Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
August 6, 2000
When Keith Byrd sold his Honda motorcycle, his friends were somewhat
impressed that he would be willing to part with it. But when his wife, Dianne, offered her
diamond engagement ring for sale, at half the appraised value, their friends knew that the Byrds
meant business about going to Africa as missionaries.
Many well-meaning people fantasize about becoming missionaries. There is a certain romance about going to another country to promote the faith. But not many folks are willing to make the sacrifice that is necessary. Both Keith and Dianne have earned doctorates. Both have enjoyed a career in teaching counseling, working with teachers, and equipping college students with the tools to counsel school students. Now both have given up their jobs in order to prepare themselves to teach at Kenya Highlands Bible College in Kenya.
Getting there is not so easy. Having been accepted by the World Gospel Mission Board in Marion, Indiana, they have been commissioned to serve as missionaries. But first they must raise their support -- a total of $4,800 per month. If that seems like quite a salary for missionaries, it turns out their salary will be only about $1600 a month. The rest is necessary for their benefit package (health insurance, etc.) and for ministry expenses for their work at the college.
Once in Kenya they will be paying income tax both in the United States and in Kenya. If the Mission Board provides them with a vehicle and a house, they will pay taxes on the value of both.
Learning the Swahili language is another challenge for the Byrds, although there is a possibility that they will be allowed to learn the native language as they serve. Even so they will have to devote from three to six months for language study before they can set foot on Kenya soil.
A few years ago Keith and Dianne were invited to co-chair the missions work at Trinity United Methodist Church in Opelika. They accepted the task of helping the church raise support for more than a dozen missionaries across the world, never dreaming that they would join the group of missionaries the church is supporting. The support of missions work by the Trinity church has grown significantly under the steady leadership of the Byrds.
Sunday the Trinity church family will commission the Byrds to serve as missionaries. It will be an experience that is rare for a congregation -- to have some of its own members to be consecrated for missionary service. Joe Turnham and Newman Crook, who now co-chair the missions work for the church, will share in the consecration of the Byrds.
So how much support have the Byrds raised thus far? About $500 a month, they say. Are they discouraged? No. They will begin next week an intense effort to tell their story and to invite friends and churches to support them so that they can make the journey to Kenya.
When do they expect to leave? They have no idea. First, they must secure monthly commitments totaling $4,800 a month for five years. Supporters can give any amount they wish. Actually a pledge of $5 a month for five years is better than a one-time gift of several hundred dollars, although the Byrds will be grateful for any amount at any time.
And what about the engagement ring? It is still for sale. It can be bought for $3600, a little less than half its appraised value. Anyone wishing to discuss buying it can reach Dianne at 749-4924.
Keith and Dianne are enjoying their thirty-second year of marriage. Apparently they have found something together that is worth far more to them than a beautiful diamond ring. If it sells, the money will be added to the money Keith got for the Honda, to help this Lee County couple realize their dream of serving the Lord in Africa. I can't help but wonder how Kenyans say "sacrifice" in Swalili.