South 11th and Willis Church of Christ has long been a mission-minded church. For decades, they have lived out the Great Commission's charge to go into the world and preach the gospel. This work included supporting missionaries working with the Deaf in Kenya. Thus began a long and continuing work in Kenya. Today the work continues with Larry and Hollye Conway in Nairobi and Keith and Grace Gafner in Eldoret.
The transformation of an empty plot of land into a school campus is amazing to see. Through a series of photos and videos, you can watch Sam's Place rise up from the red clay of Kenya.
Children in need
As the AIDS virus continues to destroy families in Kenya, orphans are paying a high price. While life is surely difficult for all orphans in Kenya, the future is especially bleak for Deaf orphans. Society sees these children as flawed or cursed. Many are abandoned to face the challenges of life alone. Others are thrown onto garbage dumps or taken into the jungle and left tied up as prey for wild animals. These children have no one to fight for them, no one to protect them and no one to care for them. Without help, these children have little hope for the future.
A Dream Begins
Sam McReynolds served on the S. 11th and Willis Mission Ministry for decades. He was determined that Willis would be proactive in taking the Light of Jesus to those places where only darkness reigns. On February 23, 2006, Sam McReynolds passed away. While those who loved him took comfort in the idea that Sam had finished his mission on earth, it soon became clear his work was not yet complete. Sam left $80,000 to Willis to establish an endowment fund to help secure a new orphanage for deaf children in Kenya - an orphanage called Sam's Place.
In 2008, construction began. A well was dug and the choo (Kenyan latrine) was excavated. By spring, the land was fenced and a security gate and guardroom were placed at the entrance to the compound. Construction also started on the two-story dormitory. The dormitory would provide living space for the children, areas for family activities, classrooms and an apartment for the director and his family. A three-room administrative building was the first building completed.
In addition to the $80,000 from Sam, Willis set a goal of raising $250,000 to be added to the endowment. This money would be invested to produce earnings that would be applied to the annual operating expenses of Sam's Place. Others were eager to contribute to beginning this new work. Ted and Cecil Faye Pemberton donated $5,000 to start the Education Fund, a fund to provide for the needs of the children and equip the home with a family room. A location was chosen and Willis took up a special contribution during Mission Emphasis Week 2007 - seeking $10,000 to begin construction on the Sam's Place land. In December 2007 Willis applied for and was given a $50,000 grant from an anonymous foundation.
The transformation of an empty plot of land into a school campus has been amazing to see. Over the past 10 years, the campus has undergone significant change. It now includes a two-room vocational building housing a woodworking lab and a sewing lab, a multi-purpose building including a kitchen and dining hall that is used for church services and classes, a three-room Bible building and six mock apartments used for helping the children prepare to transition to independent living.