A missionary's story about Africa

By Kristel Wolfe
Garden Valley Collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

Some people may wonder what it means to be a missionary, and go to different places that are completely foreign to you. Also, when you go to these places, will the people even accept your religion or will your religious beliefs put you in danger?

In Garden Valley Collegiate there is a teacher by the name of John Pankratz who has had to ask himself those same questions.

When Pankratz and his family were in Africa, they had the chance to see various animals; for example lions, cheetahs, wildebeests, giraffes, hippos, rhinos and crocodiles. On one occasion he said his neighbour had an elephant in his garden. That would be quite an experience.

But why did Pankratz go to Africa anyway? Well, he was a missionary with MCC (Mennonite Central Committee), and wanted to go to a different culture for three years, to teach at a teacher training college.

Everyone knows that Africa is certainly not a peaceful place to live. When Pankratz went, it was during a war, and they had to have military protection. His family got arrested quite frequently for very minor offenses.

Like anyone going to a different country, Pankratz had concerns about his children's education and how they would do when they got back to Canada.

Africa has a unique culture. When someone dies they take their dishes, put them on the grave, puncture them so that evil spirits won't come back and eat all the people's cutlery, dishes and haunt them they strongly believe in witch doctors.

I asked if the people knew about the Bible and Jesus, and Pankratz said that they did and that they were gung ho on religion. But when it came to sickness, they always went to a witch doctor.

Pankratz's whole family is involved in the mission field. He strongly believes that with this type of thing the whole family should get involved. His advice to people who want to get involved in missions is to just do it and don't ask too many questions.

Despite all of the strange and sometimes scary experiences, Pankratz still wants to go back. He says, "As soon as things work out we plan to go back to Africa."