By JEFF PICKELL
Cement City resident Kyle Farran has known his life’s calling since high school. His wife, former Morenci resident Heather (Fankhauser), learned hers during college. Both are compelled to spend their life in service as Christian missionaries.
Up until a few years ago, the problem was that they didn’t know where to serve.
Then, in 2003, they heard a radio advertisement in search of people willing to minister to AIDS patients in South Africa. They didn’t cozy to the idea at first.
“We didn’t want to go to South Africa. We prayed that God would send other people at the time,” Heather said laughing.
However, the more they thought about the idea, the more their attitude changed.
“We felt burdened to present the gospel to those who didn’t have much time to hear it,” she said.
So, after a year of thought and prayer, the pair contacted the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), an organization committed to spreading Christianity worldwide. For 25 years, the group has fostered a ministry in Durban, South Africa. With the outbreak and spread of AIDS over the last three decades, the group considers the region a crucial place to preach the Bible.
Durban’s 3.2 million people make it the second most populous city in South Africa. However, 40 to 50 percent of its Zulu residents either have AIDS or are HIV positive, said Heather. According to UNICEF, South Africa has more AIDS patients than any other country in the world.
“Even though we can’t cure the disease, we want to bring the people hope in Christ,” she said.
The couple and their two daughters, Abby and Emily, will depart for South Africa on Feb. 27. When they arrive in the nation, they’ll undertake a year of training before they begin work with the people directly.
It will be a long way to travel, but amassing the funds for the expedition was a journey in itself. To be eligible for the missionary work, the couple first had to gather the money for the overseas trip. Then the Farrans had to find individuals or churches willing to contribute monthly donations for basic family needs, such as food and clothing. Finally, they had to gather enough money to pay for lodging.
Work on securing these donations began about two years ago. Since then, the couple has made presentations to 82 churches in the area, as well as a number of individuals. Many churches agreed to sponsor the Farrans, while other congregations lacked available funds. That didn’t stop the Farrans from speaking at morning or evening services.
“It was about more than just finding the money,” Heather said. “It was about going out and informing people about what’s going on in the world.”
With the departure date a little more than a month away, the Farrans have already completed the majority of their packing—a 20 foot by eight foot by eight foot shipping container full of mattresses, appliances and other vital belongings was shipped last Wednesday. It takes about six to eight weeks for the containers to arrive at their destination, so the cargo will make it to South Africa before the Farrans do.
For now, the Farrans are making do without many of the appliances and amenities they have taken for granted. It’s better to go without them for a few weeks in America than to go without them for three years in Africa, Heather explained.
“Furniture and small appliances are extremely expensive over there,” she said.
If all goes well, the family will also have a house to rent and move into. In the months before new missionaries arrive, other ABWE missionaries try to locate affordable and available houses in safe districts.
After all, safety is not a slight concern for a couple with two young daughters moving to a foreign nation.
“There are three million people and it’s very crowded and congested,” Heather said. “There’s a ton of petty theft. [Missionaries] get robbed on the street every month.”
However, missionary families are thoroughly instructed on safety during the preparatory seminars they attend before leaving. They’ll be further instructed during the year of orientation classes they’ll attend after arriving in South Africa.
When that’s out of the way, the work begins. It will be the job of the Farrans—along with 10 other missionary families—to instruct Christian members of the Zulu tribe to minister the gospel to people dying of AIDS in their communities.
“There are people who are willing to minister to their own people, but don’t know how,” Heather said. Due to an overall lack of AIDS education in the country, many South Africans don’t know how to interact and minister the Bible to AIDS patients without putting themselves at risk of contracting the disease, she said.
She explained that ABWE missionaries usually stay in Africa for three years, then return to the United States for nine months before setting out again.
At this point, the family is apprehensive, but also excited about the new life ahead of it, she said.
“I think most of the struggle at first will be emotional,” she said. “But we’ll adapt.”
• A farewell fellowship for the Farran family is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Morenci First Baptist Church. The fellowship will include refreshments and a question and answer session.
The fellowship is open to the public.-January 24, 2007