Vernon Burger II remembers his teen-age years growing up in St. Louis as an agnostic in a dysfunctional, abusive family, where he had a “rough upbringing” and did “everything under the sun,” he confesses, except following Jesus, whom he did not know then.

However, Vernon's wayward, sinful life was soon to change after his sister came home from college with a Bible she received on campus and began sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with her brother, who listened intently.

“And that was the first time anyone had shared Jesus with me,” the Blue Springs resident says. Two weeks later he became a Christian and quickly found a mentor – a long-haired carpenter, who “brought me under his wings and did this holistic discipleship with me. So, right away, he had me read three books in a week.” The first was "Through Gates of Splendor," by Elizabeth Elliott, about the 1956 martyrdom of Elliott's missionary husband, Jim Elliott, in Ecuador.

After reading the book in three days, Vernon felt the Lord saying to him: “You are going to do something in Africa” but didn't say when or where.

“As I kept reading about the persecuted church in Sudan, our Lord again said, 'You are going to do something in Africa.' So I start praying over that country," he says. He got in touch with a California organizatio, said he had been praying for Sudan and wanted to be involved.

His prayers were answered. One year after becoming a Christian, Vernon went to Sudan with a team to do pastoral training. And it was profound, he says, explaining his ministry carries out theological training in every country it is in.

“When we came there, we went with Bibles for all the pastors. Most had never had an entire Bible. One had only the book of John and he had been preaching out of it 16 years,” he recalls. “We give them these Bibles and they begin dancing (for joy).”

With a God-given desire to care and minister to orphans and widows in Africa, Vernon and his wife, Amber, followed their hearts and founded His Voice Global, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Blue Springs helping vulnerable women and children create better futures for themselves and their communities.

“Our personal focus is on vulnerable women and children. Our goal is to go into a community, find leaders, then partner in with those leaders so that we can go and raise up formable women and children to be about restoring relationships,” he explains. “We believe there are four relationships in the gospel that are being restored: Our relationship with God, ourselves, others and relationship with all of God's creation. (As a result) relationships and communities are restored and you live out restored relationships in communities.”

His Voice Global offers a Circle of Care and education in South Sudan.

Says Vernon, “We have two orphanages (with more than 150 children) that provide education, health care and holistic discipleship for primary and secondary school-age children. For advanced education, we have the education fund providing an opportunity for trade school or university after graduating for orphans that qualify.”

In Kenya, His Voice Global is partnering with a church called the Rift Valley Fellowship and has started two homes for children – one of which helps under-age girls out of sex trafficking and works toward holistic restoration. A home is also under construction to help rescue boys out of sex trafficking. In addition, His Voice Global is also involved with peacemaking in South Sudan.

“We helped foster peacemaking in each of the states,” says Vernon, the father of two young sons.

Vernon asks, how can I train Kenyans to reach all nations.

"That's the commission," he says. "Our partners – South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya – are trying to come alongside with our partners in those three countries. Our goal is how do we come along side you, and that is where the Lord is going to take us.”

With her husband's recent return from South Sudan on a peacemaking mission, Amber will be making the first of three trips to Kenya later in April to lead a women's conference and do some teaching. Vernon plans to return in the fall.

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-- Retired community news reporter Frank Haight writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.