I am thankful for Catherine Franklin Vandegrift – teacher, missionary, entrepreneur and beloved child of God.
Catherine grew up in the Presbyterian Church, met her husband in youth choir and between the years of 1949 and 1990 represented our denomination and the church all over the continent of Africa.
Catherine spent a large part of that time in the Congo. She worked in the central Kasai regions in which she organized efforts, welcomed guests, did ministry and taught just about anything to just about everyone. One of her most memorable experiences was teaching pedagogy out of a French textbook in the language of Tshiluba to a group of local teachers.
In 1960, Catherine and her family were forced to leave the Congo due to the political climate. She remembers being pulled away from a sink of dirty dishes and thrown onto a flatbed truck as it sped towards the airport to evacuate them back to the U.S. Since that incident, her focus may have shifted… but her passion never waned. She helped partner with Medical Benevolence Foundation in the Congo. She helped install a hydroelectric plant in that region. She helped resource Good Shepherd Hospital in Tshikaji. She even spent a significant amount of time in Kenya.
The way I know Catherine is through First Presbyterian Church of Aiken. She came to this South Carolina town in 1998 when she and her husband were looking for a place close to the rest of their family. She settled down here with us, but she has not slowed down at all. She remains the most active 91-year-old that I know!
She recently began a new ministry through this place called FORMULA 4 LIFE. After traveling back to Africa and speaking with some fellow missionaries over in Mwandi, she saw a need for infant formula. Mothers in Mwandi who were HIV-positive could not breastfeed their HIV-negative babies without putting them at risk for infection, so Catherine (along with many others in her congregation) began to raise awareness and raise funds to help supply those mothers with infant formula to nourish and protect their children.
They primarily do this by making and selling necklaces out of specialty yarns. They sell these necklaces for $5 a piece – and over the past five years they have raised over $200,000! If you want more information on FORMULA 4 LIFE or if you want to see Catherine in action, click here or watch the video below.
I am grateful for Catherine being in my life and for Catherine’s life in this world.
BRIAN CHRISTOPHER COULTER is a husband, father, pastor, author, blogger and pingpong champion who is pretty good at sidewalk chalk and currently resides in Aiken, South Carolina.