Odd couple demonstrates Christianity, visits friend
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

     They are the 2009 version of the Odd Couple. One is African American; the other Caucasian. One is an executive of a multi-bank holding company; the other is beginning his freshman year in college. One is a member of a basketball coaching staff; the other was a player on the team.
     Yet they share much in common. They both are devout Christians; they both are keenly interested in helping their fellow man; and they have a mutual friend who lives thousands of miles from Russellville.
     With their shared traits driving them, Rusty Clark and Komero Neblett flew to Ethiopia and Uganda this spring for 14 days of mission work and advanced visitation.
     While in Ethiopia, they visited their mutual friend Gebie Michael Gebremeskel Zeratiqnt. Michael spent the 2007-08 school year as a student at Russellville High School. He lived with the Clark family. Neblett was among his friends.
     Michael and his family live in what would be considered substandard housing in America. Cooking is done on an open fire. The walls not only protect them from the weather but also from hyena attacks at night.  "Homes in these villages are much like they were in Bible times," Clark says.
     Camels cross the road. Cattle run loose. Women can be seen carrying firewood on their backs. Broom and soap makers sell their handiworks for their financial support. Others sell vegetables; they are grown in greenhouses where workers are paid from 80 cents to $2 per day. Some people shine shoes on the streets. 
     Michael attends a boarding school some 60 miles from his village. The Russellville duo went to see him there. "It took us three hours to get to the school, and it was like riding a washing machine," Clark said in a presentation he and Neblett made on a Wednesday evening at Crittenden Drive Church of Christ where Clark is a member.
     Michael is very intelligent. He repeated his junior year at RHS for no credit, just the experience. He was near the top of his class at RHS. Still he wants to continue living in Ethiopia despite having seen how Americans like the Clarks and Nebletts live. He wants to help improve the lives of his family and the people of his country.
     So do officials of First Southern National Bank, which Rusty Clark serves as regional president. The Riverfoundation has been set up to provide financial assistance for Christian causes. Clark explains that 10 percent of the bank's pre-tax earnings go to the foundation.
     Among the foundation's causes are Leadership Ethiopia and the Orphan Christian Education program in Uganda. Many children are orphans because they've lost both of their parents to AIDS or the remaining parent has AIDS, Clark said. "We wanted to visit some of these places to make sure that our money is being used for the purposes it is supposed to."    
    Ethiopia is about twice the size of Texas. Sudan and Samolia are involved in constant battles over Ethiopia's boundaries. The flight from the capital city of Addis Ababa to North Ethiopia took about a hour. In Uganda a boat ride of about 15 miles was necessary to reach an island where one of the Foundation's projects is located. About half of the 2,000 residents have AIDS, Clark said.
     Rusty and his wife Raye Ann had visited Ethiopia before, helping find youngsters who would benefit from spending time in America. Many of the people are Muslims. There is a large Orthodox Christian Church which is located on 10-12 acres. "People are lined up to get in. They don't have distractions to worship," Clark said.
     Clark said that it is no surprise that Komero Neblett was the Russellvillian who wanted to make the trip with him. He was president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at RHS. "Komero is always letting his light shine. He's not afraid to say he's a Christian. You don't see that much in teenagers."
    Rusty and Raye Ann are the parents of two Christian teenagers of their own. Trevor, who spent countless hours with Michael, is a senior at RHS. Molly is a sophomore at Logan County High School.
    Michael spent a year with wonderful examples of Christian living while he was in Kentucky. Komero Neblett and Rusty Clark expanded their Christian horizons by visiting him and his family as the Odd Couple made an extended road trip.

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