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After Allan and Myrna became involved with the AIDS epidemic in Kenya the lead pastor at Charleswood Community Church (Allan & Myrna’s church) felt the AIDS epidemic had huge spiritual ramifications and the Western churches needed to do something about it. A meeting was called to which all Manitoba churches were invited to attend. This became an opportunity for Christians to respond to AIDS in Africa.

Focus Africa came to being shortly after the conference. On Allan and Myrna’s next visit to Africa they were tasked with finding tentative resource centres we could partner with. Allan suggested that the best way to go about helping would be to find a resource centre that was already doing the work well and partner with them rather than build resource centres ourselves.

After comparing several groups Allan and Myrna returned with three stories of groups that were doing amazing work with very few resources. With a lot of prayer and discussion we settled on Beacon of Hope (BOH). One of our most compelling reasons for partnering with BOH was that their vision matched ours. They wanted to build a training centre that would not only help their community but help Kenyans as a whole and then the rest of Africa. We also wanted our involvement to go beyond Kenya. This was a match made in heaven.

A friend of Focus Africa felt that she had to do something for the women of BOH. She organized the making, printing and editing of a Focus Africa cookbook. Many people contributed recipes and a local renowned artist Ray Dirk, donated a painting from his time in Africa for the cookbook cover. A family at the church anonymously offered to pay for the books if they did not sell which enabled Focus Africa to print 5000 copies. We were sold out in three months. Allan and Myrna presented the cheque to BOH on their next trip.

Later on in Winnipeg Myrna received a telephone call from the Mennonite Central Committee head office ordering 1500 copies of the cookbook. When they were informed that the books sold out they asked whether if they paid upfront we would print them. So we printed another 5000 copies and those too sold out.

To celebrate the sale of the books we held an awareness and fundraising dessert event at the church. Focus Africa presented skits, poems, dance and music. We enjoyed delicious desserts prepared by volunteers from the church. We also shared our story and our progress. Over $9,000 was raised that night.

These are the events that kickstarted our partnership with BOH. That dessert night has morphed into our annual Flavour of Africa event in October.

Our story is long and amazing. Our journey has been mind-blowing. The Lord pressed upon the hearts of many to step up in response to the AIDS epidemic. There is a need and as long as we continue to do our part to bring awareness and raise funds to aid those in need, He continues to open doors for us. We do this because God has called us to help, and He has shown us that we can do it, and because we have your support.