Many of the people of Lake Wateree, or those with a connection to the lake area, seem to have a knack for helping others, either in this country or, in some cases, other countries. Dr. Lynne Noble, about whom I wrote previously, has just returned to Mongolia for another five-months stay, as she did this time last year. Nancy and H.H. Underwood, who have a home and work in Korea from time to time; Rachel and Pastor Tim Tefft, past Pastor of the Longtown Presbyterian Church (who made trips to Argentina to help the people of that country); Ralph and Harriet Brown, about whom I wrote in January and their visits and help for the people of Guatemala; George and Juanita Mendenhall and their many trips to Africa; Bobby Rutland and Fran and Richard Kelly. There are many others, but I just recently learned about Bill and Mary Ellen Stroup of Plantation Point Road at Lake Wateree and their life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Zaire, as it was known prior to 1997.
The Stroups have lived at Lake Wateree since their move here from the Philadelphia area in 2010. Bill was born in northeast Pennsylvania but has lived in Maryland and other states in the northeast area. He attended high school in New Jersey, attended Davis Bible College in New York and did graduate work and received his degree at Calvary Bible College. He became a marketing manager for a printing company in Kansas City and later became associate Pastor in a church in western Pennsylvania and another in Massachusetts. Later, Bill did Masters and Doctoral work at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Mary Ellen was born in Atlantic City, N.J. and attended the same colleges as Bill. They met while juniors in high school. She got her degree in Elementary Education and did her graduate work teaching French at the School of World Learning in Vermont. She taught French in a New Jersey high school.
Bill and Mary Ellen were married in Atlantic City in 1967 by Bill’s father, who is a Pastor. The couple were blessed with four children and five grandchildren. Daughter Janna lives in Columbia with her husband and three children. Billy lives in Pennsylvania and has one child. Laura lives in Lugoff with her daughter.
Their son David, however, passed away at the age of 20 in 1999.
After many years of teaching and pastoring in the United States, Bill and Mary Ellen, because of their strong faith in Jesus Christ, desired to glorify Him and felt challenged to fill a need in Zaire with missionary work. Their training had prepared them for such a challenge. Bill brought to the challenge his experience in printing, publishing and pastoral training, and Mary Ellen, her experience in education. In preparation for the move, the Stroup family moved to Paris to study French at the University of Paris for a year before the move to Zaire. They found the people of Zaire friendly and eager to learn and welcomed them warmly.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is in Central Africa and is the second largest country in Africa and the 11th largest in the world, with a population of 71 million. It is the 19th most populous nation in the world and the fourth in Africa. The deaths of 5.4 million people have been the result of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition and rebel uprisings. The Stroups ministered there from 1979 to 1999. Their last assignment was in Burnia at the Shalom University where both were professors. In November of 1996 while Mary Ellen was visiting stateside, rebels began a takeover of the country. Bill was still teaching and trying to maintain a feeling of normalcy while helping with the evacuation of women and children before he had to evacuate also. Eventually, citizens looted their home, taking all cupboards, sinks, appliances, even the light switches off the walls, leaving nothing. Their dog and some books were saved thanks to national friends. After several return visits to teach during 1997 and 1998, the Stroups decided they could not return permanently. The Democratic Republic of Congo continues to have unstable areas.
Now seemed the time to do something in memory of their deceased son David, who loved life, was athletic and hoped to make his life’s work in the field of sports. He taught the young seminary students how to play American basketball and held team games with David as coach, Bill refereeing and Mary Ellen keeping score. The students currently play on uneven dirt fields. What better way to honor David than to build a basketball court and recreation area for the young people of that school? The court will be built at the Shalom University in Bunia where 800 students, mostly married, attend and where the Stroups taught in the Seminary division of the university, which also works in the disciplines of Management and Administration, Development , Agriculture and Environmental Studies. Once built, a court may also be available to the university’s 1,200 K-12 students The couple now work from their home for their company ProTran1, which develops and sells products for safety in transit, but they plan to spend time overseas in ministry when they retire.
The cost for this memorial to David is quite high, especially the cost of the cement for this near-regulation size court in the DRC. More than 30 percent of the total is the cost of the cement. Then there is the sand and gravel, iron bar, wire, timber and nails plus the labor costs and shipping. The pole can be made in Africa, and thanks to friends traveling to Bunia, two backboards, rims and four steel mesh nets, six basketballs and a ball carrier have been delivered already. The Stroup family has worked hard to keep the cost down with help from friends, family and their church family at the River Church in Camden, where they attend with their daughter. The original cost of $23,000 has been lowered to $20,000 and of that $13,000 is still needed. This past September, the Stroup family held a pancake breakfast at Fatz’ restaurant in Camden and raised an additional $600 toward their project. T-shirts showing a map of Africa with the location of the project highlighted and David’s name on it are for sale. Checks can be mailed to Africa Inland Mission, P.O. Box 3611, Peach Tree City, Ga. 30269. On the memo line, please include: project #000406 Shalom University basketball court. This is a tax deductible gift. Please let Bill know so that your gift can be acknowledged. For further information for ways you can help or ask the Stroups to speak to your organization call Bill at 803-272-4643.
Your help can make this family’s dream come true. What a wonderful way to help one of the poorest places in the world, its deserving students and pay tribute to a young man whose life ended much too soon.