Shelly’s Story: The Trip of a Lifetime Becomes Much More

Written by shelly. Posted in Stories, Village Project Africa

Shelly Clasen, the director of finance and administration for Village Project Africa, shares the story of what first brought her to Village Project Africa and how her life has changed since her first visit.

My husband Kevin went to Kenya 10 years ago with a mission trip from our church.  Ever since that time, he has wanted to take our family back. I think Kenya got into his heart in a way he could not escape! This summer, an opportunity came up at the last minute for our family to join a group from our church going to Kenya, and we prayed for God to open doors for us to go with them. Part of our prayer was for us to be able to visit Margaret and the villages… and God miraculously set things in motion for that to happen. What a life-changing summer for us and our two teenage daughters!

I have never been on a mission trip before, much less a cross-cultural experience like I had in Kenya last summer. I knew that I would be blown away, and I prayed for God to prepare my heart to be changed. But I could never have predicted the extent to which this would happen.  This is a place where God is actively at work!  

Shelly dancing with the childrenFrom our first day at Heritage Academy where the children sang and danced for us (and even pulled us in to dance with them) to the home visits with many of the widows, from the smile of Pastor Joseph to the hugs from the women at the weekly widow’s meeting, from reading and coloring pictures with groups of children in the school to meeting and hugging our sponsored children… this place has captured a piece of my heart that I never want to get back!I will never forget watching my children teach their favorite camp song to the students at Heritage Academy. They had us all up singing and doing the motions!  Everywhere we went, teachers, children, widows, parents, and families expressed their welcome (Karibu!) and thankfulness to us as “visitors.” But I was the one who felt thankful to them.  I was honored by their hospitality, and I am thankful for experiencing their joy and praises to God. My 15-year-old daughter Haley expressed it well when she said, “the less you have, the more generous you can be.” And our family is grateful to the people of Makutano for their generosity to us.

Shelly reading to childrenBefore I went to Kenya last summer, I had trouble understanding how my small contribution to a person
or place could really make much of a difference in changing the world. The needs are so overwhelming
that I ended up doing nothing. I prayed for God to give me a personal connection to someone, somewhere and WOW did He answer that prayer! I saw and experienced how something that seems small to me can bring huge results to someone else. There is a name, face, and emotion attached to the person at the other end of my “sponsorship” now. There is a life that is impacted, hope that is given, and new doors that are opened. In the words of my pastor, I am learning
to “trust God for the needs He asks me to meet… and to trust Him for the needs I
cannot meet.”

We left home on July 23, 2011 for what we thought would be “the trip of a lifetime,” but we came home trying to figure out how to plan “a lifetime of trips” to our new family in Kenya. It will take me weeks, months, and probably years to discover the layers of change that God is working in me as a result of that trip… and I am thankful and excited to be a part of God’s work with Village Project Africa! 

Haley Clasen: 99 Things I Learned in Kenya

Written by shelly. Posted in Missions, Stories

When Haley returned from her recent trip, she made a list of 99 things she learned. Here is a selection from those 99.

1. Saying goodbye is hard. Not saying goodbye is worse.

3. Kenyans are easy to fall in love with.

Haley with kids

6. Kenyans roll their r’s, and it makes English words sound a lot cooler.

12. Quiet moments are just as important, if not more important, than exciting ones.

19. Even if you’re on the other side of the world, it still feel a lot the same because you are still you, and God is still God.

22. It only takes one skeptical comment to plant an untruth.

23. Mosquito nets are annoying to sleep under. But malaria is even more annoying.

27. Two weeks can go faster, and yet slower, than you would imagine.

30. It’s a great feeling to sit on the grass in the sun with a Kenyan girl whom you truly love playing with your hair.

31. Swahili words are spelled just like they sound.

34. Fanta in a glass bottle is unbeatable.

37. Your heart is only touched if you let it be.

Sisters38. Little sisters somehow manage to be the most annoying thing on the planet and your best friend at the same time.

