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Ventura County Religion | RELIGION

Back to Africa--and Roots--for Student

May 06, 2000|NANCY KINSEY NEEDHAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Anna Lindseth was born near Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, but her missionary parents moved back to the United States when she was still a baby.

So this summer Lindseth will travel back to see the land of her birth--and help raise money to educate African children.

In the 1970s, her mother Marcia, a teacher, and father Marvin, an engineer, signed up for a 13-month mission with Operation Bootstrap Africa, a Minnesota-based, interdenominational nonprofit organization established in the mid-1960s to help people help themselves.

When they signed up, they thought they were through having children--they had two boys, ages 7 and 10. But after they sold their home and quit their jobs, Marcia became pregnant with Anna.

"It was too late to turn back," Marcia recalled.

The couple and their sons arrived in July 1978. Marcia taught English, and Marvin taught villagers how to make lanterns and shovels. He also helped build schools. Anna was born that December in a hospital in Moshi, where doctors from all over the world were visiting to teach the doctors of Tanzania, Marcia said.

They left when Anna was less than a year old, and much has happened since then. Lindseth, now 21, is a junior at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, where she studies communications and sociology. Now she wants to find her roots--to walk where she used to crawl.

And, walk she will--211 miles, to be exact.

She and her 61-year-old father, who is also returning for the first time, will fly from their home state of Minnesota on Aug. 14 and arrive in Kilimanjaro the next day.

For the first five days, they will ride in a Land Rover-type vehicle, she said, sleeping in lodges during a safari where she hopes to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions and leopards as they travel through the grasslands of the Masai tribe, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Highlands and the Serengeti Plain.

On Aug. 20, they will begin the eight-day Rift Valley walk, averaging 25 to 30 miles a day through African wilderness, past lions and other beasts. At night they will camp.

"I've been told the lions won't bother us if we don't bother them," she said.

Native guides are hired to take the group of seven hikers out, Operation Bootstrap director Deana Miller said.

Although she is on the varsity girls' basketball team, Lindseth wants to make sure she is prepared for the rigorous demands of the hike, she said. Her training includes running two to three miles daily, and she plans to increase her distance over the summer.

While there she will also climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, she said.

Her father remembered when he and his wife decided to serve as missionaries in Tanzania years ago.

"We had a clear feeling we were called to do so by God," he said.

He believes his daughter is also driven by such a conviction. Even as a child, it was not uncommon to find Anna going out to do good, sometimes visiting a nearby nursing home.

"Anna is someone who is committed," Marcia said.

For her part, Lindseth says being born of missionary parents who are devout Lutherans has left an impression on her.

"As my parents did 20 years ago, I feel very motivated to do this for God," Lindseth said. "It is my calling to do this and it helps me to explore my faith."

Before she and the other hikers from around the world go on the walk, they each have promised to raise $15,000 to donate to the Operation Bootstrap Africa organization. Each person's donation will finance construction of three classrooms for children who are now teaching themselves under the sun with few books, she said.

She has already spoken at several churches and said she plans to do more fund-raisers.

"The most important part is that I'll be continuing the work my parents did and will be helping children have access to education," she said.

"I've always dreamed of going back and I never knew if I would."

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