CHERAW - At the age of 16, Zachery T. Michael, made his first trip to Kenya, East Africa with a mission team called LifeWater Medical Ministries. The ministry originated at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. The non-profit, tax-deductible organization facilitates mission trips to Africa and places those interested in going with a mission team, or organizes mission trips for church groups as well.
On May 27, once again Michael, now 18, hopes to take a 24-hour flight to the eastern part of Africa to help the people in Kenya. He will remain in Kenya until June 8.
"I feel the measure of a man is not about how much money you make, but what you do for others," said Michael. "I feel my purpose in going to Africa will impact a lot of unfortunate lives there. All I want to do is help others. That is my mission and desire."
Michael is currently the Patient Care Coordinator at Wannamaker Drugs. He is the son of Rodney and Tonya Michael. He is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Cheraw.
"Zach is not your typical eighteen-year old," said his mother. "He has a heart of gold and we are very proud of him. He is doing all of this himself with the Lord's help. He is raising the funds to go through donations and several friends have also helped."
Michael has many dreams and goals that he wishes to pursue in life.
"I want to make a difference in someone's life, and maybe it will help them to find God too," said Michael. "I used to want to go to med-school and become a doctor, but now I feel God is leading me in a different direction. I'm leaning more toward humanities, but I am sort of undecided still."
Thinking back on his past ventures to Kenya, Michael says his experience of seeing how people live there has changed his life. Though the physical needs are numerous, the spiritual needs are just as important, according to Michael. While diseases such as aids, leprosy, malaria, malnutrition, hepatitis and many others exist in a land where medical technology is not rampant, those who volunteer their time and money will assist a crew of professionals such as doctors, nurses, counselors, translators and others in the medical field to help save lives of many.
According to LifeWater Medical Ministries, non-medical staffs are just as important.
"One of the things that have really stayed with me from the very first time I went until now is that when you do something for someone there, they tell you, 'thank you.' They really mean it from their heart, and they know that you don't expect anything in return," said Michael.
Michael says that staying in a hotel in Kenya is not like staying in a fancy hotel in the United States. Michael says that when you take a shower, you have to turn the hot water heater on to warm up the water.
"There are 1-2 people to a room, and we eat a lot of rice and drink a lot of bottled water," said Michael.
"We take things for granted here I think. Simple things such as clean water, shoes, and even Tylenol," Michael says. These people do not have anything but the clothes on their back, and some do not have that."
According to statistics from a 2006 report by the United Nations, almost 50 percent of people drink unsafe water in sub-Saharan Africa. This causes millions to suffer from water borne illnesses, which can be treated with inexpensive medications. However, extreme poverty prevents most families from being able to receive treatment.
Michael says there is whole different culture there.
"There is no McDonald's so you cannot go to get a cheeseburger when you feel like it," said Michael. "The people in Kenya worry most about their utilities, but just getting through the day is a chore for them,"
Prior to leaving the United States, Michael will undergo a series of inoculations to help protect his body from diseases while in Africa. He will be stationed in the wound care clinic, pharmacy, dental clinic and evangelistic missions.
Michael is working on getting his message across by attending several speaking engagements regarding his mission. He attended a speaking engagement at The Skye on Tuesday in Bennettsville at the Rotary Club.
"I desire all the prayers of everyone, even if they cannot donate," said Michael. "So far I have raised a total of $1,400, and the total for my trip is $2,800. I'm half-way there."
For those who wish to contribute to Michaels's trip to Kenya, East Africa, make checks payable to LifeWater Medical Ministries and mail to Zachery T. Michael, 321 Sliding Hill Road, Cheraw, S.C. 29520.