5k race Sunday to raise money for African mission trip
By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Lauren Kewitsch of Delano was 13 years old when she heard about Global Expeditions, and the work its young missionaries were accomplishing in Africa.
At that moment, Lauren knew she was called to serve with them but her parents, Mike and Patty Kewitsch, took a bit longer to convince.
“I cried myself to sleep for two years,” Lauren recalled. “All I could see were the faces of those people who needed me. I just felt a tug at my heart.”
Realizing how serious she was, Lauren’s parents eventually agreed to let their 15-year-old daughter go on a two-month mission trip last summer.
For Lauren, the experience ignited an even deeper passion to share the gospel in Africa, and she’s planning to make the journey again this summer.
“I left my heart there,” she said. “Some of these people have never known that someone loves them. Whether kids or adults, no one has taken the time to talk to them, to tell them they are worth so much, and that people over here care about them.”
In order to help raise the $5,490 needed for the mission, Lauren has organized a 5k “Run for Africa”, which will take place Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m., starting at Delano Evangelical Free Church (730 Elm Ave. E.) in Delano.
“I’m hoping this 5k will not only raise money, but also bring the community together for a cause,” she said.
While in Uganda, Lauren and her team plan to fight HIV/AIDS by giving presentations in schools about abstinence. They will also share God’s love and peace to families displaced from their homes due to conflicts in their country.
“Our goal is to bring hope and healing to those who have been orphaned by civil war,” Lauren noted.
During last summer’s mission, Lauren spent time in both Zambia and South Africa.
At first, some people they met had negative connotations of Americans, “because they see us as having everything,” Lauren said. However, once they got to know each other, the barriers were broken down, and relationships were formed.
When she returns to South Africa, Lauren is praying she’ll be able to visit the preschool children she met last summer, especially one small girl named Flora.
“She would say my name over and over again in her little African accent,” Lauren recalled.
Another child Lauren will never forget is a little boy at an orphanage in Zambia.
“His dad actually died when we were there,” she said. “When he came in, he was crying. We started talking to him, and by the end of the night, he was laughing.”
Peace amidst adversity
Although Lauren’s trip was rewarding, it wasn’t easy.
She got sick and had to go to the hospital once, for example. And, in Zambia, people broke into the area where their tents were set up, and took a few items from their camp.
“I was scared, but at the same time, I had a sense of peace, because I knew why I was there,” Lauren said.
In fact, the biggest “culture shock” Lauren faced was returning home.
“When I walked back into my house for the first time, I just started crying,” she said. “It was the first time I’d been in a space that big.”
Being able to brush her teeth, shower when she wanted, and drink water from a faucet were conveniences Lauren had almost forgotten about while in Africa.
“I think the hardest part of being in Africa was not having control over anything. You’re forced to be more vulnerable,” she said. “But, when you’re pushed to be uncomfortable, that’s when some of the greatest things in life happen.”
Tidbits from Africa
Last summer, Lauren Kewitsch took in all the sights, sounds, and tastes of Zambia and South Africa.
She describes eating a large caterpillar (a mopani worm) as tasting like tree bark, and also remembers being cold at night, even with a warm sleeping bag. Because Zambia and South Africa are in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are switched, and wintertime is in June and July.
For luggage, Lauren had a 50-pound limit, which included plenty of peanut butter and jelly, her Bible, clothes, and other necessities.
In the future, Lauren is considering taking post-secondary college courses to earn a degree for teaching English as a second language. She plans to teach in Africa or Central America.
“I know that I love missions, and it’s what I want to do,” she said.
Run the 5k Sunday
A 5k “Run for Africa” race will take place Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m., starting at Delano Evangelical Free Church (730 Elm Ave. E.)
The cost is $25. Those who pre-register will receive a T-shirt designed by Lauren Kewitsch.
All proceeds will go towards Lauren’s two-month journey to South Africa and Uganda to spread the gospel this summer.
To learn more, e-mail Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.