When a person signs up for a mission trip on the other side of the world, it’s good to know there’s a supportive team at home backing you up.
Elisabeth Walker is preparing to journey to projects oversees managed by Red Deer-based Word of Life church this April. This will mark her third trip to Rwanda and Kenya. Several years ago, Word of Life Centre launched Home of Hope Rwanda which supports orphans by linking them with families.
Walker is a residential caregiver for Blackfalds resident Peter Thompson, 49, who in turn is holding a special fundraiser through to March 26th to give Walker a hand with her trip. Thompson, who is in a wheelchair, will row at the Abbey Centre in Blackfalds 10,000 metres in 10 days. He’s hoping to raise $2,000 for the cause.
“I said I could either row on my rowing machine or I could use my walker, but it’s still winter and I can’t do the walking yet,” he explained. “But I could do the rowing in the gym because it’s indoors.
“This fundraising will raise some money for the kids and some sponsorship for her so we can send her there.”
Thompson said the momentum is growing and the community has been very supportive as the fundraiser took shape and is now underway.
Thompson was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a youngster. He also was in a car accident in his 30s and broke his neck. He underwent spinal surgery in 2001.
“I was a very high functioning person with cerebral palsy – I could drive a car, and I could do a lot of different things. And I was teaching and having an active life.”
The accident meant he virtually had to start over, he said. “It took years and years of rehabilitation to get things going again,” he said. “So for me, this project is good in two ways. It’s a good fitness goal and it also helps the kids.”
He hopes to one day walk again, and is working hard to see that become a reality. One of the web sites he is working on is called ‘Peter is Going to Walk a Mile’ – one day, he’s going to use his walker and do a mile at the Abbey Centre.
“I have a fantastic support system with my caregivers and the community support – I can’t do it without them. They encourage me to do these things, which encourages me to keep going.”
These days, he holds firmly to a bright, positive outlook, which is no doubt strengthened by his desire to support others – as with the fundraiser.
“I was a teacher’s assistant in the Langley School District for a lot of years so I worked with lots of kids. So this project is close to my heart.”
Meanwhile, aside from the orphanage work, the Home of Hope ministry also educates people and provides job training. ‘Micro-loans’ have been granted for ventures in gardening, farming and the selling of used clothing, smoked fish and charcoal.
As of 2009, Word of Life Ministries, under the direction of Word of Life’s Brian Thomson, assumed leadership of Home of Hope India as well.
As for Walker, she’s thrilled with Thompson’s desire to contribute to her mission.
“A big thing is the inspiration that I get,” she explained about her continuing desire to serve overseas. “I love to travel and I love different cultures, and getting to know the people and learn about their circumstances in Rwanda and Kenya. We go to very impoverished areas in both countries.
“It’s really heartbreaking.”
Part of the mission of Home of Hope includes rescuing abandoned babies from a dump near Nairobi. According to Home of Hope Kenya, Kenyan slums are among the poorest in the world. Some 1.5 million children are severely underweight and in 2009, an estimated two million people had HIV/AIDS.
Walker said seeing these youngsters thrive thanks to Home of Hope Kenya is a joy. Others can go from living in the dump to receiving a micro-loan and living in a safe environment off the streets.
“You can go from there to the Dream Centre and see where they are at today, and seeing the work that goes into making that happen is very inspiring. I feel very privileged that I can help at all with these projects. If going there and experiencing it and coming back and telling my testimony about what I’ve personally seen and helped with; (hopefully) that can encourage people to do the same.”
From the start, she knew she was in her element. “I loved helping with what was going on there. It’s very life-giving and life-changing. I absolutely believe 110 per cent in the projects they have in those areas, and if I can help others to be inspired and encouraged as well, I’m all for it.
“I’ve seen people from all different professions and life backgrounds on these mission trips and the result is the same for everyone. Everyone is nervous at the beginning, but it’s so impactful; so life-changing. It’s something you would never regret.”
To find out more about the fundraising initiative, check out the donate page on the www.homeofhope.ca web site or find Thompson and Walker on facebook under ‘Rowing for Rwanda Kids’.