Book tells the story of couple's life in Africa
Posted: Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
by Marty Minchin
In the mid-1980s, Kim Abernethy stood on the African coast and knew she would write books about her life there.
The books took shape over decades, as Abernethy and her husband, Jeff, now campus ministers at UNC Charlotte with Campus Bible Fellowship, worked as missionaries in Liberia and the Ivory Coast.
Abernethy, who is from Delco, a small town near Wilmington, kept meticulous journals, documenting funny and serious stories about living in Africa, ranging from Jeff's frightening confrontation with local rebels to her second daughter's birth there.
"The journals were much like blogging today," Abernethy said. "I mainly kept them for my parents and Jeff's parents, and they started passing the journals on to people."
She revisited the journals, handwritten and typed on an electronic typewriter, about five years ago and began writing her books. The first book, "In This Place," will be released next Sunday, with a book-signing at Amelie's on North Davidson Street. The second book will be published in the fall.
Kim and Jeff Abernethy met at Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem, where Jeff trained as a bush pilot and Kim studied missions.
"I loved to write, but God really tugged at my heart about missions," Kim Abernethy said. "I was so afraid he would send me to Africa somewhere in the middle of the jungle by myself."
She did go to Africa, but with Jeff and their 2-year-old daughter. They moved to a mission compound in northern Liberia in 1985, before information about Africa was widely available. Africa was mysterious, "still like the Dark Continent," Abernethy said.
Abernethy felt bad about leaving their families in the United States, and for several years their only communication was HAM radio on Sundays and her journals.
"In This Place" covers the Abernethies' first four years in Liberia. They returned to the United States once for a furlough and returned when Kim was pregnant with their third daughter.
Soon it became evident that a war was about to start, and one day Kim, then seven months pregnant, was given 45 minutes to pack up her children and evacuate on a one-engine plane. Jeff was to follow in a car, but that night, a Peace Corps worker reported to Kim that he had seen a car just like theirs full of bullet holes, and everyone inside had been killed.
"I spent the whole night thinking my husband was dead," she said. He drove up to their safe house in Monrovia the next day, and Kim ends the book with the events following the birth of their third daughter that summer.
The sequel is called "In Every Place," an homage to the Abernethies' many moves following their first stint in Liberia. They lived in several parts of the Ivory Coast, furloughed in the United States and moved to Jamaica for a few years.
When their daughters were teenagers, they decided to settle in Charlotte, where they became campus ministers.
Abernethy said they mentor students and lead Wednesday-night Bible studies. They work with international students from many countries, host game nights at their house and take students on retreats.
"It's a very diverse group, and it is amazing," Abernethy said. "I love this ministry."
She began writing in 2004, working in the summers and in her rare free time.
Abernethy said over the years, people read her stories through her journals and prayer letters that she sent from Africa and encouraged her to write more.
"People said, 'You need to write a book about these stories,'" she said. "'They said these aren't mainstream stories.'
"The book is full of culture, but it's full of culture from a white American woman's point of view. I never laugh at them or make fun of them. I always make fun of us. I loved living in Africa."
Foremost, she said, the books are for her daughters and a legacy of God's work in their lives on the mission field.
"It's just for them to remember and see what God has done in their parents' lives," Abernethy said. "God is a huge, amazing God that does some amazing things."
Abernethy is self-publishing her books through BelieversPress, a division of Bethany Pres