MORENO VALLEY Salome and Kodjoe Sumney both grew up watching their parents serve God. When the two met and married 25 years ago they set out on a joint vision to travel the world helping people.
The couple now heads Mission Africa, a nonprofit organization based in Moreno Valley. Their goal is the spiritual and physical development of Africa and their means is through providing humanitarian assistance.
Salome stresses, however, that Mission Africa is not a relief organization.
"We're a 21st century mission organization," she said. "We don't just do projects. We teach people how to get out of poverty."
The ministry strives to reach these goals in many tangible ways. In 1995 they began feeding and clothing homeless people throughout California, especially in the Inland Empire. In 2000, they expanded their ministry to Ghana, West Africa. The group distributed healthy food, medicine, books, bicycles, new clothes, computers, and Bibles, to the Osu Children's Home, Pantan Hospital, Frafraha Mental Hospital, and Korlebu Hospital, as well as orphanages, schools, villages, and churches.
To raise awareness of their work and to find people with a desire to partner with them on short-term mission trips, the Sumneys reach out to a wide variety of Christian congregations throughout North America.
The couple leads 14-day mission trips to Africa every two months.
"In four years, God has brought over 150 missionaries from the United States to Africa through Mission Africa," Salome said.
Salome, who like her husband, is a native of Ghana, stresses the multicultural flavor of the group.
"We have Latinos, Africans, African Americans, Americans, and Native-Americans go with us," she said. "They come from churches of every denomination.
"One time we even had a Muslim man go with us. By the time we returned, he had accepted Jesus as his Savior."
Through their ministry, the Sumneys realized that, although very spiritual, many of the pastors in Ghana had not been formally trained. In 2001 Missions Africa bridged this gap by founding The International College of Apologetics and Human Rights, also known as The Practical College, in the Ghana capital of Accra.
This October the short-term missions team will return to Accra to participate in the ordination of 25 pastors who have recently completed five years of training at the Practical College.
Many Inland Empire Christians are already signed up for the October trip including Dr. David Wright, dean of the School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University and Dr. Pamela Christian, assistant provost at Azusa Pacific University. Christian said she learned about the trip at her church, The Centre at Highland.
Bishop Phillip Powell of The Centre in Highland is a student at the Haggard Graduate School of Theology at Azusa Pacific, who will oversee some of the new churches in Ghana. This will be Bishop Powell's fourth trip with Mission Africa.
Wright and Christian said they signed up for the trip to support Bishop Powel and to learn more about a potential future involvement in the international mission field for Azusa Pacific.
Dr. Reginald Woods, pastor of Life Changing Ministries in San Bernardino, will also be on his fourth trip with the team.
The October mission will also include a visit to the recently acquired 385-acres of land surrounding Volta Lake, the largest manmade lake in the world. Mission Africa purchased this property for the future Global Dominion Kingdom University.
"God laid it on our hearts to open a university on the lake," Salome said. "Not just a Bible college, but one that would teach many subjects and train emerging leaders for Africa."
Sumney said he's confident the Lord will "provide the resources for the building."
"What a vision that God has given to Mission Africa," he said.
Sumney's faith is already bearing fruit. In November several Inland Empire churches traveled to Ghana to begin the construction process. Several buildings have already been completed.
Mission Africa's outreach extends to even the youngest in the Kingdom of God. In Gyakiti, Ghana, the team started an elementary school.
"The nearest school was a two-hour walk," Salome said. "We found a big tree and started to teach. We can preach and minister to the children because we pay the school fees."
This year Mission Africa's annual fundraising banquet will benefit the Gyakiti school.
"We noticed that 99 percent of the children came to school without shoes," Salome said. "Then, the bridge between the village and the school collapsed. With the money from the banquet we will buy shoes and rebuild the bridge."
The event will be held at 11:45 a.m. Sept. 29, 2007 at the Bombay Banquet Hall in Ontario.
While planting churches and schools keeps them occupied, the ministry offers additional services. Their Returned Vineyard project gives missionaries the opportunity to plant memorial trees: coconut, cashew, palms and mangos.
"For years, missionaries have touched the ground of many places with the gospel of Jesus Christ," Salome said. "But they've left untraceable marks. Now, by planting a tree, they can be gone for years and their heritage can continue."
To prepare people for mission work, Sumney leads Mission Africa's Global Dominion Kingdom Training on the second Saturday of every month in the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation center. The interdenominational instruction brings together pastors, churches, congregants and business people. Topics include how to start or strengthen missions programs and how to invest in the global kingdom through church planting.
In the meantime, the ministry's horizons continue to expand. The Sumneys were recently given the name of a well-to-do Egyptian businessman. After corresponding over the Internet with the Muslim man they scheduled a stop in Cairo on their next trip.
"God just worked it out," Salome said. "When we met we sat down and went through the Bible with him. He's a friend now."
Their new friend helped them set up a seminar and crusade in Egypt.
"We even had a banquet on the River Nile," Salome said. "That attracted a lot of attention.
For more information about Missions Africa's upcoming banquet, training sessions or October mission trip, visit its Web site at www.missionafricainc.org.