Manila coach joins missionary group in Africa

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Manila girls basketball Coach Jeff Priest joined a group from Lake City First Baptist Church on a missionary trip to Africa during spring break. Priest was part of the group who conducted a basketball clinic in Kenya.

Manila girls basketball coach Jeff Priest stands at the equator during a mission trip to Kenya where he helped conduct basketball clinics for high schools students.

Coach Priest, longtime friend of former Riverside Coach Greg Rainwater, heard Coach Rainwater speak about his trips and the water well project.

"My wife and I donated to the well project and he invited me to join them on a trip," Priest said. "One thing led to another and I was headed to Africa."

Priest left March 19 and returned March 29. It was his first trip to Africa. They flew in to Nairobi and drove a few hours to Kenya.

"It was humbling to say the least," Priest said. "It makes you realize how much we take for granted and how good we have it here."

Priest joined Rainwater and his wife, Tammy, Mark and Kristin Emery and daughter, Morgan, of Lake City, Rowe's Chapel Baptist Church pastor Joe Ellis, Lake City First Baptist pastor Sean Miliken, and Herb Early of Randolph County.

Kristin and Morgan Emery and Tammy Rainwater after meeting with Muslim women for food relief.

Missionaries Ron and Jan Langston, former pastor of Lake City First Baptist Church, welcomed their friends to Africa.

Priest joined Rainwater, Mark and Morgan in conducting high school basketball camps in Kenya at Mwingi School. Mrs. Emery and Mrs. Rainwater joined Mrs. Langston in conducting Vacation Bible Schools, and Ellis, Miliken and Early joined Rev. Langston conducting a pastor's conference.

Priest said they worked with 115 young people from nine different high schools.

"They spoke pretty good English so language was not a big problem," Priest said. "We had six boys teams and three girls teams. The kids were receptive and eager to listen and learn as was their coaches. The majority of the players had only been playing two or three years. They played on an outside dirt court. Most had shoes but a few played in flip flops, or even barefooted."

The group was able to leave enough money to concrete the court at the school.

"The work began today and when it is completed, they are going to send us pictures of the basketball court," Priest said.

Priest said he was impressed with the discipline in the school.

"All students have to pay to attend school if it is private or public," he said. "The junior high grades determine place for the students at different high schools."

Priest, along with the others working in the basketball clinic, is making plans to return next year. They would like to put together a group of high school basketball players to go with them and work with the players.

"I was most impressed with how much faith the people have when they have so little materially," Priest said. "I was also impressed on how happy everyone was. They were the happiest people I have ever met. The weather was 95 degrees and they don't have air conditioning, cable, and I saw very few cell phones. I was almost embarrassed and ashamed of how we acted in the ice storm when these people live like that all the time and do not complain."

Priest said he was very grateful for the opportunity to go.

"You will come back a changed person," he said.

Local Mission Team members to Kenya were Greg and Tammy Rainwater, Mark, Kristin and Morgan Emery, Pastor Sean Milliken from Lake City First Baptist Church, Joe Ellis pastor Rowe's Chapel in Caraway, Manila Coach Jeff Priest, and Herb Early from Randolph County. Also pictured are former Lake City residents and current IMB Missionaries Ron and Jan Langston. (photos provided)

Priest said he did enjoy a side trip to Sweet Water, a 30,000 acre wild game park, where they slept in furnished tents and enjoyed a safari giving them a close-up view of animals. They saw lots of lions, elephants, giraffe, zebras, and rhinoceroses.

It was also the Emerys first trip to Africa.

"Coach Rainwater has been to Africa four times and he had wanted Morgan to go and work with the basketball clinic," Mrs. Emery said. "It started out with Mark and Morgan going. Coach Rainwater called and said there was a spot needed for the Vacation Bible School classes and so I decided to go with them."

Mrs. Emery said the basketball clinics and the Vacation Bibles Schools were great experiences for their family.

Coach Jeff Priest and Pastor Joe Ellis inflate basketballs for camp.

"It is a life changing experience," Mrs. Emery said.

They conducted Vacation Bible Schools at Mwingi and Nyeri Baptist High Schools and went on to Nyeria working with an agriculture teacher there. They also held a Vacation Bible School for workers' children on a tea plantation.

"The high school students took the children gifts such as a roll of toilet paper," Mrs. Emery said. "The children were so excited about even getting toilet paper. Morgan talked to the children during chapel in Nyeria. We also got to attend a district track meet. We saw kids running barefoot in the grassy track but it was fun to watch. We would like to go back next year. Morgan hopes to get a high school team together to make the trip."

Emery said the group is planning on presenting a slide show and sharing their trip at the Lake City First Baptist Church on April 19.

"It was also good to see Ron and Jan Langston again," Mrs. Emery said. "They were our neighbors when they lived in Lake City. They are both teaching at the Kenya Baptist Theological Seminary. She teaches English and he teaches pastors."

Morgan and Mrs. Emery arrived home on April 2 in time for Morgan to attend her high school prom on Friday night. The rest of the group returned on April 3.

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