A mountain of a mission
After Pete Pfeffer went on a trip with his son, Jimmy, to France, he told his daughter, Maggie, to start thinking about where she wanted to go.
She had two years to think about the trip, which came with a few stipulations: It had to be somewhere within reason, it had to be safe and it also had to be attainable, he said.
Pete, a chiropractor from Alexandria, said Maggie came up with a few places she wanted to visit but then, she started asking questions about out-of-the-country mission trips. She wanted to know what people did on those types of missions, why people took mission trips, if people who did mission work got paid, what types of missions there were and more. She even asked about the Peace Corps, said Pete.
"I then asked Maggie if she wanted to go on a mission trip and she said yes, to Africa," he said.
On Jan. 12, Pete and his daughter will be leaving for Africa for the mission trip of a lifetime. They will return back to Alexandria Feb. 3. The Pfeffers will be taking their trip through Dreamweaver International, a non-profit charity that provides vital and necessary education, health care and more. Projects include the Kimana School of Leadership and Professional Studies, the Kimana Christian Academy, which is a school for pre-k through sixth grade, the Kilimanjaro Mission Hospital and Gear for Goals in Africa.
Maggie, a high school senior, said she first became interested in Africa when she was in about the first grade after becoming interested in climbing Mount Everest. However, the risks of Mount Everest were too much for the first-grader so she turned her thoughts toward Mount Kilimanjaro instead.
"In the winter, I'd play 'Everest' at recess. I would read books about climbing it and drew pictures of mountains whenever I got the chance," said Maggie. "The risks turned me away, but I was still so interested in climbing, so I found a new mountain I wanted to climb. Kili is what we call the crown jewel of Africa and it's what initially drew me to the idea of Africa."
While in Africa, Pete and Maggie will be working with schools and orphanages, delivering medical care and teaching, as well as working with the resourceful Maasai people to help build a small structure that will serve as their hospital, said Pete.
And although mission trips are not something new to Maggie, she's been on two before, this mission trip is different.
"Kenya is an emerging country. Some of the kids we are going to work with only get one meal a day," she said. "They live in mud huts, they are hungry, but they are happy. I think that providing medical care to these people will be an incredible experience. Kenya is so far away from home and so unique. I am anxious to see how it changes me."
Living in small-town Minnesota, Maggie said she doesn't have the opportunity to experience new cultures and she hopes to expand her perspective and gain an understanding of Kenya and other emerging countries like it.
"And I hope to learn to appreciate my own home," said Maggie.
Pete's hope for his daughter is that she realizes she is part of something big and that she is a "citizen of the world" and not just Douglas County. He said he already knows his daughter has a big heart. Without the help of her parents, he said Maggie "adopted" a child from Africa and sends money, on her own, to that child.
For himself, Pete is most looking forward to providing care to the people who need it, as well as teaching them how to care for themselves after he is gone. He is also looking forward to having his daughter witness the work that will be done while they are there. He is looking forward to watching what Maggie discovers and learns about herself, as well.
Maggie said her favorite part of mission work is that it is rewarding on both ends of the spectrum.
"While helping others, you help yourself," Maggie said. "It is in these times when you are your true self. It's raw. It's real. And this is when you grow up."
Maggie said some of her closest friends have come from youth groups with whom she's gone on mission trips.
"You build deeper connections with the people you are with and learn so much about the people you are helping," said Maggie.
During her trip to Africa, Maggie is most looking forward to all the interactions with the Maasai people, getting to know them and building connections with them. And although she already has a close relationship with her father, Maggie said she is also excited to see how this mission nurtures their relationship.
"My dad has always told me to write down goals, talk about them, believe them and they will become your reality," said Maggie. "I followed his lead in preparing for this trip. ... Going on a trip to Africa has become my reality."