floor – Marriage and Family, AIDS, and Financial. The second floor would be an apartment.
Now the enormity of the project for this small congregation in a challenging economy became even more evident. The goal was to raise all the money needed to get the building under roof and take a group of ten or twelve people to the site to help with construction in August of 2010. It was estimated the building would cost a total of $120,000 to complete but for $70,000 we could get it under roof. In a classic example of underestimating God’s power the mission committee decided we should do this project in stages. Fundraising went well and several substantial matching gifts hastened the process. Late in 2009 the church got a wonderful offer. The brother of a member of the church, Howard Gallup, who had died ten years before, offered a challenge gift. If the church could raise the first $70,000 by May 2010 he would give the other $50,000 to complete the project. Howard had been very involved in the finance ministry of the church and so it was decided that the one counseling area would be called the Howard Gallop Memorial Financial Counseling Center. In May a gala Tanzanian dinner was held and the proceeds put the fund over the $70,000 mark.
While all this was taking place there was a growing group that wanted to travel to the site in August to work on the center. Everyone who wanted to go on the trip had to raise or contribute $2,500 to cover their travel costs. In the end there were seventeen who went, ranging in age from 15 to 71. The logistics of moving that many people around in Tanzania was challenging but all went well and the project was an amazing example of ingenuity and teamwork. An advance team arrived three days ahead of the balance of the workers to purchase steel, tools, materials and a generator/welder. In the end, without heavy equipment like cranes, thirteen steel roof rafters were fabricated, welded, erected and covered with roofing material. The heavy rafters were erected with teams using ropes and pulleys and then welded in place. This was a wonderful example of God’s blessings and wonderful teamwork.
The building is not yet finished but the local workers and contractors are continuing, and the hope is to begin counseling in the center early in 2011. Now there is an effort underway to form strategic alliances with Christian groups working in that area of Eastern Africa with which Family Life Counseling Centers can partner to do more effective counseling in the targeted areas. There is already a desire among many who experienced this opportunity to serve our friends in Tanzania. It is no mistake that the logo developed for the center is plural –Family Life Counseling Centers. Cornwall will never underestimate God’s power again.