Local preacher rewarded by missionary work

April 01, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

For 16 days in February, the Rev. Ken Valentine helped dig a drainage ditch in 95-degree heat through the small, poor village of Tonjibe, Costa Rica.

"It was really hard work but you really feel like you are making a difference in people's lives," said the senior pastor at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Hagerstown.

And Valentine said that is what ministry is all about. "You truly do receive more than you give."

The latest trip was Valentine's fifth to this Central American country that has two widely divergent populations. "There are time-shares, fishing and surfboard havens in about 10 percent of the country while the other 90 percent is very, very poor," he said.


"In years past, we did most of the work and the Bible lessons in the churches," Valentine said. "This year, we worked side by side with the residents, which was good because there is more ownership when they participate."

On Sunday, April 7, Valentine is hosting a luncheon at 12:30 p.m. to acquaint his congregation and anyone else with the sights and tastes of Costa Rica as he experienced them.

"I'll be showing slides and a videotape as well as talking about my trips to Costa Rica," Valentine said. The menu of black beans and rice, tortillas and salsa, fruit, cake and beverages will reflect the cuisine of the country.

Reservations are requested by Thursday. Those who attend are asked to bring place settings and a goodwill offering to defray the food costs.

On his most recent trip, Valentine was one of 16 people from nine churches in Maryland. "When I return in June 2003, I hope to take 12 to 25 people from Hagerstown with me, including young people," he said.

The trips are arranged through the United Methodist church's Volunteer in Mission program. Each time he goes, the congregation helps defray his costs and sends supplies and additional money along for the people in Costa Rica.

"I try to translate the costs into understandable terms," Valentine said. A good example is a school uniform for one child is $17.50 a year. In Costa Rica, children cannot go to school unless they have uniforms, Valentine said.

Pastor of John Wesley since July 2000, Valentine came to Hagerstown after 10 years of ministering to Kent Island's only Methodist congregation.

It was there that Valentine's belief in the value of working with other churches and different kinds of people was forged.

Valentine's daughter Rachel accompanied her father to Costa Rica two years ago. Now a sophomore at North Hagerstown High School, Rachel had a life-changing experience while she was there, her father said.

"Among the things we took along were boxes of Trix cereal," Valentine said. "Rachel gave some to a little child there and that child promptly handed them back to share with Rachel," he said. "It made her think about what's really important."

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