By Bob Ladd
No task is too big for God! Or so it seems to the members of a relatively small congregation in rural south-central Pennsylvania. Almost 10 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 12 people from the church, including Lucas, spent a total of 10 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 the Ndaro’s ministry in their homeland and the need for a counseling center was soon identified.
A two-year plan was adopted by the mission committee in 2008 and fundraising for the Family Life Counseling Center began almost immediately. 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 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.
The enormity of the project for this small congregation in a terrible 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 10 or 12 people to the site to help with construction in August 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 the project should be approached in stages. Fundraising went well and several substantial matching gifts hastened the process.
Late in 2009, the church got a wonderful offer. Jim Gallop, a member of the church, offered a challenge gift in memory of his late brother, Howard. 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 one counseling area would be called the Howard Gallop Memorial Financial Counseling Center.
In May, a Tanzanian gala and dinner was held and the proceeds put the fund for the Family Life Counseling Center 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 17 people who went, ranging in age from 15 to 71. The logistics of moving that many people around in Tanzania was challenging, but the project was an amazing example of ingenuity and teamwork.
An advance team arrived three days ahead of the balance of the workers and purchased steel, tools, material, and a generator/welder. In the end, without heavy equipment like cranes, 13 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 tangible blessing of great teamwork.
While the building project is ongoing, local workers and contractors are doing a great job and the hope is to begin doing counseling there early next year. The real task has just begun, however. Now there is an effort underway to form strategic alliances with Christian groups working in that area of Eastern Africa with which FLCC 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 name developed for the center is plural—Family Life Counseling Centers.
Cornwall United Methodist Church will never underestimate God’s power again.
Bob Ladd is a member of the Cornwall United Methodist Church and served as the mission coordinator for the Tanzania project. He is a member of the Good News Board of Directors and is Director of Special Gifts for Evangelical Theological Seminary in Myerstown, Pennsylvania.