This year, St. John Lutheran Church in Southwest Roanoke County used its annual Vacation Bible School to make a big “splash” in a community halfway around the world. They collected money for the construction of new water wells in Zambia, a country just a little bigger than Texas in South Central Africa.
Their efforts were the result of the church’s connection to Orphan Medical Network International (OMNI), a faith-based, non-profit organization that provides educational, subsistence and medical support for struggling villages.
Two years ago, president and co-founder of OMNI, Karen ReMine and her husband Dr. Steve ReMine joined St. John. Since then, the church has been heavily involved in the organization’s overseas efforts.
St. John is now instrumental to the child sponsorship program, which helps the 155 children attending OMNI George School. The school accepts students who are too poor to pay the yearly $12 uniform fee required to attend public school in Zambia.
“100 to 110 children are supported by individual families at St. John who donate $30 a month,” said ReMine.
According to the OMNI website, $30 provides a daily meal, education and a school uniform for the children.
OMNI also runs medical clinics in Zambia that provide wound care stations, basic medications and labs for HIV, AIDS, malaria and STD testing.
St. John provides the funds for the clinic’s medications and supplies — enough to help around 4,000 patients per trip. But St. John’s assistance to OMNI doesn’t end there. It seems everyone wants to help.
Church member Bob Hartman handcrafts wooden crosses for the teams distribute to all the children. And, for the last trip in April 2008, women from St. John prepared handmade drawstring bags. In Zambia, each bag was filled with two pounds of beans and distributed to families. Over two tons of beans were distributed in this way.
“The whole church has been supportive,” said ReMine. “They really have done a lot.”
That kind of support is important as construction of the two new wells begins. Currently, one well exists as the only water source for the entire Children’s Village — a 60-acre site that was given to OMNI by the Zambian government.
The new well sites will be essential as the community grows to include an on-site medical clinic, orphanage and additions to the school — 155 children ranging in age from six- to 19-years-old are currently educated in one room.
Such a significant project doesn’t come cheap. According to ReMine, the Salem Rotary Club provided $6,000 to dig one new well. But with added scaffolding, towers and water tanks, $6,000 more is needed to finish it. The cost of the third will be just as much.
St. John raised more than $200 by inviting children to place coins in the church’s “well” each night at Bible School. After Pastor Foster Majila, director of OMNI in Zambia, spoke to around 30 church members at adult Bible School Thursday night, more donations were made.
“If I were to tell you that the majority of children in Zambia have only one meal each day, I don’t know if you would believe me or not,” he began. “I’ve come here to thank you, St. John, for the good work you’re doing for children in Zambia. This area was neglected. No one cared about who stayed in George until OMNI went in.”
Majila has been working with OMNI since 2001. This is the first time he has made the 23-hour flight to the United States. “It’s nice I came. Now I can appreciate what the team goes through every time they come,” he said.
The first place he went when he landed in the U.S.? “McDonalds,” he said. “I got a Happy Meal.”
OMNI will send another team of around 15 people to Zambia in April 2009. For every trip, each person on the team pays for their own flight and supplies, leaving 100-percent of donations made to OMNI for the medical and educational support of the children.
“We hope with your help that presidents and medical doctors will come out of this area,” said Majila. “We want to have a positive impact on the lives of the children.”
To learn more about OMNI and how to donate, visit www.OMNImissions.com.
Top photo: Karen ReMine and Foster Majila at St. John Lutheran Church Vacation Bible School on Thursday, June 26.
Photo by Ryan Jones, SWoCo
Bottom photo: Children drinking from the first well that St. John put in last year at the OMNI Children’s Village in Zambia.
Photo submitted by Karen ReMine