Fire sparks Utah couple's quest to rebuild African village

Apr 15 2013 - 6:24am

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A recent fire devastated MoCharles, a small African village. Several churches in the Top of Utah are joining forces to raise money to rebuild the village. (Courtesy photo)
A recent fire devastated MoCharles, a small African village. Several churches in the Top of Utah are joining forces to raise money to rebuild the village. (Courtesy photo)
A recent fire devastated MoCharles, a small African village. Several churches in the Top of Utah are joining forces to raise money to rebuild the village. (Courtesy photo)
A recent fire devastated MoCharles, a small African village. Several churches in the Top of Utah are joining forces to raise money to rebuild the village. (Courtesy photo)

ROY -- Lynn Paquin got the text message from her husband.

MoCharles, a small African village of about 100 people, had burned down, the message said. All 45 homes had been destroyed, along with a fresh rice harvest. Only two buildings, a church and a school, had survived the blaze.

Tears slid down Paquin's face.

Paquin's husband, Paul, is on a mission for Light of the World Ministries near the village, in Sierra Leone, Africa. Lynn Paquin had been on a service trip there before, she said. She had cared for villagers just like the ones who now had nothing, had seen the smiles that beamed from their faces when simple kindnesses were given to them. It hurt to think of the MoCharles villagers surveying the charred remains of their homes.

"The people have nothing," Paquin said. "They've lost everything they had, which was about nothing to begin with."

Paquin began organizing a relief effort for the village, and the response has been swift. Paquin said her church, Lighthouse Ministries Christian Center in South Ogden, along with First Baptist Church of Roy, New Hope Fellowship in Clearfield and Integrity Christian Fellowship Church in Layton, have banded together to raise more than $9,000 so far for the village, which experienced the tragedy in late March.

Jim Panagoplos, pastor of First Baptist Church of Roy, said while he has never been to Africa, his church has ties to Sierra Leone. And seizing the chance to help others, even those who live halfway around the world, is an integral part of being Christian.

"That's the cool part of the Christian community," Panagoplos said. "There's a need, and we'll try to meet that."

Paquin said her husband used money that had been allotted for the accreditation of a Bible institute in Africa to provide clothing, rice and cooking equipment to the villagers. But there is more that needs to be done. The villagers are still without homes and basic necessities.

The hope, Paquin explained, is that the churches can rebuild the village better than it was before. Zinc roofing for new grass houses would help protect against another fire and would stand up better to rainy conditions, which easily wipe out grass roofs. Putting the roofing on each of the 45 rebuilt houses would take nearly $6,000. With leftover money, the churches would like to install a water well that would drastically improve the villagers' quality of life.

When Paquin was on her service trip to Africa, the gratitude the villagers showed toward her was overwhelming. She reflects on that when donations flow in for MoCharles.

"We handed out eyeglasses, and you would have thought you gave them a million dollars," she said of her service trip. "They're just loving, wonderful, happy people."

Once MoCharles has been rebuilt, Paquin is hoping to get photos of the villagers. She wants those who donate to be able to see the happiness on the villagers' faces, which had made such an impact on her.

"I bet (the villagers) will be grinning ear-to-ear," she said. "In their station in life, it's amazing to them that anyone wants to help them."

Those interested in helping with the effort can call Light of the World Ministries at 801-774-0180 to learn how to donate.

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