Food for Thought

Written by lauren. Posted in Children, Sponsorship

I came home this evening to dishes piled in the sink and pots and pans left on the stove from a hasty dinner prepared before my husband and I both ran out the door for different meetings. I have to admit that I grumbled to myself a bit as I filled the sink with soap and water and prepared to attack the baked on cement that had been refried beans hours earlier. As I scrubbed and scraped the dishes, I suddenly remembered something I read this weekend and I began to feel ashamed of my grumbling.

I have the pleasure of reading the interviews of every child eligible for sponsorship in our program, and I often write their brief bios to help potential sponsors get to know each child a little better. On Saturday, I spent some time going over some recent interviews and came across one that really made me stop and think. Our interviewers have started asking the children what they have had to eat that day and what they consider to be their favorite food. Most of the kids say they’ve had tea, maybe some chapati (a kind of bread), and that when they go home they may have ugali (a Kenyan dish of cornmeal and water) and vegetables, maybe some fish. When it comes to the question about favorite foods, I always think about the answers that kids give here in the U.S. I know when I was the age of some of these kids, my reply was always macaroni and cheese. These kids, however, will probably never know what macaroni and cheese tastes like, may never see a pizza, and may never have the pleasure of eating a cold ice cream cone on a hot day. No, the typical favorites found at the top of a child’s list in the US were nowhere to be found in the interviews I read. The most common favorite foods of the kids at Heritage? Rice.
Bread. Meat.

But the one that came to me today as I washed the dishes from a meal, lavish by Makutano standards, was six-year-old Wilson’s favorite food. When asked what his favorite food was, Wilson said milk. Milk is his favorite food. Just think about that for a second. I thought about it on Saturday, but I really thought about it again today. How many times do we take even the most basic parts of our diets for granted? It’s astounding to think that those “basics” are the very things that kids in Makutano, around the world, even here in our own country, dream about and savor, if given the opportunity.

Needless to say, I had a different perspective as I finished cleaning up. I think we often take for granted so much that we are given in life, and my experiences with the children at Heritage Academy remind me time and time again of this truth. These children aren’t asking for cheeseburgers or the latest gadgets. Their needs are for the very things we often don’t even think twice about—they need opportunity for an education, they need love, they need care, and they need something more than just tea and vegetables to eat.

Want to share with these kids just a taste of what we take for granted? Check out our sponsorship page

“For I was hungry, and you fed me…” Matthew 25:35

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Written by lauren. Posted in Village Project Africa

This morning, the sermon I heard was on Luke 10:29-37. It’s a story with which many of us are familiar—the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Many people passed this man, including a priest and another highly religious man. Neither stopped to help him, crossing to the other side of the road instead. It is not until the Samaritan walks by that this man is given aid. And what aid he receives! Not only does the Samaritan seek help for the man, he is willing to fund his recovery! A stranger refuses to turn a blind eye and is willing to sacrifice his time and money for a fellow man. I’m sure that by the time the man recovered, he and the Samaritan were no longer strangers. Perhaps they became life-long friends and brothers, bound by that one moment when tragedy was transformed into grace and healing.

As I sat listening to the sermon, I began to think of “Samaritans” I have seen and known in my life. My thoughts turned quickly to VPA and the many Samaritans who have seen a need and refused to cross the street and carry on. I have been so inspired by the people who have stopped and sacrificed something of themselves for strangers or people they only knew for a short time. These Samaritans saw an injustice and refused to let it stand. A child is clothed and fed who stood hungry and in rags on the side of a dirt road. A woman without hope is encouraged and given the opportunity to learn a skill and find that she has a new reason to live. A man is ill and near death when God uses a stranger to save his life, physically and spiritually. God has used so many as Samaritans in the lives of the men, women, and children of Makutano. They stopped at nothing and gave of themselves to make sure that those who are broken are lifted up.

At the end of the parable, Jesus asks who was a neighbor to the man on the side of the road. The reply was “the one who showed him compassion.” Jesus challenged all who listened to “Go and do likewise.” I am touched and motivated by the many people I have encountered in my time with VPA who are doing likewise.

I have this image in my mind, inspired by the parable, of a tectonic movement and a physical joining of the United States and Kenya—pulled together by love as neighbors. While my vision is geographically impossible, because of each person who stopped to help someone in a far away place, we are no longer strangers with people so far, but neighbors—perhaps just neighbors of the heart.

I challenge myself, and each of you, to “go and do likewise” in some way today. “Be compassionate as God is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). Lives are changed and neighbors
are made through love.

