Volunteering at Home and Abroad

May 3, 2013 • Nigeria

A retired oil refinery worker from Kentucky works with Samaritan's Purse to help save a mission hospital in Nigeria

Bob Stepp looked like a pro behind the controls of a John Deere backhoe that Samaritan’s Purse volunteers in Egbe, Nigeria, had nicknamed Old Yeller. He scooped up bucketfuls of rich, red African soil and dropped the loads into place to backfill the concrete spillway of a dam that is being repaired as part of the Egbe Hospital Revitalization Project.

Bob traveled all the way from Argillite, Kentucky, to join a group of six other volunteers to help rescue the 60-year-old mission hospital that was on the verge of being abandoned after six decades of hard use in a harsh environment. It was his second trip to the remote town of Egbe in less than a year.

“I spent two weeks here last year,” Bob said, sitting on his bunk in the volunteer guesthouse. “I enjoyed everybody, enjoyed the work, and saw firsthand what was going on, but the job wasn’t done and I knew when I left that I’d be coming back. This time I’m here for four weeks.”

A LABOR OF LOVE: Volunteers working in Egbe, Nigeria, are doing more than rebuilding a hospital

While Bob manned the backhoe at the dam, other volunteers were doing finishing work on missionary housing units, upgrading electrical systems, hanging light fixtures and cabinets, painting, setting floor tile, and doing all types of construction, repair, and refurbishing work on the hospital compound.

Bob’s history of volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse started with packing gift boxes with his church for Operation Christmas Child. He then joined the disaster relief team that responded to a tornado that hit near his home in Kentucky.

“Tornadoes came through northeastern Kentucky early last spring and wiped out the little town of West Liberty,” Bob said. “I volunteered to help out as a day volunteer, and I was impressed with how Samaritan’s Purse did things. I didn’t know that they did things like this in Africa until I saw it online. The project at Egbe just struck a note with me.”

The importance of helping others through disaster relief in Kentucky or reviving a mission hospital in Nigeria became clear to Bob after emergency bypass surgery averted a potentially deadly heart attack in 2008.

“I guess it kind of woke me up,” Bob said. “You can spend your life whatever way you want, but some things are better spent than others. Something like this hospital will still be impacting people when I’m looking up at the grass. To me it’s a privilege to be able to be part of something that will go on touching lives and impacting people for Christ.”

Last year, more than 200 volunteers went to Nigeria to participate in the hospital revitalization project. Many volunteers, like Bob, are making return trips to help make sure that the job is completed.

“I’ll just keep on keeping on as long as I can,” Bob said. “It’s just a privilege to be a part of it.”

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