39. A picture drawn by a kid you may never see again holds so many more memories than meets the eye.

42. Pain can be like a scab on your heart. It heals, then falls off and starts bleeding before it heals again.

47. Kids steal your heart like nothing else.

50. Long hours staring at beautiful grassland on safari is a really good time to think
through everything.

51. Sometimes, the tears must stay in.

53. So much can change so fast.

54. God is Hope, whether we accept it or not.

55. When kids are given the opportunity, they are extremely creative.

59. The less “stuff” you have, the more giving you can be with it.

Haley with Barasa twin

60. We’re all humans. We have the same faults— jealousy, fear, selfishness. Just in different ways. No one’s perfect.

61. But, we all worship the same LORD. We all receive the same grace, the same love, the same redemption. Just in different ways. We are all made beautiful. We are one CHURCH of GOD.

62. When a service is in another language, all you have to do is reach deep down inside yourself, to worship God with the part of you that needs no words.

69. God is a great, powerful, and imaginative Creator. Just look at His creation—both nature
                                                                      and His people.

73. It’s a great feeling to hold a 3-year-old African boy in your arms that you know you will be sponsoring.

78. American roads and Kenyan roads are very different.

79. American drivers and Kenyan drivers are very different.

80. I already want to go back.

81. God calls each of us to something different. When we do what He asks, miracles take place through Him, and lives are changed.

87. We are blessed. Let’s bless others.

97. Everyone should go to Africa. There’s some new piece of wisdom for everyone there. And everyone could use a little broadening of their horizons.

Verse

99. We are blessed with more things than we realize. However, it’s really easy for us to lack the qualities of the village Africans and the missionaries— the joy, the hope that never dies in the midst of terrible  circumstances, forgiveness, selflessness, giving hearts, genuineness, openness with their lives, freedom, communities of support, true love for their neighbors, trust in the Lord and in others…. The list goes on and on.  It’s powerful to hear their stories, see their joy, and know how deep these qualities run. I wonder, what could happen if everyone in the world took after their example?

Calvary Team Update

Written by admin. Posted in Missions

Our group from Calvary Christian Church in Winchester has now been here over a week.  They were able to frame Florence’s house, and the women from the village will start mudding the walls on Tuesday!  They also got a new iron-sheet roof installed for Violet and her family.  The ladies handed out over 200 pillowcase dresses on Thursday, and our girls all wore their new dresses to school on Friday!  Thanks to the GAiN Organization, we had 40 pairs of Crocs we were able to give to children on Thursday as well.  Several buildings on our campus have been painted, plumbing problems have been fixed, and we even arranged a soccer game with a local school so we could show off the new uniforms they brought us!  They have been able to visit quite a few of our widows and their families in their homes and have been touched by so many of the stories these women have to share. Today they have ventured into Eldoret to buy some tools for some of our workers and to visit the AMPATH headquarters.  They will have 3 more days to help out in the village before they head back to Nairobi on Friday!  So far everyone is healthy, so please keep them in your prayers over the next few days as they finish up their work here! 

100 Shoes Initiative

Written by lauren. Posted in Health, Stories

As most of you know, we have been trying to raise money to put 100 shoes on the feet of 100 children.  Thanks to many of you, we have reached that goal!  However, after a recent visit with another 100 children in the school, it has become very apparent that 100 shoes is just not enough.  I sat down with each one of the additional 100 children during my time in Makutano and heard so many of them say that their only need is a pair of shoes.  So many stories really touched me, but I wanted to share the story of one little girl in particular who illustrates so well why your $25 dollar donation can make all the difference in the world to
a child.

