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Family trades Christmas presents for church in Africa
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Beth Propes Suggs asked for something a bit unusual from her family this Christmas: a church in Africa.

Suggs said the gift idea was inspired by her former physician, Brenda Kowalske, who is now a missionary in Bolivia and Uganda.
Kowalske’s organization, Helping Hands Foreign Missions, sent Suggs a brochure with items needed for mission work, including chickens for a family to raise, bicycles and churches.

“They’re just meeting under mango trees in the jungle,” Suggs said of the African congregations.

Suggs said it would be a fitting tribute to her grandfather if her family collected money to build a church in Africa in his memory.

Suggs’ grandfather was a carpenter who built Flat Creek Baptist Church in Oakwood in the 1960s.

“It’s a beautiful sanctuary,” Suggs said. “He always called it his masterpiece.”

So instead of the usual gift exchange this year, Suggs and her extended family, the Scroggs, sent their money to Africa.
She said people may not realize how inexpensive it can be to build the churches, which are simple structures made from adobe. “It’s not anything elaborate.”

When the family gets together today, they will look at photos of the church they sponsored across the world.

“It was very gratifying knowing we could be influencing these people for all eternity,” Suggs said, adding that she won’t miss getting a gift this year.

“That kind of thing is fun at times,” she said. “But it’s wasteful when you can use the same money to impact people on the other side of the world.”

Suggs said she hopes she can one day visit the church that was built in her grandfather’s honor.

“I would love to go over there and meet our pastor and our congregation,” Suggs said.