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Teens delay college to work in Africa

Teens delay college to work in Africa

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Teens delay college to work in Africa

March 29, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0646}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

Molly McEntire knows God called her to missions in the sixth grade. In the six years that followed, she has responded to that call over and over again, including a three-month mission to Africa in 2006.

“My entire life I have been doing different types of missions, and I’ve come to see that nothing makes me more happy than serving others,” she said.

McEntire said she remembers being on a mission trip in Cabrini Green, a ghetto in Chicago, and hearing God calling her to “help people all around the world.”

Molly McEntire (center) delayed college to fulfill what she heard as God's call to serve in Africa. She and a fellow recent high school graduate spent three months after graduating working with disadvantaged children, teenagers and women in various ministries in Nairobi. Photo courtesy of Molly McEntire. Photo #07-0555.

“I felt the calling to go to Africa when I saw a video in sixth grade on the Sudan,” she said. “That is when my passion about Africa started, and I knew from the bottom of my heart that was where God was calling me to go.”

McEntire and another recent high school graduate, Ashley Oetinger, answered that call last Aug. 28 to Nov. 26.

McEntire is in her first year of college and a member of the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches. Her father, the Rev. David McEntire, has been senior pastor at the church for nearly 13 years.

McEntire says he has a lot of confidence in his daughter.

“Many people asked my wife and I if we were worried or frightened about having our 18-year-old daughter work in the slums of Nairobi,” he said. “We told them that we had all prepared well and that we had a genuine sense of peace about the safety of the girls as they were following the call of God upon their lives.

“I was thrilled that Molly and Ashley had the opportunity to serve in such a significant way. For Molly, serving in Kenya was a natural progression of her life as a Christian. In high school she had nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer service, locally, nationally and in other countries. For her to delay starting college and serve first was typical of Molly.”

Molly and Oetinger, also a member of United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, received training from United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. They then raised the necessary funds to support making the trip.

“We sent out tons and tons of letters for support and prayers,” McEntire said. “We had lots of shots, doctors visits … you name it. We had to prepare for every contingency.”

McEntire says the support she and Oetinger received from their church was amazing. “They have been such a supportive, loving congregation. They have done so much to help Ashley and me. They gave monetary donations; sent e-mails, cards and letters; prayed for us every day; and really encouraged us.”

The two girls worked in Africa with orphans and teenagers and taught at local schools. They first arrived in Kenya and worked at Nocorro Academy, which is supported by The Methodist Church of Kenya. After three days at Nocorro, they went to a Korean Methodist mission located in the middle of the Massai territory, which had a church, school and clinic. McEntire worked at the school, while Oetinger worked in the clinic.

For the next two and a half months they worked at New Life Orphanage, Beacon of Hope and Tulip.

New Life Orphanage ministers to children up to 3 years old who either have HIV or were abandoned in local hospitals or on the side of the road. Beacon of Hope is a center for women who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. The women are trained for a year in making different craft and woven items, while their children receive day care. The center also operates a clinic and school for children and checks on women who are homebound. Tulip is a center for teenage girls who have been sold into prostitution, are orphans or have been abused. They are taught such life skills as sewing and cooking. After their training, they are sent to boarding schools to get away from the very dangerous slums in which they had been abused.

Every Monday and Tuesday McEntire and Oetinger took six different matatus, or taxis, notoriously dangerous in Kenya, to Beacon of Hope in the Kware slum. Every Wednesday and Thursday they took four matatus to Tulip in the Korogocho slum. And on Fridays and Saturdays they walked to New Life Orphanage.

McEntire believes she saw God’s hand at work in lives of the people she helped.

“A lot of them told us that we gave them hope and showed them love that no one else had ever given to them,” she said. “Some of the women with AIDS told us that their own families had disowned them, but we had shown them more love then they could imagine. (It) was worth everything just to know we had given them that little bit of hope and love to go on in life.”

McEntire said God also did something special in her life.

“God has changed my life so much in Africa. He has taught me what love truly is and means. He has taught me that everyone is somebody,” she said.

Nobody should be treated differently because of what their status is or lifestyle. If we call ourselves Christians then we need to live as Christ did, which includes helping the poor, the orphaned and the widows.”

United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches continues to support missions by selling the products made by the Beacon of Hope women in the church bookshop. All of the money raised from sales of Beacon of Hope items goes directly to Beacon of Hope.


This article relates to Missions.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a freelance writer based in Beverly Hills, Fla. His columns appear in the Naples Sun Times newspaper and Faith & Tennis magazine.