Gainesville Daily Register

January 2, 2013

Cooke County couple set to return to Africa

By DELANIA TRIGG, Register Staff Writer

Cooke County — Cooke County missionaries Steve and Betty Bishop returned in October from a missionary/humanitarian effort in Africa and the couple are already planning their return in April.

The dedicated Marysville couple — who have made it their mission to improve the lives of some of the country’s orphaned and abused children — were profiled in a June 2012 Register story.

The Bishops are directors at an Agape Childrens Ministry vocational school in Kisumi. Many of their students are young men ages 15 to 18.

Most were orphaned after their parents died of HIV-related illnesses. Many have been abused and are homeless.

The students hone their reading and writing skills and also learn trades such as construction and motorcycle engine repair.

The couple say their work is rewarding but admit the political climate sometimes makes their time in Africa harrowing.

“The last two days in Kisumi things became somewhat tense as the political pressure is mounting prior to the election,” Steve Bishop wrote in November. The information was part of an online newsletter  Bishop writes for friends and mission supporters.

“We were downtown for last minute project purchases when we received a call that we should go straight home and not come to the Agape campus,” he continued.  “Riots had broken out and a politician and several others were shot and killed. The rest of the afternoon was filled with gunshots as the police and gangs fought through the streets close to our school campus.  The school director decided to close the school the next day to keep our teachers from being in harm’s way.  We were scheduled to fly out the second afternoon but the violence started before noon and was worse than the first day so we left early, skirted town and waited at the airport for a couple of hours.  Praise the Lord, we made it safely to Nairobi, London, then DFW.”

Scrolling through photos taken at the school, the couple see things they’d like to take care of on their next trip — paint for some of the buildings, plastic sheeting to line tilapia ponds.

On previous mission trips, the couple were limited to just three suitcases each. In addition to their personal items, the Bishops brought educational materials and small treats for the boys.

Their April trip will be a little different, Steve Bishop said.

A friend offered the couple use of a shipping container for larger items including a lawn mower, chain saw, screws, nails, bolts, heavy duty tape and plastic liner for fish ponds.

Bishop said he obtained the plastic liner during a visit to a home improvement retailer in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

“The manager saw me buying all these things for our Africa projects and asked me what in the world I was going to do with all that stuff,” Bishop said.

The manager said he once planned to be a missionary and offered the Bishops “a significant discount” on their purchases.

The couple share their story wherever they can and say they’d love to talk to church and community groups about the school and its influence on local children.

There’s a lot of good news to share, Bishop said.

The Agape students and staff members finished several projects during the couple’s summer stay in Africa.

“Our teachers and students worked extra hard and extra hours to help finish the dining hall and fish pond projects,” Bishop said. “ The staff worked as a team to make sure everything was completed before closing out the school year. Our dining hall and fish pond were finished and in use during our last month in Matoso.”

The Bishops also introduce the students to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“We were blessed to see many of our boys decide to follow Jesus in water baptism,” he said.

Steve and Betty Bishop may be contacted at srbisho@yahoo.com.