The Herald Bulletin

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Community

September 1, 2012

Man on a mission

Life-changing trip to Africa started with one word: 'Yes'

ANDERSON, Ind. — Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro may be on several bucket lists, but not Joe Clark’s.

Clark, managing partner of Financial Enhancement Group and Herald Bulletin columnist who writes as “Big Joe,” said his recent mission trip to Kenya with his family and other area residents changed his life in countless ways.

Seeing, let alone climbing, the world’s largest freestanding mountain was something he never expected to do.

But the trip was added to, and now crossed off, his list.

“This trip was one of those blessings where one step led to the next step changing my life along the way,” Clark said.

Originally he was scheduled to go on the trip more than a year ago with his brother Jon Clark, director of development Christian Service International Ministries based in Muncie. But they rescheduled as Jon Clark’s wife got pregnant.

With extra planning time Jon Clark proposed the brothers climb Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for a mission in Kenya. The proposition set Joe Clark on a 15-month training regiment helping him lose more than 100 pounds.

To be able to make the seven-day trek — 5.5 days up and 1 1/2 down — Clark became “reasonably physically fit” learning to do things like kayaking and hiking. And now that he’s returned home, he got a mountain bike. He will begin training for his first triathlon and will be participating in his first “mudder” — a 5-kilometer race that includes an obstacle course.

“These are things I never would have done if I hadn’t agreed to do this mission trip and climb that mountain,” Clark said. “Momentum is one of the most critical things we can have or do in our lives.

“So many things start with that first step; that first decision to go forward and be willing to accept what it is you need to do. For me, it all started with saying yes, and that one yes has led to a lot of different positive things in my life.”

That lesson is one Clark is trying to pass along to others. He stressed that people don’t need to go out of the country or even their own community to help.

“We need to understand the blessings we have and remember as a country to share them where we can,” he said. “Saying, ‘Yes,’ sometimes can be scary and overwhelming but is so worth it on the other side. Life is a series of experiences. Say, ‘Yes,’ to a mission opportunity and you will open up your life to so much more.”

New perspective on life

Jon Clark explained that CSI Ministries works with businesses, churches, families, friends and many other groups from across the country to set up short-term missions. The experience, he stressed, touches so many more than the person making the mission trip and those who are directly helped by that person.

“People ask, ‘Why not just send the money it would cost me to go instead of going myself,’” Clark said. “If you just send money you won’t grow, see anything or be able make a further impact on the community. In the process of helping others you help yourself, return to your community on fire for your church, missions and helping the community.”

Joe Clark; his wife Barbara; their children Kailey, 20, and Kendra, 15; family friend Jennay Lawrence, 20, and fellow Bridge Church member Michael Etherington were all a part of the trip. Joe and Jon Clark were gone July 20 through Aug. 9, seven days longer than the rest of the group so they could make the climb.

The primary ministry aided by group is the Infant Rescue Center, a center that rescues children too unhealthy to go to a traditional orphanage. Clark and his family saw children including a 2-month-old who arrived the same night they did. The infant was drunk as was the baby’s mother who had thrown the child into the street. During the time the Clarks were at the orphanage they watched the baby go through detox.

In addition to work at the center, the group helped build greenhouses for existing orphanages, planted in those greenhouses and taught locals how to raise food to help sustain themselves.

“We want them to be able to eat today but also progress through a meaningful life and be sustained for years,” Clark said. “One of the nice things to see was these children who have life because of the missions and the money we have already sent. They may not be living the life of an American child but clearly they are living a better life, not on the street where there are trash piles on fire which goats are eating from.”

Barbara Clark said the most powerful part of the trip was working with children at the center and the orphanages.

“Seeing the love come out of their eyes from having someone hold their hand, put an arm around them, that feeling was phenomenal,” she said.

The experience changed her whole family and gave them a newer, better perspective on life.

Joe Clark expressed awe over how meaningful and powerful both the mission trip and Mount Kilimanjaro climb was for him.

“Many times in our lives we will do something for someone else, but the greatest blessing is what comes back to us,” he said. “If I had not agreed to go to Kenya and the climb there are so many things that I learned and did in preparation I never would have done. And it reminded us of the many blessings we overlook. We become painfully aware of all of those things when we are in a world where we no longer have them.”

Clark will be speaking about the lessons he learned and about seeing Christ in action during services Sept. 30 at the Bridge Church which meets in the former movie theater behind Mounds Mall.

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.

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