Posted Tuesday, April 2
Alan Bashor writes from Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
As I get settled in Brazzaville, I’m still reflecting on our time in Kenya. Since we began our program in Africa in 2003, The Albert Baker Fund (ABF) has supported more students in Kenya than any other country. This week in meetings with current and past students, members of the Board of First Church Nairobi, our Kenyan and Tanzanian In Country Representatives (ICR’s), and long-time trusted friends and advisors, we heard some new ideas that are clearly worth considering. Several things stand out to me: 1) Recipients feel responsible for protecting the beautiful program that ABF has brought to Kenya; 2) Colleges and universities are changing their demands on students for more timely payment of fees, thereby increasing the demand on ABF and the students to function more efficiently; 3) We see encouraging signs that Christian Scientists in Africa are interested in donating to ABF; and 4) I believe our program works because our ICR’s and alumni are mentoring Christian Science students about to enter college.
Yesterday we drove from Nairobi to Narok and visited the Kenya offices of Asante of Africa Foundation. Asante is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and provides educational programs for African Secondary School pupils, generating award-winning results in Kenya and Tanzania. Now, Asante would like to expand into Uganda and Rwanda. Every year, Asante offers week-long “incubator” camp-like sessions for young students and their teachers in either Kenya or Tanzania. We had the opportunity to talk with graduates and the Asante Africa staff, and we concluded that Asante’s focus, particularly on girls’ issues, as well as on leadership, entrepreneurship, world citizenship, and the concept of paying your blessings forward, could be wonderfully helpful to our own African Sunday School students.
We’re considering whether or not ABF could adapt the program so that ten Christian Science students and teachers could attend. We would arrange for them to live together in their own housing unit so they could hold daily breakout sessions to address the issues of the day from a Christian Science perspective. More than ever, I see the possibilities for ABF students to benefit from this amazing organization’s program. We’ll be exploring more about this later!
Today we met with our long-time Congolese ICR’s from Pointe Noire and Brazzaville. In the most remote CS communities we have visited, we hear our friends and colleagues saying that church growth and progress is being actively supported by the ABF alums who experienced Christian Science healing in school, graduated, and have gone on to pass their blessings forward to their churches, fellow Christian Scientists, and their communities.
In closing, I just want to comment on the gratitude for ABF from our beneficiaries here in Congo and from our on-the-ground volunteers and friends—it has been overpowering. When we ask them to tell us what we can do to improve, they quickly point out how valuable ABF is to the Christian Science community and how much our program means to them.
So now, here are a few comments from Jill, who has been meeting our ICRs and on-the-ground Africa volunteers for the first time!
I’ve been so inspired by our ICR’s, as each one is filled with light, love, and joy. They are so committed to supporting our students, not only by helping process their applications, but primarily in being a voice and a listening ear in the students’ study and practice of Christian Science.
These volunteers are invaluable to our Africa Program. In fact, our Africa program would not be successful if not for our In-Country Volunteers! As ICRs, they work with the students and help them understand each specific step along the application process, prayerfully supporting them and sharing the practical application of Christian Science to meet every need.
ICRs sometimes travel to schools in the area to assure proper and harmonious processing of applications and fees. And while there, they often have the opportunity to explain what The Albert Baker Fund does. These discussions might even lead to the ICRs sharing Christian Science!
Many of our ICRs throughout Africa have become Journal-listed, full-time public Christian Science practitioners and many serve The Mother Church in other various roles. What a blessing they all are to ABF’s work in Africa!
With much love and gratitude,
Alan Bashor, CEO and Jill Stucker, Program Manager
PS By the time you receive this, Jill and Lamech will be on their way to Togo and Ghana, after spending Easter Sunday at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Douala, Cameroon!