Matthew 25:35

Written by margaret. Posted in Village Project Africa

Matthew 25:34–40 says:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Every day in the village we see people who are hungry, who are thirsty, who need love and care. Every day, the love and kindness of strangers who might never step foot in the village comes to meet the needs and offer hope so desperately needed. Story after story holds witness to the way God is using people to love and care for His own.

Matthew 25:35 speaks to feeding, quenching a thirst, and welcoming a stranger in as a friend. I think there are two places in particular where this verse is in action regularly—our dormitories and our growing church community.

What a difference the 2 dormitory buildings are making in the lives of our children!  We just moved about 20 more children into the dorms over the last week and I know more stories will be added to the countless we already have that show how God is working in the lives of people through these new homes.  I’d like to share a couple of stories with you here, though there are so many that speak to the importance of the dormitories in the lives of all who live there.

Last week, an old woman walked from Moi’s Bridge to come to our school.  She has an orphaned grandson in her care and was so desperate for help that she walked between five and six hours to get to Makutano.  She is at least 80 years old.  She told us the story of the child that she cares for and asked if we could take him.  We listened, asked lots of questions, and then  Davis and I looked at each other and agreed to take him in.  Davis told her that we would board him in our dorm and look for a sponsor to help.  She started crying and immediately stood up and started praising God and thanking us.  It was a very emotional moment.  The child is now happily in the dormitory and doing well. 

We had another child walk to Likuyani to find help.  He had come to Likuyani some months ago to visit an ailing aunt, and he felt she was the only person he knew to go to for help.  I guess he knew at some point in his life he would run away and seek help from this woman because he walked here from  beyond Rondo on the way to Kisumu.  It took him 15 hours to get here and he said he ran much of the time.  When he got here, his feet were swollen and in bad shape.  We asked him how he knew to get to Likuyani and he said that when he was on the matatu on his last visit to his aunt, he memorized the route and he followed the road all the way here.  I asked him if anyone ever bothered him along the way and he said “no.”  He is also an orphan who was much abused by relatives and was moving from place to place.  When he arrived in Likuyani, this ailing great aunt came to Davis for help.  We took this child in and he will have a good, safe place to live for the first time in his life. 

The children who find their way into the dormitory will find not only welcome and regular meals, they will also find the kind of nourishment that goes beyond that which meets the needs of the physical body. These children find love, peace, and joy that feeds the brokeness many of them carry. Their sponsors are feeding them in ways they might never even realize.

Another place that welcomes the people and feeds them in ways only love and the Holy Spirit can is the church community that is developing and growing. Our new multipurpose building at the Heritage Academy location will be the new home for the church each Sunday. Two weeks ago, the first service was held in the new facility. There were 52 adults and so many moving children we couldn’t get an accurate count.  The service was so special.  Pastors Joseph and Mapesa were smiling most of the time because they were just so happy.  Mapesa has had a vision for quite some time that this will be a big church and life changing for the village.  At the end of the service, they dedicated the church leaders.  I counted around 20 that came forward to be prayed for and there were some not present.  It is thrilling to watch this movement of the Spirit.   

Each of us, in small or great ways, can address the needs of those who are considered “the least of these.” The dormitories and church in Makutano are by no means the only place where needs are being met on a regular basis—there are so many other places, too, that are touched by the love of God through His people. No matter whether you feed, or clothe, or love someone in Africa or right around the corner from your house, God can use you to change a life!

Year End Update

Written by margaret. Posted in Children, Education, Farming, Health, Village Project Africa

2012 has been an exciting year for Village Project Africa! We have continued to see God at work in the village and are so pleased to see programs continue to blossom and grow. We are so excited to see what He has in store for us in 2013!

Here are a few highlights of the exciting things that have happened and continue to happen in the village:

