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A Year in Review: 2017

Written by margaret. Posted in Children, Education, Sponsorship, Stories, Village Project Africa

As we come to the close of each year, we take time to reflect on what the last year meant to us. We take stock of what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained, the pain and the joy we experienced over a twelve-month period that shaped us and formed us. We celebrate the growth we witnessed and the love that we shared. Through it all, we recognize God’s hand and the provisions He made. Faith, hope, and love were our constants in 2017.

Faith

Since Village Project Africa began, faith has been a driver in all that we do. Our prayer has always been that God would guide our work and give us the faith and strength to follow His plan for us.

When we started Heritage Academy, we began with faith that God would provide for the children we served, and He has. A record number of students in our school were sponsored in 2017. And as new students join both the primary and high schools, we have faith that this trend will continue. We recently admitted 10 new students to the high school: all received excellent scores on their eighth grade national exam, but would have been forced to leave school were it not for the opportunities presented at Heritage Academy through sponsorship. Many are the first in their families to attend high school. Each time we add a new student, we do so on the faith that a sponsor will step forward.

High school students listening to a teacher's lecture.

We also have faith that the teachers that are led to teach at our school will support and nurture the students in our school to help them reach high and achieve their dreams. We’ve been blessed to have a team of teachers assemble at our school who have become a stable part of our school. All but one teacher returned for the new school year, a very unusual rate for a rural school like ours. And these teachers are making huge strides with our students. Our school is ranked one of the highest in the region for performance, and three of our students earned a score over 400 on the national exam last year. This is a huge achievement considering the challenges our students have faced and had to overcome.

Hope

We have so much hope for the future as we see the commitment and dedication of our teachers and watch our students excel and grow.

All of this is thanks, in large part, to the terrific leadership we continue to have at both the primary and high schools. The new principal at the high school has been recognized as one of the top principals in the country. When we interviewed him, he wanted to pray about accepting the job. A few days later, he contacted Davis and said, “I want to be a part of your dream.”  He has already made such a difference since he joined the team, and we are hopeful as we look forward to what this leadership will do in the year to come.

Our hope for our students is that they will continue to grow and recognize their value, talents, and callings. In 2017, we had several opportunities for our students to explore who they are and who they hope to become. One of these opportunities was a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp. Our girls had the opportunity to grow their confidence, think beyond traditional gender roles, and find encouragement to be leaders in the community. There was so much laughter and fun, and we are grateful our girls were able to participate in such an empowering experience.

Picture of the girls participating in GLOW camp.

We continue to have hope for the future of education in Kenya and the strides our kids can continue to make with well-prepared teachers who have a passion for their success. Teachers of Promise, founded by Dr. Lynn Staley, sponsors 10 young women to attend the Heritage International Early Childhood Development Education Teacher’s College at both the certificate and diploma levels for college. Students come from all over Kenya, but also from right here in Makutano, to receive top-quality education to prepare to enter the classroom. College is out of reach for most villagers, so our hope is that we can continue to add college sponsors and make a college education a possibility for more students.

Love

Love changing lives is not just a motto or tag line, it is a statement of what we see every day of the year. We see examples of God’s immeasurable love all around us as we walk through our classrooms, watch our kids skip to the cafeteria for lunch each day, hear the joyful voices of our students as they master new concepts and share their knowledge with others.

Love was an ever present part of our 2017. We saw it in Peter, an eleventh-grader who would have been forced to drop out of school were it not for his sponsor. Peter stays behind during school vacations to care for the pigs and acre of land we have set aside for farming and greenhouses, passing the love from his sponsor forward.

Peter reading a note from his sponsor.

Peter reads a letter from his sponsor.

We saw love in a family reunited after the mother found a job at Heritage Academy. When her husband died, Brenda had to send some of her children to live with other relatives because she did not have the means to support them, and it broke her heart. With a steady job, she is finally able to better provide for her children. And we saw love in the way that so many of our friends and partners stepped in to support us, answering needs we may or may not have recognized. Each one of you was generous in your prayers, in your support, and in your giving. Because of you, we are able to meet the needs of the people of Makutano and the surrounding area more than ever before. All these efforts are building a community that will continue to grow and sustain long into the future. The impact of your love will continue to reverberate and ripple here.

We look ahead to 2018 filled with more faith, hope, and love and a dedication to continue to run the race set before us. We know that love will continue to change lives in so many ways in 2018 because of you and all our supporters and volunteers. In you, we see that love never fails. Thank you.

Summer Visitors–The Hands and Feet of Christ

Written by margaret. Posted in Missions, Village Project Africa

It’s been a busy summer! Tomorrow our last group of the summer leaves the village and it is with great sadness that we see them go. Sometimes we wonder if short term groups are of any value, but I can answer that with a resounding “Yes!” They are of value, and they are Jesus’ hands and feet in this village. Sometimes, it is a simple visit to a home where the people are hurting, sometimes it is the healing touch of a medical doctor or nurse, sometimes it is reading or laughing with a child, sometimes it is giving a hug to a lonely and desperate widow. There are so many ways in which God uses us. And for this past week, it has been the skilled hands and minds of willing men to answer God’s call. In a few short days, they have ministered to us, and we have seen work accomplished that would take us months to finish—if we could ever get the work done at all. The cabinet they built to house the e-readers is perfect.  When they started with the scrap wood and humble resources that are available, I cringed—but when they finished and put on the final coat of paint, we all rejoiced at a job well done. 

When God called me to this place, I knew that we would be touching the lives of the women and children in the village of Makutano and the surrounding areas. What I didn’t realize is how this work would touch the lives of our visitors—followers of Jesus who carry pain and hurt, followers of Jesus who have sometimes lost their way, followers of Jesus who are lonely and troubled. It has been marvelous to hear their testimonies week after week. This morning was no exception as one of the men told his story of bitterness and brokenness and a cold and hard heart and how, through the witness of Pastor Joseph, Davis, and the villagers, God has touched him, renewed him, and brought him back into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord.

This summer, God has done amazing work in our midst. He uses the quietness, the rain, the mud, and the stars. He uses the times away from home and the testing of our comforts. God reaches to us in ways we never dream possible and we praise His name.

The dedication of the well at the school was a high point of the summer. The look on the faces of the mothers and children as they received a bottle of good, clean water is a moment we will never forget. And the reality of what this well means to the community came to me when one of our lead teachers said, “Today, our problem of water has ended.”

We are so thankful for the groups who have come this summer and ministered and share their love—this village will never be the same. I will never be the same because of their coming.

Blessings and love to you all,

Margaret

An Update from Margaret

Written by margaret. Posted in Children, Education, Health

Wow!  Things are moving forward around here faster than we can keep up! Here’s a quick update about two of our major projects:

The Clinic

Davis, Terry, and I recently took a trip to Rondo to visit the Sabatia Eye Hospital and meet with the director there.  It was a great meeting for us! The director provided us with great information that will be so helpful as we run the clinic in the expansion.  We all came away very encouraged. We head to Nairobi this week to get lab equipment!

They have started painting the clinic with some very bright and beautiful colors.  The reception room is painted, as is one of the doctor’s offices.  Some of the windows have also been painted.  They are already getting the land around the building leveled and ready
for planting!

 The New Well

The well (borehole) is nearing completion!  Oh my, it is exciting for sure.  We got home from Rondo just in time to see them begin the testing phase.  A new truck arrived to test the output and purity of the borehole. They pumped water for 24–30 hours; at first the water was cloudy, but then it became pure and beautiful.  What a gift to the children and the village!  We
should now have plenty of wonderful clean water!

 Love Changing Lives!

Margaret

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!

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