Jim Hart, the subject of the following article, is
my nephew. He has strong feelings about his annual mission to Africa. He
gave me permission to share this article with you. Ed Jones, the editor
of the Free Lance Star, also
gave his permission. Jim has spent some time in Grantsville through the
years. He and wife Karen were here for a visit about two years ago when
we had a blizzard in Grantsville. He is the son of Jeanne Rampp Hart,
who was known throughout Methodism in West Virginia as a youth director
and an accomplished organist.
by Ed Jones, from
Free Lance Star
out to help struggling continent of Africa
It’s easy to get down about Africa. Just read the
Scores more hacked to death in Congo. Thousands
desperate for food in Zimbabwe. Military coups in Mauritania and Guinea.
And yet the struggle continues to free the
continent from the scourge of violence, corruption and, yes, fatigue.
There are enough success stories--in South Africa, Botswana, Ghana and
elsewhere-- to spur the reformers on.
America has been, and must continue to be, part of
Sometimes overlooked amid the heavy criticism of
the Bush administration’s foreign policy is the generous anti-AIDS
program that has had a major impact on Africa. So have the Bush
initiatives that have attempted to link foreign aid to democratic
There has been action on the local level, too.
Fredericksburg had its own sister city in Princess Town, Ghana, a
relationship that has the potential to inspire both cities.
But it’s the private sector, particularly among
communities of faith, where U.S.-Africa ties seem to be strengthening
Churches all over the area have reached out to
those in need in Africa, sometimes one person or one soul at a time.
Spotswood Baptist Church in Spotsylvania County is one of the
congregations that has made Africa a priority. Plans are under way for a
12th trip by church members to the rural coastal plain that stretches
from southwest Guinea into neighboring Sierra Leone.
It’s a place of rutted roads and intermittent
power, but it’s also full of beautiful vistas, with mountains in the
distance, and neighborhood porches where villagers talk on warm nights
about everything from harvests to biblical stories.
Dr. James Hart, who happens to be my veterinarian,
has been the church’s team leader on many of these trips. He was
reluctant to step into the media spotlight, but agreed to share with me
some of his observations from his many weeklong forays into West Africa.
The Spotswood group’s main purpose is to follow the
lead of the resident missionaries. They know how the U.S. visitors can
help local people dig wells and otherwise meet basic needs without
creating a dependency on outside help.
Hart, who “accepted Christ” in 1996, describes
another challenge--to avoid going to Africa with a preconceived notion
of changing the world. As Hart puts it, the church members need “to
respect the culture,” which is overwhelmingly Muslim.
That doesn’t stop the Spotswood travelers from
showing a film about Jesus, thanks to power from a portable generator.
There also are those nighttime chats about the Bible around the village.
The goal is to “plant seeds” of faith with a people
unreached by Christianity, not to create a religious or cultural
dependency. There is, for example, no church in the village.
Hart stresses the importance of personal contact
with people whose friendship he now cherishes. “It’s more about being
there than doing things,” he said.
Another lesson, said Hart, is the appreciation
Westerners gain for the bounties of their lives. A glimpse of the Third
World makes you realize how the needs of so many Americans have been met
“to the point of excess,” Hart said. “We have way too many things. We’ve
lost track of relationships.”
That’s why America’s attention to Africa is a
two-way street. We have a lot to learn from the people who traverse the
dusty roads of Guinea. Don’t let those headlines scare you off.
Pastor Greg Swisher, a member of our community for
the last 52 months, is leaving. Even though he has been a weekend
resident, he will miss us and we will miss him and his family.
They have been active participants in our weekend
activities, such as fun days, rallies, festivals, athletic events and
activities at First Baptist Church.
Greg is the grandson of the late Herb and Edith
Smith. He spent many happy times in Grantsville, and will always
remember the warm friendships he leaves behind.
Why is he leaving? He came here because God said,
“I want you in Grantsville.”
He is leaving because God said, “I have new plans
for you and also for First Baptist Church.”
We thank God for the influence he has had on our
lives and community.