Forged in grief, new mission drives parents
KATHLEEN MERRYMAN; THE NEWS TRIBUNE
Jim and Lynn Kelly think of their daughter, Taryn, as a young woman of 27.
Though Taryn was 19 when she drowned in 1999, she remains a force in her family’s life. Taryn, athlete, National Honor Society student, committed Christian, set high expectations for herself. Since her death, her parents have re-evaluated their lives based on their faith and Taryn’s standards.
This month, they are selling and giving away most of what they own, packing the rest into their fifth-wheel trailer and setting off on a life as volunteers for Federal Way-based World Vision.
Jim, 54, retired as a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy after 28 years in law enforcement. Lynn, 48, is leaving her job as a nurse at Ashley House, a home for children who need 24-hour medical care. They have sold their home in Sumner.
This, they say, is the path they have found after years of pain and growth.
A year to the day after Taryn died, Jim started at Puget Sound Christian College. Three years later, he graduated with a degree in Christian ministry. In February 2005, he joined members of Calvary Community Church on a 14-day World Vision mission to Lesotho, in Africa.
The people who go on these missions to villages plagued with AIDS don’t dig wells, plow fields, teach school, build houses or deliver medical care. The people of Lesotho can do all that, given the means.
Those who go on the World Vision missions are all about giving them the means.
Their job is to bring the story home, explain the needs, demonstrate the great impact a modest gift makes.
Jim has been doing that since his first trip, and the couple’s decision to sponsor a child orphaned by AIDS.
“I was smitten with Africa and its people,” he said.
“The next year I ended up leading a team to Africa. Lynn was on that team, and we got to meet the child we sponsor, Lapatile.”
Calvary’s congregation now sponsors 634 children. The sum of such individual commitments makes a powerful impact on a country of fewer than 2 million people.
It also gives people in other nations a better understanding of America.
“We were treated like royalty,” Lynn said of their visit. “We were so humbled. When we thought about it, we realized we were representatives.”
They were what the villagers knew about the United States.
Now they are joining an effort to help Americans better understand the people of Lesotho.
The Kellys will join World Vision’s AIDS Experience in Chicago at the start of a 50-city tour.
World Vision has re-created a village hit hard by AIDS. Visitors will listen to one resident’s story as they go through it.
When they walk out of the mock-village, they will meet the Kellys.
Jim and Lynn will tell them about Lapatile and Malefa Marema, the other child they sponsor. They will tell how sad Lapatile looked in her first photo and how Lynn’s Sunday School students vowed to make her smile.
The class collected $100 for clothes, supplies and a baby doll for her. Now Lynn’s album has a picture of Lapatile holding that doll, and smiling.
Money does not buy happiness. But one $35-a-month sponsorship does buy clothes, food, school supplies and medicine. It transforms an orphan from a burden to a person of substance, a person with a future.
The Kellys will tell the people emerging from the AIDS Experience about Agnes Malimabe, a nurse who World Vision brought from Lesotho to Tacoma for training.
When she saw how much we have and thought of how little the people of Lesotho have, she despaired.
“She asked, ‘Why doesn’t God see us?’” Jim said.
The Kellys believe God sees and loves the people of Lesotho. They believe their daughter has led them to be part of the physical expression of that love, God’s hands. They believe Taryn will be with them as they carry out that mission, that she, too, is part of it.
Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677