He put in his two cents worth and was remembered for it. Pastor Bob Edwards recently returned to Minot's First Presbyterian Church after a 31-day crusade in Africa. He brought back memories of work to be done, friends left behind and a new nickname.
"They called me Shillingi," said Edwards. "In Kenya, a bob is a one schilling coin. Since Bob was my name they'd just say hello Shillingi."
Although it was meant in fun and received as such, Edwards is quick to point out that a one schilling coin is worth only about 1.2 cents. His work, primarily in the western region of Kenya, proved to be much more valuable. Due to an early Scottish influence, an estimated 2.4 million Presbyterians reside in Kenya.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • Pastor Bob Edwards, Minot, holds two small reminders of his recent mission to Africa — a Masai warrior and a giraffe. The Masai, says Edwards, are a “nomadic people. Very, very colorful people. A favorite? Yes, I guess so. Wow. They are neat. They live off the land.”
"The natural connection was there," said Edwards. "Some walked 11 to 12 miles, 20 kilometers, just to hear the teaching."
They came from the surrounding countryside of the famed Serengeti, from "manyatas" or small towns, and from several mountains away. In all, 42 tribal systems exist in Kenya.
"My interpreter spoke in five languages. What a brilliant man he was," said Edwards.
Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.
Edwards was part of a team that conducted a three-week journey in eastern Kenya, inviting all they could reach to attend gospel crusades. Crowds reached 1,500 or more.
"We spent the first 21 days covering the entire rift valley, the entire western edge of Kenya up against the Nile River. The people there are hungry for something that has meaning," explained Edwards. "Yes, it changed me. Yes it did, to the point where it is part of my life now."
The lengthy daily schedule included prayer sessions from 7 to 9 a.m. Following that Edwards would gather with other pastors from the region.
"I'd teach the local pastors," said Edwards. "At Kateli I taught 110 pastors leadership development and basic pastoral skills."
Afternoon revivals were scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday programs sometimes began at 10 a.m. and concluded at 9 p.m. The length of the sessions was expected in Kenya, said Edwards, because a Kenyan doesn't want to walk a great distance for a short service.
Lee Wieland, Minot, was among those accompanying Edwards in Africa. Wieland's concentration was on the showing of a movie.
"We used the Jesus video 'Children's Project,' " said Edwards. "It tells the story of Christ in their native tongue."
A "Praise Team" was another key element of the afternoon revivals. They would capture attention with music and song, sometimes lasting nearly 90 minutes. Edwards would then address the gathering.
"I'd share the gospel in a rather gentle manner, in the sense that I would ask if they wanted purpose and peace. I told them that if they were there because their life didn't have peace, I could tell them about the peacemaker," said Edwards. "If you are hurting or your life is troubled, if you want to know about peace, I'll tell you. I preached the message that God brings peace."
Particularly rewarding, said Edwards, was that 2,000 to 3,000 people said they discovered something very real.
"They came and raised their hands. It was very rewarding," said Edwards. "I know we have missions in our own backyard and I'm going to be imminently involved in our mission here. When you get a sense of some place that maybe you should have a part of your life in, that's Kenya for me."
In addition to seeing thousands of Kenyans gather to listen to the words of the pastoral staff, Edwards was also able to learn much about the region. Goats are the main domestic animal in eastern Kenya. It was not uncommon for a goat or a chicken to ride along inside a Kenyan taxi, or "matatu." Travel was slow and rough. There are only two improved roadways in the entire nation.
"Something else I experienced that was kind of neat. We were at the equator, I mean right at the equator. They poured water into a funnel in the northern hemisphere and it swirled left. Then we moved about three feet away, to the southern hemisphere, and it swirled right. It was a curious thing," remarked Edwards.
North Dakota State University, in conjunction with the University of Kenya, has surveyed 200 acres of land for the purpose of installing irrigation pipelines. When complete, the project would help feed children at two schools.
"We came to help. That's a fabulous thing," said Edwards. "They have a sense that a bigger picture is important. They have a dependence on God."
Edwards was unsuccessful with one message he tried to deliver.
"I tried to teach them what "uff-da" meant. I learned about 150 words but we couldn't come up with anything to parallel uff-da," laughed Edwards. "Now there's some Kenyans walking around saying that. It will be a curious thing for others to hear."
This most recent trip was Edwards' second to Africa. He says he has hope that he will go back some day. Edwards will share a brief video and some comments about his African experience following a spaghetti dinner scheduled for April 22 at 5 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church.