interior static banner

Mission to the Maasai

Chase and Aubrey ArndtMany people in the King community know of the Maasai people in East Africa from King’s former Chaplain the Rev. Dr. Fred Foy Strang, and his wife, Dr. Cecily Strang, both of whom continue to serve King as adjunct professors. The Strang’s love for Africa and the Maasai people has been embraced by two more King alumni – Chase (’08) and Audrey Moore Arndt (’11).

Both Chase and Audrey had been to Africa previously and also had participated in the Strang’s mission trips to Kenya. Both Chase and Audrey felt a tug at their heart strings for Kenya and its people. They did not know it at the time, but God would lead them back to Africa in Oct. 2014 to start a three-year mission journey with Fred Foy and Cecily, whom themselves set out for Kenya the day after Christmas in 2014. It was at a lunch at Manna Bagel in Bristol, Tenn., that the Arndt’s and Strang’s realized they’d both been looking into the same sending organization without having even talked to each other about the possibility of embarking on this journey together. “Seeing that God had orchestrated things you couldn’t even have begun to plan was simply amazing,” said Audrey.

When the Arndt’s first arrived in East Africa, they spent some time with friends they’d met through previous trips, and then went to Olepishet for a month to begin learning the Maa language. Once the Strang’s arrived, they began searching for a home-base.

Prior to locating a home-base, the four spent much of their time living out of their Land Rover and Land Cruiser Prado off-road vehicles they had procured. “Our off-road vehicles are also, at times, our homes. With a roof-top tent, pull-out awning, cooking gas, water supply, and lighting, we can engage people in whatever setting they live. In the bush, this is five-star accommodation, and actually quite comfortable.”

Their search for a home-base led them to Oloitokitok at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is located in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, East Africa. “Oloitokitok is the last major town before you enter into Tanzania,” said Audrey.

Fred Foy and Cecily Strang with the Kakures FamilyThe lifelong fascination with Africa began for Fred Foy when he was just a young boy looking up from his bed at a projection of the globe. Each night, he looked at the continent of Africa and wondered what it was like. For more than 30 years now, he has been travelling to the Great Rift Valley in Kenya to work with the Maasai people.

When asked what their plans were for the next few years, Chase answered, “We have learned to not make plans. We are here to serve, however God opens the doors. We will be working with the Maasai, but if [God] led us to a different group in another area, that would be fine too. We just want to use the skill set that God has given us in the way He opens up the door for us to use them.” Chase added that they would be assisting with Bible training, youth Bible studies, and helping the community in whatever way is needed such as fixing broken wells, and teaching farming methods. “We are just loving people and sharing God’s love.”

Audrey commented, “During the first year, we hope, with time and discernment, to see how and where we can provide the most support to the Maasai community. To be so opened-ended goes against the culture from which we come, but God knows what is before us, and we embrace it.”

“Initially, we will all be involved in language and culture acquisition,” Fred Foy said. “One of my missiology professors once said ‘Language learning is communication is ministry. If you do nothing else in your term of service than learn to communicate with people in their heart language, then you have done good ministry.’ That is the initial goal – to be as communicative as we can with the people we serve.”

To learn the Maa language is a challenge in that there are no classrooms in which to learn it. There are only a few written materials by missionaries who have previously served the Maasai. Immersion is the preeminent technique to learn the Maa language.

An insurmountable need is how Audrey describes the difference between the U.S. and Kenya. “You have to understand that God is sovereign and realize you can’t go in and fix everything you see. You have to trust that [God] will lead you to things with which you can help.”

Cecily added, “Wanting to and not being able to meet the everyday needs of people is a challenge. There are starving people everywhere you go – just basic life needs every day. It makes us feel better to be able to give out a little bit with whomever the Lord brings to us to share. We can’t solve all the problems, but we are here seeking to serve in the way the Lord wants for us to do. It is important to be gracious and just to love people.”

To those back home, Audrey said she wanted them to know from her experience thus far that for her “it is remembering God will be faithful to what He has called you, and to rest and daily put your trust in Him. We aren’t challenged in that way in the states. I never had to rely on God’s provisions before for where I was going to stay the night. I’ve not been challenged before to the degree I am challenged now. Before, I never felt I had to truly put my whole trust in God, but each time I do now, I find he is incredibly faithful as He promises. There is joy in realizing that it is true. It is wonderful to have the ability to see it so clearly in this context.”

Chase added, “It is being faithful to what we feel God has called us to do, and watching Him be faithful in meeting those needs. We don’t necessarily know how we will be serving; it changes from day-to-day. It is being able to be a faithful servant, to serve in the areas in which we are called, even if it is difficult and requires a large cost from us. God has provided for us through other missionaries, by His people with which we are working, and in so many other ways.”

“I would encourage people to not ignore a tug on their heart to serve through a cross-cultural experience, whether it is close to home or further away than they could imagine,” commented Cecily. “Trust that God will be faithful. Many people are called but do not feel they have the means or skillset to do it. Don’t ignore that tug, but pursue it as far as God will take you.”

The Arndt’s and Strang’s have all brought unique skill sets to the mission field. Fred Foy is a Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister with a Ph.D. in African Christianity. Cecily, an RN who received her master’s in Nursing from King in 2009, received her Ph.D. from UT in Nursing focused on global malaria concerns and health education. Chase has a master’s in missions and intercultural studies, and, Audrey has a master’s in counseling and human development.

Fred Foy added not everyone is called to missionary work, but everyone is given a gift by God to be used for the greater good. “Echoing [King’s] mission, we are all supposed to be transformative agents of culture in Christ. We are all supposed to use the gifts and skills God has given us, not just for ourselves, but to serve the underserved. Do what you can with the resources you have where God has put you. If people can remember that in their daily lives, it would certainly help the kingdom.”

To sum up their experience thus far, Fred Foy said, “We are stepping in faith day-by-day as God opens doors and closes doors and changes plans.”

You can subscribe to the Strang’s newsletter at http://goo.gl/mYbvBF, and the Arndt’s newsletter at http://eepurl.com/9Ovj5 to keep up-to-date on their mission work to the Maasai people.

###