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!
From 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.
Before 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
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!