The Journey to Kenya: A conversation of preparation

Story by Chelsea Quackenbush
Photography by Nathan Chandler


Editor’s note: This is the third story in a four-part series in Buckner Today, chronicling Melanie Miller and Brittani Cirinna on the their journey to volunteer in Kenya with Project Go!, the long term mission of Buckner International. We caught up with them during their orientation at Buckner Missions headquarters in Dallas the day before they left for Nairobi. At press time, they had landed safe and sound. Follow their journey at kenyalovesjesustoo.wordpress.com.

BRITTANI: We leave tomorrow for Nairobi, Kenya.

MELANIE: We’ll be there for a month with Project Go!

BRITTANI: Before I committed to go, I think the biggest thing for me was the money. It was so relatable to me, it was so worldly. I instantly thought, ‘Can we raise this money? This is a lot for both of us to go.’ Because that’s how I directly related and it. And it was God just said … I think that’s something I’ll remember forever, that if that’s something you want to do and you feel passionate and you feel led, God makes it happen.

[caption id="attachment_6308" align="alignright" width="250"] Melanie Miller packs for her month-long mission trip to Kenya.[/caption]

MELANIE: With fundraising, it was very quick and vigorous. We raised all the money we needed plus extra to where we could buy all the supplies Buckner suggested we could take with us.

We started with baking cake balls all the time.

BRITTANI: All the time.

MELANIE: It was all the time. When we would get done with school, we would come home around 5 o’clock and be baking until 1 in the morning. Then we’d go to bed and start all over again. Go and teach, come home, make more cake balls. Word got around so quick that we were making these cake balls and it was for us to go on a mission trip so people used it as an excuse to eat sweets. So we had tons of people purchasing them.

BRITTANI: All of the stuff was donated. We had three garage sales and we raised $2,300. Then we had three carloads of stuff to take to Goodwill after.

We did a quarter auction, which I’d never done before. Basically, people who had home businesses like Mary Kay or Silpada donate things and we auction it. Everything is a quarter and it’s really fast-paced. We raised a ton of money from that.

MELANIE: We did a vendor party at our house, too. We had 12 vendors in all. We sold a ton of stuff. I think we raised about $2,000 from that. We were way over what we needed.

[caption id="attachment_6309" align="alignright" width="250"] "Packing was hard," Brittani Cirinna said. "We laid it all out, and it was way too much."[/caption]

BRITTANI: Packing was hard. We started with a bunch of stuff we wanted to take – games and snacks and clothes and toiletries – and you think in a month’s span, that’s a long time to pack for so you need the big shampoo and everything.

We laid it all out and it was way too much. So we’re shouting from room to room, what should we take, what should we pull out …

MELANIE: How many of each thing?

BRITTANI: And reorganizing things. It was a little stressful but I think we’re just going to be dirty and our clothes are going to be dirty and we might smell a little bit and that’s fine.

MELANIE: And hopefully the people on the plane coming back don’t care!

BRITTANI: I think (Project Go!) is ideal … I mean, we’ve been on mission trips before but I feel like a month is an ideal amount of time. It’s enough time to submerge you and it’s not too long to where it’s too long. It’s a good enough time to be able to process it and then maybe see if it’s something we’d want to do full time.

I’ve already been through training for a day and I’m just really excited about serving and being stretched. A girl came to talk who went to session one in Nairobi and she said, ‘You’re going to be stretched out of your limits all the time; the African culture and the people are so different.’ I know that’s going to be very challenging for me because I’m a teacher , I’m organized, I’m plan-oriented. I’m just interested in being thrown out of my comfort zone.

MELANIE: It’s kind of overwhelming because I still feel like I’m not going to want to come back; that’s still on my mind and it’s a huge possibility, that I’m going to come back and still have it on my heart to want to go back. It’s overwhelming, thinking of all the relationships that will be built there and the emotion that comes with leaving.

BRITTANI: I am most nervous and excited about what will be required of me after I return; how I feel that in my heart, what I’m supposed to do with it.

MELANIE: I am most nervous about how God wants to change me.

BRITTANI: I think what I always go back to is, if I’m not going to do it now, when am I going to do it? I think that is a big appeal for Project Go! because it’s really geared toward college kids. You have the summers off, people want to help you – Go! And if you don’t like it, which you will, then don’t go back. And if you do, you find other ways to help and get involved.

MELANIE: I would definitely challenge other people to get involved but to know that God wants you to make a difference; you shouldn’t let things stop you. We’re always thinking, well, ‘what if’ – what if I won’t be able to raise the money or what if I’m not good enough to do that. But you are.

BRITTANI: I was reading this morning in Isaiah 53 and it was talking about how Jesus was not the ideal person coming, nobody liked him and nobody wanted anything to do with him. I was thinking a lot of the way people view Africans or the way people in Kenya view these kids at the BCC. But the playing field was leveled when Jesus died for us and that’s the bottom line. My soul isn’t more important because I live in America and their soul isn’t less important because they don’t have worldly things that some people feel are important. I think it’s just going and loving Jesus.

We’ve collected stuff to take and we feel like that’s really important to meet their needs, but it all comes back to we’re all sinners, we’re all the same, you live on the other side of the world but Jesus is the bottom line. That’s it.

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