In 2004, we first met the children of the Graceway Victory Academy Preschool. These children would be shut out from further education, and hope for a future, because they couldn't pay preschool fees, and preschool is a prerequisite for admittance into Kenyan schools. Graceway Harvest Chapel, a poor mud church on the edge of the slum, was struggling to support this preschool, so the poorest children could attend. There were no trained teachers, no books, no uniforms (a must in Kenya); they needed help. When we met these children, we knew why we were in Kenya. - LH
After many years on the Berkshire Missions Board of Directors, Bob's role is now Senior Advisor, contributing from his years of wisdom and experience, and a heart that beats with compassion. In America, he has operated a retail store for 40 years, and LuAnn serves as Executive Director of Africa Connect. While in America, he gives voice to the cry of the poor and forgotten; while in Kenya, he is their friend and father, particularly the fatherless young men of the slums. Bob and LuAnn travel to Kitale for 2 to 3 months every year, working to build the relationships that are foundational to this mission.
In August 2004, a Kenyan pastor named Peter Siakama was brought to the doorstep of Bob and LuAnn Herring's home in Western Massachussets
Bob and LuAnn were touched by Peter's message, and invited him back again to speak to the group that met in their home. As he was leaving, he invited them to visit Kenya. They had been praying, seeking a deeper understanding of what it meant to follow Jesus, but never dreamt that Africa was their answer. Their youngest daughter Jenelle, however, was determined to go to Africa. Peter had opened the door, and ten weeks later, the dazed trio were in a taxi headed to Kitale, Kenya, about to meet the beautiful desperate little children that would change their lives.
Their experience in those three weeks marked a crisis of change, an awakening to the reality of the suffering that goes on in the majority world. They were compelled to return, and on the next trip another daughter, EvaJoy, would join them. More people followed, fell in love with the children and the vision, and a team was built.
While in Kenya, Bob endlessly interviewed Kenyans, asking them, "How do we best help you?" Their input, and the sage advice of many, helped form the vision: to partner with Kenyans in mutuality and respect, supporting local men and women who proved themselves worthy of trust and willing to grow, passionate to affect their own community. That community was Tuwan, and those men and women were the leaders of Graceway Harvest Chapel.
The learning curve of cross cultural mission was steep, with many obstacles and lessons to learn; but 15 years later relationships formed then have remained strong. Berkshire Missions, Inc. was incorporated in 2006, and in 2007, its outreach arm, Africa Connect, was born.
Jenelle (Herring) Armstrong enjoying the children at a feast held in their honor in 2006.
A simple mud church bordering the Tuwan Slum, Graceway Harvest Chapel was the original home base for Graceway Academy preschool, a free preschool that serves desperate children in the area. These two ministries have been recognized by local government officials to have had a profound impact on the poor community.
Graceway has since been transformed into Graceway Community Center, an incredible feat of tenacity and sacrifice for its members. In 2019 the preschool was moved to another site because of threatened demolition due to government expansion of the road interfacing the school. We will always be grateful for these simple beginnings, and the deep relationships formed while working side by side with Graceway members.