Long story short - I'm the Senior Pastor of the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in the Greater Atlanta area. This is a church that is very involved in missions. We send medical professionals and others to Haiti several times each year to work with the people there. Even though 2 years have passed since Hurricane Katrina, some of our members are going to Mississippi monthly to work there.
We are now developing a relationship with Project Kenya and its Mountain Park Academy in Kenya.
Our plan is for the Associate Pastor to take a group of church members to Kenya this summer to do some work at the school (pictured below) and a proposed orphanage there.
We decided early on that the Senior Pastor - that's me - needed to go first.
And this is where astronomy comes in.
How could any astronomer from the northern hemisphere go to the southern hemisphere without a burning desire to see something new and different?
There are whole constellations I've never seen.
I've never seen NGC 3372, or a great number of other deep sky objects that can only be viewed south of the Earth's equator.
And of course, there are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.
If I'm going to Kenya, I have to take a telescope!
Then it occurred to me that instead of taking one of mine, I could take one or more telescopes with me and just leave them with the school. Why not use this as an opportunity to give a gift of the universe to these children?
I've been in contact with several teachers in Kenya, university professors throughout Africa, and amateur and professional astronomers throughout the world. I've gotten some good support from many of them! Including Arthur who will be mailing me a telescope on Monday morning!
My wife can't go. She is a public school teacher and won't be about to take time off from work, but the good news is my son is going. He is home from deployment in Germany and will be able to take the time in January to go with me.
In the year 2009, the world will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope to study the skies with the International Year of Astronomy.
And yes - I'm still taking donations of telescopes, binoculars and books. Email me at Maynard@pittendreigh.net for information.