When Lorraine Stanfield turned 50 last spring, she didn’t want a party.
She wanted her family to go with her to Kenya to serve people — and maybe take in a safari near the end of the two-week visit, which the family did.
The Stanfields, of Milton, Mass., offered a workshop describing highlights of their trip during Synod of Lakes and Prairies’ Synod School, held July 24-29 at Buena Vista University.
Under the auspices of the nonprofit organization Lift Up Africa, the Stanfields — Burns, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Boston; Lorraine, a physician; and their three children, Liz, 17; Nathan, 15; and Grace, 12 — taught classes, led worship and saw patients.
“Are you looking for a great adventure?” Lorraine Stanfield said. “They put their volunteers to great use.”
She saw patients at a medical center in the mountain community of Kaliluni, where Dr. Stanfield, an internist, was asked to doctor a number of children. Her only disappointment was that she couldn’t see the full complement of people seeking medical care — up to 100 people each day.
Burns Stanfield said he was most taken with the leader of Priscilla’s Home for Girls, who takes in Maasai girls who are typically married off to older men and are sometimes the victims of female circumcision.
“Oprah needs to do a movie on this woman,” he said of the school founder. “She takes on girls who don’t want that done to them.”
Their hosts showed the family a workshop where gived used wheelchairs are converted into models that can get people around in the African bush.
The Stanfield children were asked to teach classes at Hamomi School in Nairobi, with Nathan invited both to teach and serve as a temporary soccer coach and player.
“It was great playing with the younger kids,” he said. “You can score a goal when your team is losing.”
Kenyan students and players are both gentle and kind, he said. “If I fell down, they said sorry.”
And when a teacher entered a room, his sister Grace noted, “Everybody stood, said hello, and asked him how his day was.”
On their third day helping at the Hamomi School, the Stanfields worked up the courage to walk two miles to school past open sewage in a community where, as Burns Stanfield said, “we stood out.”
And so, to help the Stanfields feel more at home, a crowd of 35-40 students held family members’ hands and walked them back that afternoon to the home where they were staying — just “as a way to say thank you and send us on our way,” Burns Stanfield said. “They offered us so much. We soon learned that there was a lot our family could learn just by the way they were with us.”
Mike Ferguson is a member of United Presbyterian Church in Lone Tree, Iowa, and a reporter for The Muscatine Journal, the newspaper where Mark Twain got his start. He is a regular contributor to Presbyterian News Service.