Immanuel Baptist Church members went to Kenya first as evangelists and then as home-builders, but since 2012 they’ve established relationships that make their annual trips into working reunions.

Set to return March 8-17 to the area of Kisumu, a city of a million on the banks of Lake Victoria in western Kenya, they will concentrate on training pastors and supporting teachers and schoolchildren.

The Rev. Landon Coleman, pastor of the 4020 E. University Blvd. church, will lead a trip Oct. 11-20 after the Rev. Chris Harrington, pastor of missions, heads those in March and from July 19-28. “This is the first year we have had three,” Coleman said.

“We originally started with a group called Houses with Hope in the wake of election violence. We still build homes and occasionally churches, but now we’re getting more into leadership training and training pastors. Chris has started a non-profit called Nourishing the Nations. We work with pastors out of their churches and have feeding programs for kids.”

Coleman said 10 people, each paying his or her own way, will go on each mission. “We sent 30 on one trip last year and are making the teams smaller so the travel and logistics will be easier,” he said.

“The Kenyans know we’re coming back each year, and that has changed the dynamic of how we work together.”

Working in and around the village of Ahero on the south side of Kisumu, the Odessans have built 20 homes and three churches, Harrington said.

The initiative had its origin in a 2010 trip to a youth camp at Durango, Colo., and continued with the first Kenyan missions in concert with Houses with Hope and a Memphis, Tenn.-based group called Servant Life. “We did a vacation Bible school in Kitale (80 miles north of Kisumu) and started building homes for widows and their children,” said Harrington.

“We frame the homes with trees and mud and put on a metal roof instead of a thatched roof. The people are very grateful because they’re usually without a home, living with someone else or outside in the elements.

“We can build one for $400, which is a tremendous amount of money for a Kenyan living on 75 cents to $1 a day.”

Explaining that citizens, whom the missionaries have come to know, identify those who are most in need, Harrington said they have also undertaken discipleship training in the past year and a half to two years. “We’re training new pastors to teach their churches and teach others in that area,” he said.

“We don’t just build churches and hope somebody who can teach the Gospel shows up because we know that isn’t going to happen.”