Burke Presbyterian Church is a 600-member church located in Burke, Virginia, within commuting distance of Washington, DC. In 1988, Burke began a partnership with the churches near the rural village of Kibwezi, Kenya, to minister to those in greatest need. This relationship, now spanning over two decades, has become integral to Burke’s identity.
Everyone at Burke Presbyterian Church knows the word Kibwezi!
Over the years, Burke’s engagement, coupled with resources mobilized by Kibwezi area churches, has supported a range of locally led initiatives helping hundreds of children and families. These initiatives have included the building and staffing of a primary school, a vocational school, and a health clinic. In 2004, in response to the rising impact of HIV/AIDS, Burke and Kibwezi formed orphan care committees that work together to address the increased vulnerability of children in the community. The goal of the partnership is to keep children in families whenever possible.
Burke Presbyterian Church honors its long-standing commitment and keeps its congregation engaged though a wide range of activities throughout the year:
Creating an inspirational book. Given as a gift to church and community members, What Hope Means was created as a way to celebrate and call attention to the many blessings that have come out of years of partnership with Kibwezi. The book is designed as a devotional with short reflections from individuals who have participated in mission trips.
Holding an annual silent auction. Church members donate personal auction items like dog-walking services, home-baked cakes, stays in vacation homes, and handmade sweaters. The items are listed in the church hall and bids are collected over three weeks.
Hosting a craft sale. Every Christmas season, the church holds a crafts sale with items donated by Burke area artists and purchased from Kenyan craftspeople.
Alternative gift giving. A Christmas newsletter describes “gifts” that can be purchased for the Kibwezi partnership. Members purchase these “gifts” on behalf of one another (for example, the gift of a scholarship for a youth in Kibwezi).
Mother’s Day offering. Church members make a special presentation in church and ask for freewill donations, with a special message to remember the Kenyan children who no longer have mothers or whose mothers must struggle to provide for their care.
Collecting change. Throughout the year, members of three participating churches are encouraged to take an “uji cereal” cup home in which they collect change for a coin jar at church.
Sunday school offerings. All of the funds collected during Sunday school are sent to buy food for the preschool children in Kibwezi.
Hosting a summer produce sale. Each summer church members with gardens collect extra produce to display and be sold for a goodwill offering in the church foyer.
(Journeys of Faith, page 11)