Africa Calling

  by Gwen Whyte, Wesley Homes Des Moines resident At 59, Beverly Bowman could hardly believe she was beginning her mission to Africa. She had had her required orientations and vaccinations. Bev also gathered documents while receiving prayers from her Boulevard Church in Seattle. This dedicated Christian woman readied for the flight of her life. It was June of 1991 when Beverly began what was to be nine years of service in the mission field to Kenya, East Africa. The flight from Seattle took 30 hours. Weary but excited, Bev surveyed the welcoming crowd at the Nairobi Airport.  All were native people except her friend, Diane Moseman, who happily held a sign proclaiming “Sante Sannah!"  Welcome. Over the years, Bev had had long experience with grassroots Bible literacy. She served on supportive boards, raised funds and taught ESL. Her love of people of all nationalities had shown through. But now Kenya presented a unique challenge. The Nationals (native people) represented 42 different language groups where lifestyles and beliefs differed. Swahili, their national language, was used for business. Churches were struggling and primitive schools as well. Bev would later recall, “Women’s classrooms were quite inadequate, with poor lighting, poor ventilation and only a few available textbooks. Sometimes classes were held under a spreading acacia tree.”                Nationals were eager to learn to read, write and hear God’s message. But dropouts were a problem. So mini businesses were begun. Women began making attractive beaded jewelry. If students attended classes for one month, they were allowed to sell their lovely jewelry – a profit for all. A few years later, Bev delightedly recalls the day she and her colleague, Patrick Malasi, visited a small, primitive school at Olshoiboro, 30 miles from Nairobi.  “We drove along the rough terrain including almost impassible muddy roads. I was at the wheel! At the same time, the beauty of the forests held our fascination. No animals were seen, except giraffes munching fruit off the tallest trees. Those were the Ngong Hills, settings for Hollywood films. At last, the open school shelter came into view. The all-woman class of 15 Maasai students beamed with joy as we joined them and were introduced. Next, the teacher, Damaris Sukuda, demonstrated a lesson for us. When finished, the students gathered and began to dance! What a privilege. It was their gift to us. Each student wore a long stunning dress covered with geometric designs all in vivid colors. Strings of rainbow-colored beads and bracelets were the final touches. A few students had learned to read. But men, especially, had the opportunity to master English. Some had attended Kenya colleges and also later, universities in the United States.” The affection Bev felt for the Kenyans had been returned to her. She was respectfully called “Aunty Bev”. Even a few babies had been named Beverly in her honor. During the years, Bev was granted short furloughs to the United States, as was the Literacy and Evangelism policy. But she always returned to Kenya. However, by June of 1999, Bev left Africa to permanently live again in the Seattle area. Bev is still in contact with her many Kenyan friends. A few have visited her at Wesley Homes in Des Moines. Bev’s family lives a short distance away. No doubt her stories of Africa will delight them for many years to come. This article was originally published in The Grapevine, a newsletter written, edited and distributed by Wesley Homes Des Moines residents.

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