Virginia Seventh-day Adventists Reach Across Globe to Help Kenya’s Children
“Incubator Project” Gets Start in Smith Mountain Lake Congregation.
BY REBECCA JACKSON, assistant editor, Smith Mountain Eagle, reporting from Wirtz, Virginia
A baby boy was born much too soon in a vest-pocket Kenyan clinic without electricity, his body so tiny it could be cupped in the two palms of an adult. Photos captured the baby moments after his birth, a wisp of a child swaddled in a colorful blanket, his young Masai mother holding him, peering into his tiny face with a look of wonder.
He died less than two days later, but his death inspired one Smith Mountain Lake church to raise money for an incubator, which could have saved the baby, church members feel. Linda and Kenneth Snedden of Franklin County, Virginia, two members of Smith Mountain Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church serving as part of a ShareHim missions team in the east African nation, launched the “Incubator Project” when they returned from abroad in September after a month in Kenya.
“The little baby was not even two pounds,” recalled Linda Snedden.
Electricity has since been installed in the remote clinic, which before relied solely on a solar-powered generator to refrigerate medications, lights being doused promptly by 10:00 each night. The clinic is located an arduous 80-mile, three-hour journey down a road so pocked by deep potholes that it must be traversed in the manner of a slalom skier, rather than driven.
“The roads were unbelievable,” recalled Snedden. “In addition to all the ruts, there were big rocks”—certainly not the kind of thoroughfare conducive to rapid transportation.
Open sewers transected even the larger communities the Sneddens visited, including the town of Maua and other settlements, where Kenneth Snedden preached 35 sermons in 19 days and his wife conducted church-related children’s programs.
The medical facility they visited was constructed on part of a safari camp on the Masai Mara, a vast plain teeming with wildlife much like the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania. The camp founded by American Andrew Aho is also the site of churches and schools. An assistant to Aho, Frances Jordan, another American, runs the clinic.
“They wanted a place where Masai women could safely deliver their babies,” said Snedden.
“The camp sits on an escarpment overlooking Masai Mara,” home to a rich variety of wildlife, including lions, hippos, giraffes, a multitude of colorful bird species, and much more, added Snedden, who hails from Maryland and shares a comfortable, memorabilia-filled country home near Windy Gap, Virginia, with her husband of 49 years and the couple’s cat.
They’ve lived in the Smith Mountain Lake area since 2004. They’re semiretired, with Kenneth Snedden commuting to Roanoke, Virginia, to work for Source 4, a printing company, and Linda Snedden employed at nearby Boone’s Country Store for a couple of days each week. The Sneddens have a son, Clifford, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons, ages 19 and 22, who live in Rocky Mount, Virginia. “We were escorted to a tent each night,” Snedden noted of the couple’s second African mission, “by an armed guard who told us, ‘If a lion comes, I shoot.’ ”
The camp doubles as a base for safari sojourns into the bush, as well as a place of respite for volunteers from churches representing many denominations, according to Snedden. Aho has worked in Africa since 1991 as head of Africa Missions Service, partnering with organizations such as World Food Program, UNICEF, and various community-based organizations in an effort to help rural communities improve their quality of life. In 2001 Aho established the tented camp in the Trans Mara District of Kenya, assisting Masai villages with basic health care, primary school facilities, improved sanitation, and health education.
In 2006 Aho built eight exclusive tented cottages on the edge of the Oloololo Escarpment. Not only does the Mara West Camp provide a safari experience, it also offers financial support to Africa Mission Services.
Because of lack of access to adequate medical care, many Kenyan children die young, said Snedden. “The biggest mortality rate in the population is children under the age of 5,” she said.
Snedden said she presented the idea for the Incubator Project to the 45 members of Smith Mountain Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church the second week of September. A new incubator costs more than $5,000, and a used one, about $4,000. The church, she noted, has raised about $2,000.
Want to help? Donations for the Incubator Project may be sent to Smith Mountain Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church, P.O. Box 538, Moneta, VA 24121. For more information, contact Linda Snedden at 301-908-0312.
—Reprinted, with permission, from the Smith Mountain Eagle.