- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Just a couple months after Denise Millben arrived back in the United States from West Africa, Ebola seemed to be everywhere, making headlines in America.

She had been in Liberia, falling in love with the country, when the virus began to spread. But she hadn’t heard the word “Ebola” until she was back home in Muncie.

While heartbreaking stories and gruesome pictures of the virus were being released, Millben was planning a trip back to Liberia as soon as possible.

She has been building a school in Liberia since 2011, and nothing is going to keep her away, not even a deadly virus.

The World Health Organization has declared Liberia Ebola-free, so after more than a year of waiting, Millben is planning a trip in July.

A church group, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, first brought Millben to Liberia to talk with teachers at a school they had built in West Africa.

Millben was a teacher for 26 years and served as the assistant principal of Sutton Elementary for one semester in 2005. She and her husband, Michael Millben, are co-pastors at Christ Temple Global Ministries. As such, they have traveled to churches in many different countries.

For three days she talked to the school teachers about literacy and how to handle a classroom of students who learn at different rates. She tried bringing some new technology, like PowerPoint, but the school didn’t have computers or reliable electricity.

After the workshop a group from the church, including Millben, toured around the country and stopped in an area called Weala.

Weala is right on the Atlantic Ocean, about 45 miles north of country’s capital, Monrovia. Millben said it’s sort of a port area, and many people there are very industrial and hardworking but also very friendly and love hugging. People would sell goods out of wheelbarrows, everything from flip flops to Avon beauty products.

“Their culture is take care of the children,” Millben said. “Make sure the children are safe.”

There used to be a school in the area, but it was reduced to pieces during a civil war about 15 years ago. Children have to walk about five miles to the nearest school, and in Liberia, children are not required to attend.

“If it isn’t convenient, they more than likely don’t have the push to go,” Millben said. “So here’s all these children in this area that couldn’t go to school. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was thinking, ‘How is this possible?’”

Between the three local villages, the chief had collected a list of almost 300 children who do not go to school.

That was when Millben decided she had to help.

The school will be made up of five simple buildings including a water-refinery system and an aquaponics greenhouse. The water-refinery system will not only provide clean water for the school, but can be sold around the area. The greenhouse follows the same concept. Its vegetables and fruits will help feed the students, and any excess can be sold. The income benefits the school.

Millben said this will help the school become self-sustaining. She also hopes to have solar panels along the roof to run the school’s electricity.

Any extra income could make it more affordable for children to go to school. Most schools in the country charge tuition, and Millben’s is no exception. The school will hold 400 children.

Millben said she has already received 15 applications from local people who want to be teachers.

To get things started, in 2011 Millben created B.R.I.D.G.E (Building Relationships in Different Geographical Environments) To Life, a nonprofit organization that assists with education, food source, clean water and shelter initiatives worldwide. It became an official organization with six volunteers in 2013, and the school in Africa is its first project.

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World donated 25 acres.

Millben and her team broke ground in 2014. The land has been surveyed and there are cornerstones marking the property. The next step is to finalize the layout plans with an architect, and then begin excavating the property before starting construction.

Originally she was hoping to have the school done by the end of this year, but now it might be pushed back to 2016.

The virus brought work on the school to a screeching halt. For a while, the country had a traveling ban between counties, so the local man she hired as a project manager couldn’t get to the school either.

So far, the project has been funded through donations. They have spent $10,000 so far, and need to come up with another $700,000 to finish the project. They don’t have any savings and are just spending the money “as it comes.”

“I feel like God is sending people as need we need it, for us,” Millben said. “Because this is going to bring Him glory. My whole focus is that God gets the glory.”

It’s been difficult for Millben to find grants for international projects. She said they either don’t sponsor construction oversees or look for applicants who are indigenous to the country they are helping.

Millben is going to call the school The House of David Academy after her father, David. He loved school and pushed Millben and her brothers to get a good education.

“If he were alive, this would be the thrill of his life,” she said.

When she goes back, Millben and her team are going to stay in a mission house. They are going to stop and buy bleach to clean the house from top to bottom before doing anything else.

As long as they do that, Millben isn’t worried about getting the Ebola virus, which is spread through bodily fluids. Although she might try a little harder to avoid hugs and kisses this time around.

“We’re just going to kind of put that on hold,” she said. “I’m not nervous to go back. God’s hand is on this.”

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Source: The (Muncie) Star Press, http://tspne.ws/1FV1EuD

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Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

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