The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

August 25, 2013

Rich Brown: Young couple transformed into African missionaries

JOPLIN, Mo. — Daniel and Kelsey Meyer have come a long way since their days as high school sweethearts.

A really long way -- namely, from Carthage to Ghana, West Africa. The 23-year-old couple graduated from Carthage High School in 2008 and got married two years later. Then, a couple of months ago, they boarded a plane headed for West Africa and an introduction to overseas missionary work.

The mission was a first for the Meyers as a married couple and a first for the organization that sent them. It was the inaugural overseas missionary trip for Gifts for the Nations, a Christian humanitarian outreach founded by Ozark Christian College graduate Debbie Cramer. The Meyers' two-week mission tried their stamina to work long days in sweltering heat and their Christian conviction.

"It was a big leap of faith to just trust God and trust Debbie Cramer to plan everything," said Kelsey, a registered nurse with Freeman Health System in Joplin.

Cramer learned of the Meyers' interest in going to Ghana after speaking at the young couple's church, Fairview Christian, in Carthage.

Although the Meyers had previously gone on separate missionary trips with their church when they were single, those missions were nothing like what they experienced on their own.

"This was a big difference with just the two of us," said Daniel, who is employed at a ranch near Carthage. "Previously we were with a group, had contacts and people there who knew what they were doing. This time we were pretty much just with the natives and for some of them we were the only white people they had seen."

Daniel's main focus was on repairing a tractor that had been sent more than a year before, but he also worked on motor bikes and solved a lot of mechanical problems with other equipment.

Because of his wife's expertise in the medical field, she dealt with a lot of first aid, tending to cuts and scrapes, among other minor injuries. However, she lamented the fact that she did not have the training or materials to sew up wounds with stitches.

"One man cut his leg and it was pretty deep, so I just wrapped it up the best I could," she said. "The hardest thing for me was knowing what was wrong and not being able to do anything."

Kelsey added that anyone wanting to do medical missions in Africa will never run out of work. There is a 24-hour-per-day need, seven days a week, she said, calling the task overwhelming.

As difficult as it was, she was forced to tell people she had to leave when she knew they were hurting, they had infections and she had the supplies to take care of them. She added that if she had not told them that, she would still be there today.

Even though the Meyers' mission was one of help rather than preaching, the couple still served as Christian witnesses.

"We talked to some on a person-to-person basis about Jesus," Kelsey said. "We wanted to teach them our faith because this was a very Muslim area. There was also a lot of idol worshiping. Fortunately, they were pretty open to hearing about Jesus."

Kelsey also taught a missionary wife and some of the village women how to sew, thanks to a treadle sewing machine provided by Gifts for the Nations. She also had high praise for Good News Productions International. This Joplin organization, which provides missionaries with much-needed supplies, donated a solar kit for the couple's use.

The kit served as a means of sharing the word of God through videos and provided solar panels to charge a large battery, which was used to charge phones and computers.

As far as the African weather, the Meyers agreed it was intense.

"Take Missouri's hottest day and it is that way every day," Kelsey said. "When we flew in, the temperature was sweltering. It was so humid that we felt like we were swimming and we were not even in their hot season yet."

As if no electricity or running water were not enough, the couple endured the heat while trying to sleep at night in an unventilated concrete house. However, they were thankful for outhouses, Kelsey added.

She said that no matter where they traveled in the country, they always drew long stares.

"As we were driving along the roads, people would look into our truck and see there were white people there, and their jaws would drop," she said. "We were the center of attention, no matter where we went."

Because the Meyers' work specialties are specifically related to the needs of the Ghana area, the couple has not ruled out a return mission some day.

"We really don't know what God has planned but we have learned never to say never," Kelsey said.

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