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Missionary seeks to ease suffering

February 20, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

MAUGANSVILLE - At 22, Rhonda Horst has seen more suffering - and done more to ease it - than most people see in a lifetime.

As a missionary with African Christian Missions International, Horst has spent nearly three years providing humanitarian aid and spreading the word of God to thousands of refugees in Kenya.

After a brief visit with her family in Maugansville, Horst is returning to Africa to embark upon a long-term mission in war-torn southern Sudan.

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She will work to establish a vocational, English language and Bible study training facility for church leaders, she said.

"I know God has been leading me to that area," said Horst, who speaks fluent Swahili. "I've really grown to love the people and everything about the work. I consider Africa my home."

Since the spring of 2000, she has lived and worked at northern Kenya's Kakuma camp, home to more than 80,000 refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Congo.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) oversees relief efforts at the camp, and a number of smaller humanitarian and religious organizations work to provide basic human necessities and education to the refugees - but their situation remains dire.

The UNHCR in January announced that many of the refugees were starving because the agency can't afford enough food to meet daily caloric recommendations. Educational services also are limited for the refugees, Horst said.

"There are a lot of desperate people who are completely dependent upon the relief organizations at the camp," she said.

Horst has spent most of her time in Kenya helping to run African Christian Missions' Bible school for refugees and a program to provide food, clothing and spiritual education for children in a nearby tribe, she said.

Horst has seen human suffering on four continents since she started doing missionary work in middle school, she said. At 12, she began taking summer missions trips with Florida-based Teen Missions International, spreading the gospel to the downtrodden in Florida, England, Ghana, Botswana and Costa Rica.

Horst planned to attend a four-year college after graduating from Shalom Christian Academy in Marion, Pa., in 1999, but decided instead to tackle Youth with a Mission's six months of classroom training in Denver and three months of field work in India.

"I'd already applied to colleges but I just didn't feel at peace with it," Horst said.

Her one-on-one work with poverty-stricken Indian children convinced her that "missions is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."

Her research on the Sudanese Civil War and its effects on civilians sparked her desire to go to Africa, she said.

The war in Sudan between the Islamic government of the north and rebels from the mainly Christian south has lasted nearly two decades. More than 2 million people have died as a result of fighting and war-related famine.

A cease-fire was declared in the area in southern Sudan, where relief organizations have bases for humanitarian aid, but bombed-out buildings, abandoned tanks and craters in the earth serve as reminders of the bloody conflict, Horst said.

Horst has raised about half of the $70,000 it will cost to build a home base and training facility and to run the program for a year with one Sudanese and one Somalian missionary.

"We are believing in a big God to help us raise the large sum of money necessary for this work, but it also requires the assistance of others," Horst said.

For more information or to make a donation earmarked for Rumbek, Sudan, contact African Christian Missions International, P.O. Box 1862, Hagerstown, MD 21742. Inquiries also can be sent via e-mail to acmissions@aol.com.

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