 

Robai

 RobaiI met Robai on the first day I was in the village at the school.  She had a haunted look and a quiet way about her.  While I spoke with her, I discovered why she was so stoic.  Robai lives with her father and step-mother in an environment that is in no way loving.  Robai’s father cares for her, but he cares more for alcohol than ensuring his daughter is safe.  Robai’s step-mother sees her as nothing more than a nuisance and does nothing to provide for her well-being.  As she gave quiet answers to the questions I asked, I could see that her hands and bare feet were infested with jiggers.  The administrator of the school informed me that they had contacted Robai’s father about the problem and had also attempted to treat her to rid her of the painful infestation.  However, she said that Robai was in such intense pain when they went to remove the jiggers (with a push pin, I might add), that her screaming greatly disturbed the other children on the school grounds and they had to stop.  They did the best they could, but it became clear that more would have to be done.  Considering all this, it is no surprise that when I took pictures of her, my usual call for the children to “cheka” (laugh) was not met with just that. 

 The fact that part of Robai’s physical pain could have been prevented so easily broke my heart.  A pair of shoes could have lightened a burden already so heavy for a small girl.  Had Robai had a good pair of shoes to wear, there would have been no way the jiggers could have worked their way into her skin.  Just through one child, I was able to see just how important shoes really are.  As I heard child after child say all they needed was a pair of shoes, I understood even more what that pair of shoes could mean for each one of them.  $25 could mean one less burden and one less worry for children who already have so much to carry on their shoulders.

Robai with ShoesA new pair of shoes and a smile!

Robai, through the kindness of two little girls in Indiana, was given a pair of socks and shoes the very next day.  For the first time in a while, we saw a smile on her beautiful face.  It will still be a long road for Robai as those working with her through Village Project Africa seek to help her heal physically and emotionally, but we pray that the shoes are just the start of some happiness in her life.

I hope you will join me in the effort to put more smiles on more faces and prevent unnecessary suffering.  Where else can you spend $25 that will make such a difference?  Contributions may be made through our website or by mailing a check made out to “Village Project Africa” to PO Box 382, Noblesville, IN 46061.  Please be sure to mark your donation “Shoes.”

 

For One of the Least of These: Update

Written by lauren. Posted in Children, Stories

In January we told you a little bit about a girl who had been brought to our school who’d had a very difficult life so far. We are so grateful to the “Lydia’s Ladies” at Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis for deciding to sponsor Risper so that she can stay at Heritage Academy and be one of the first residents of our new dorm!

 Here is a recap of Risper’s story: 

Risper A.Risper Anyona is now 14 years old and her story is the story of a survivor.  She was born in 1997, and her mother died when she was very young–she doesn’t even remember her mother.  In 2008, her father also died, leaving her in the care of her stepmother.  To put it politely, this was not a good situation.  Risper had been 10 years old before she was permitted to start school.  She made it through class 4 before her stepmother refused to allow her to continue any longer.  The stepmother continually harassed Risper and made life extremely difficult before she was finally thrown out of the house. 

 She moved from place to place struggling for life.  Thankfully, a well-wisher took her in temporarily.  In January of this year, Heritage Academy opened classes through grade 4, and one of the mothers at Heritage brought Risper to try to get her admitted.  When Risper was given the admission test to determine her grade level, everyone was surprised at her ability.  She was very bright!  Although she had to repeat class 4 to be at Heritage, this seemed like the very best option for Risper.  After the first exam, she was number 1 in the class.  We asked her how she had performed at the government school and she shyly replied, “I was either number 1 or number 2 in the class after every exam.” 

Sadly, after all of this, the neighbor where Risper was living could no longer care for
her and asked her to leave.  The mother who brought her to our school desperately
tried to find one of Risper’s relatives to take her, but seemingly Risper was all alone
with no relatives. 

 We are pleased that we had a place for Risper to live and are able to provide for her daily bread.  Soon a dorm will be finished and she will live with other girls from Heritage under the care of the matron.  Risper is a polite, delightful child.  She is in the Heritage Choir and plays sports with the other children.  When she grows up she would like to be a teacher and then help the needy.  We are so happy to have her in our midst and blessed for the opportunity that we have to help her grow into the likeness of Christ and to dream big dreams for the future! Please continue to pray for Risper and the other girls who will be moving into our dorm! 

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    Noblesville, IN 46061

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