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Red Zebra

The Ker family performs Tuesday evening at Sweet Red in downtown Albany to raise funds for their nonprofit Red Zebra Project. From left are Hilary, Eleanor, David, Henry and Ben. (Provided photo)

What’s black and white and red all over? A book, a newspaper and a zebra with a sunburn.

This is the joke that inspired the name for The Red Zebra Project.

“We like to think of Red Zebra as an organization that helps black and white to be read all over,” said David Ker, founder of the organization.

Even though the name is something to be laughed about, the organization is no joke.

Its main goal is to distribute scripture and children’s books in African languages.

Ker and his wife had been working with Wycliffe Bible Translators for 17 years where they translated the Bible for the people of Mozambique.

“I thought it was a pretty clear process,” Ker said. “I work with Mozambicans to translate the Bible, and then when we’re finished anyone who wants one can have a Bible of their own.”

Now, he knows that’s not usually how the process works. The Bibles get translated, but then the Bible agencies can take years to get them printed, and usually in small numbers. Once they are printed, the Bibles aren’t always distributed in the area where the language is spoken.

“Or people get a copy of the Bible, but do not know how to read it,” Ker said.

Though he still respects what Wycliffe Bible Translators does and considers it to be a great organization, he felt his talents could be used elsewhere.

“As Hilary and I considered how we might best serve in Africa in the coming years, we’ve become convinced that we have a contribution to make in the area of literacy,” Ker said.

That contribution comes from making books in native African languages that can be passed out to those interested.

“We work with publishers, donors and local organizations to place quality reading materials in the hands of eager African readers,” Ker said.

The books come in three categories: The African Parables of Jesus series, the early readers series and scripture series.

According to descriptions written by Ker, “The African Parables of Jesus series provides contextualized versions of Jesus’ parables set in modern Africa. These stories are designed to engage readers in applying Jesus’ timeless wisdom to the issues Africans face today.”

One of the stories, “Mansiwa Na Mtongi,” focuses on the story of The Widow and The Judge in Luke 18.

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“This is applicable to the very real crisis of widows and their vulnerable status in rural African society,” Ker said. “And it is an encouragement to seek help from a caring God who answers prayer.”

The early readers series is designed to inspire kids to read.

“Most children in Mozambique have never seen, let alone owned, a book in their own language,” Ker said. “Children that learn to read in their own language are far more likely to stay in school and one day be able to read the Bible.”

The book “Bzirombo bza Tete” is an animal recognition book. It has a picture of a lion with the word “Mphondolo” underneath to help kids learn to read in their own language.

Originally from Linn County, the Kers spend most of their time in South Africa. They came up with this idea in December while living in Albany. They plan to stay in Albany at least through the school year since all four of their kids are in the public school system this year.

While here, they are working to raise money for the nonprofit The Red Zebra Project. Their goal is to raise at least $20,000, which will publish 20,000 books.

Right now, the Kers are considering heading back to Africa in July, but no plans have been set.

Anyone can donate to The Red Zebra Project by going to www.redzebraproject.com or sending a check to The Red Zebra Project, 17595 Harvard Ave., Suite C235, Irvine, CA 92614. Donations can also be dropped off at Don David & Associates, 375 Pacific Blvd S.W., in  Albany, or Burcham’s Metals, 3407 Pacific Blvd. S.W., Albany.

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