“When you get the African mud between your toes, it pulls you back,” says Evie Hershey, a Garden Spot Village resident since August 2019.
Evie should know. She took her first trip to Africa when she visited her daughter, Rhonda, who was working as a teacher in the Congo, in 2011.
Rhonda had recently had a baby and needed some help with child care so she could attend a conference. That first trip took her to Zambia as well. She was enthralled by the art, design and music of the African culture.
Evie retired from teaching art at West Fallowfield Christian School in Atglen, Pennsylvania, in June 2015. She immediately headed to Nairobi, Kenya, to begin a one-year assignment with Eastern Mennonite Missions (now Everyone Moving in Mission).
For that year she served as the hostess at Amani Gardens Inn, a guesthouse for mission workers and business travelers. In addition to her responsibilities as the hostess, she connected with opportunities to serve her new community. She began an art class for expat and Kenyan children every Wednesday at a local church.
She also hosted art classes on the porch of the Amani Gardens Inn.
Through her community involvement, Evie connected with Zedekiah Miyare, a Kenyan redware pottery artist. Zed provided a ministry to young women by offering them work in his pottery studio as an alternative to prostitution.
Evie helped with Bible studies for the young women and Zed taught her about African pottery.
She learned how to make her own clay from scratch—by digging dirt from the ground, adding water and letting it dry in the sun to reach the right consistency. Zed taught her how to make African cooking and fishing pots, which start out as coil pottery.
Evie completed her term in June 2016 and returned home, with the pull of Africa still in her heart.
Since then, Evie has found reasons to return to Africa each year—working with a Mennonite Central Committee education representative, leading peer mediation training and taking a textile tour with a friend. In January 2020, she traveled to Kenya with Garden Spot team members Marvin and Marian Harnish, experiencing a week with CURE International’s mobile health clinic.
Evie hopes to visit Africa again in 2021.In the meantime, she creates African cooking pots and other pottery in the Art Room at Garden Spot Village. The creative process inspires her, she says. “It’s gratifying to see something come out of a hunk of mud. Plus, as I work, I’m reminded of the Lord’s promise in Jeremiah 18, ‘I am the potter, you are the clay.’”