  1. Heritage Academy will add 6th grade curriculum in January 2013, and accept enrollment for a new preschool class, bringing our enrollment to approximately 600 students.  Our children are healthy and happy, and they are learning.  Each term we see the test scores improving.  Recently the teachers gave their testimonies to some visitors.  We were inspired as they told, one by one, how God had called and led them to Heritage Academy.  Our school is a safe, loving, Christian educational environment.
  2. 41 students graduated from Heritage College this month with a degree to teach early childhood education. We started Heritage College two years ago with this African proverb in mind: “Educate a girl and you educate a community.”  Of the 41 graduates, 11 are girls from our village. These girls now have hope for a brighter future not only because of their education, but also because of their association with our Godly teachers and staff.    
  3. We will break ground in the coming weeks for the expanded clinic. Recently, another parent died, the father of three of our dear students.  We see this much too often.  Now our community has another widow and more fatherless children.  At the funeral, we saw fear in their eyes because their future is so uncertain.  But our Village Project community will walk with them through these darkest days. The death of this father is another affirmation of the priority to expand the clinic and improve the health care available to our community.  Thank you, Church at the Crossing, for partnering with us.
  4. Grace Community Church is growing. We see attendance of over 30 adults plus children on Sunday mornings.  Pastor Joseph and Pastor Isaac will begin teaching the congregation from the books that we used to teach the pastors’ classes.  Pray for them as they spread the Word and disciple believers.
  5. The agricultural program is growing and prospering.  Two greenhouses and the surrounding land are planted with vegetables.   We have 4 cows and more on the way.  The chickens are producing eggs and meat.  AND the bees produced the first honey! This farming program is providing nutritious meat, eggs, dairy products, and vegetables to our school children and employees. It also provides employment in the community and a small income to the school as we sell extra products in the market.
  6. We are getting electricity!!   This project was initiated by the parents of our Heritage Academy students, and is a partnership between parents, local community, and VPA donors.  Parents each gave 100 shillings and one of the neighbors is allowing the power lines to go through her farm to help reduce the cost. But it was not enough.   VPA friends joined together to finish the project, and we will soon get electricity.  This will allow opportunities for evening meetings and classes, as well as expanded curriculum such as computer training.
  7. The new multi-purpose (cafeteria/auditorium/church) building is almost completed and is already being used for school and community meetings.  It is the only building in the area that can hold such large groups. Recently, we held a parent meeting with over 250 in attendance, who fit comfortably in this beautiful building. In addition, we are completing new classrooms and administrative offices to accommodate our growing enrollment.  Often children tell us what they like best about Heritage Academy is “the buildings.”  We smile at their answer, but they really love to have a good place
    to learn.
  8. Our child sponsorship program continues to grow! We now have over 150 children sponsored and hope to have even more sponsored by this time next year. The education, nutrition, and healthcare that sponsored children have received this year have been absolutely transformative for so many children. A new online system for sponsorship will be rolled out in 2013, so stay tuned. We hope that even more children will find sponsorship—we have close to 500 children waiting for a sponsor!

We are so thankful for each of our supporters and the way you have come along beside us in so many ways to continue the work God has laid out before us. We look forward to continued and new partnerships in 2013!

We hope each and every one of you has a blessed and happy new year!

Love Changing Lives!

A Birthday Gift for Jesus

Written by lauren. Posted in Children, Education, Stories

Julie Carpenter has created a new tradition in her first grade classroom at Calvary Christian School in Kentucky. Last year, and again this year, the class celebrated Jesus’s birth by throwing a birthday party and bringing gifts in his honor—school supplies to benefit Heritage Academy! Julie shares the response and reaction she’s gotten from the children in her classroom this year.

My first grade class at Calvary Christian School supports the children at Heritage Academy through prayer and donations. They pray for the children everyday, and they were excited to help them when they had the chance.   For our “Happy Birthday Jesus” party, they brought in tons of school supplies for the children, and they wrote sweet letters as well. We hope the school supplies will be helpful to all of the children at the school, and we hope the letters will remind them that their friends in Kentucky love and care about them. 
 
I have two stories to share about two of the little girls in my class. 
  
Brooklyn
During the first week of school, I shared about my trip to Kenya. Brooklyn’s heart was touched when she heard about the children and saw my photos of them. Here’s an email from her mom:
 
Julie,
 
Brooklyn has asked me several times for the last week or so about us donating things to Kenya. Is this possible? She says she would like to make care packages with food and such. I think that’s absolutely wonderful that she’s feeling drawn to help out. She says, “But mommy, they don’t even have food or clothes or toys, I could send them some things I won’t eat, wear or play with.” 
 
Thanks,
Michele
  
Rachel
I have a class website, and I post photos on it throughout the school year for the families to view. Of course, the photos from my trip to Kenya are on there because we support the school as our international class mission. Rachel’s mom told me that Rachel asks to look at the photos of the children often. She talks about them and prays for them every day. She even wants to be a missionary now and go to Kenya to help them!  During our parent/teacher conference, we started talking about her passion for the children in Kenya. Her parents mentioned wanting to go on a mission trip as a family sometime. I immediately mentioned the medical teams going this summer because Rachel’s dad is an anesthesiologist, and I sent more information about VPA. Rachel’s dad made contact with the person in charge of the medical teams and they are now planning on going as a family with the medical teams in the summer of 2014!  I’m so excited for their family, but I’m even more excited for Rachel! God is working out a plan so her passion to be a missionary can be nurtured even more! God is so good!!!        
 
It’s a joy to pass the passion I have for the children of Makutano to my students. God is planting seeds in the hearts of His sweet children, and they’re growing in beautiful ways.  Merry Christmas! 

 

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