11-year-old Niles boy experiences life in Africa

Published 6:54 am Saturday, February 28, 2004

NILES -- Ross Sergio, an 11-year-old boy from Niles, is more thankful these days, especially about a warm shower and his comfortable bed.
Ross, along with three men from First Missionary Church in Niles where he attends with his family, spent 16 days in Africa.
Ross said he was shocked by much of what he saw.
Tony Sergio, Ross's father, took him on the trip, although many of his friends thought it was not the best thing to do. The older Sergio doesn't regret that decision at all.
Ross admits the 22-hour flight was "kind of boring" but he was able to watch movies and sleep.
His family helped him prepare for the trip by reading books on Africa, doing research on the Internet, and studying maps of the area.
Ross grew animated as he spoke of the sights he saw during his stay. He toured Sierre Leone and saw the ravages of the civil unrest there. He also thought it felt strange to be in the minority.
Ross's father agreed.
Ross was also surprised to see children as young as five years old going into the bush with machete's and coming out hours later with a huge stack of wood carried on their heads. He commented on how very hard life was for the children, and he noticed how hard everyone who lived there had to work to survive.
But there were fun times, too, and Ross's favorite time was being able to play soccer with the locals. Or play with old tires and string. Or sling shots.
Ross is the oldest of five children in the Sergio family, so the absence of real toys seemed odd to him.
Another surprise to Ross was the spiders that slept around him all night long.
Tony agreed, also mentioning the snakes they had to contend with, and the three-inch cockroaches.
The father and son duo feel fortunate to have had the time to be together, and learn lessons of life outside of what they know living here in Niles.
Tony Sergio knew it would not be a vacation, but was looking for it to be a life-changing experience. He and his wife, Jenny, felt their son would benefit from the experience, and are thankful for the opportunity.
The other men that accompanied the Sergios were Pastor Dan Miller, from the church, and layman Jim Zaleski.
Both men had been to foreign countries on different occasions, but agreed that this trip was enlightening.
If all goes as planned, he may have that opportunity as soon as next summer. Veteran Missionary Earl Riffle with World Partners accompanied the team on this trip, hoping they would catch the vision he has carried for the Africa people for more than 30 years.
Riffle and his family once lived in the villages that recently welcomed this American team, and has stayed on for an additional couple of weeks to continue to encourage people there.
Encouragement and assistance is foremost in the minds of all the men, now that they have returned to the comforts of their homes and families in Niles.
Planning to put together work teams that could return to the area, Miller can envision helping to rebuild a dilapidated building, converting it into a school and church. He knows villages outside of Guinea could benefit from wells, school supplies, and medical supplies, but he knows it will take much planning, along with willing volunteers to complete the work.
That's where the Sergio's get excited.
There are three men and a little boy that probably never will.