Haley Clasen shared this testimony yesterday with Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis. It’s a great example of how love is changing lives not just in Kenya, but in the United States as well!
We had one of those gloriously beautiful Sundays that those of us living in Indiana live for all winter long: mild temperatures, sun shining, birds chirping. Determined not to let the day go to waste by spending it indoors, my husband and I took our new bikes for a spin.
We’d been talking for years about getting bikes so that we could ride the trails near our house, but there always seemed to be something more important to do with the money than spend them on bikes. So, it was a blessing when my neighbor stopped me in my driveway one day and asked if we would be interested in two old (1970s) but well-maintained matching Schwinn bicycles.
After clumsily circling the driveway a few times to dust off my bike-riding skills, we hit the open road. As we rode past houses and people, a memory flooded my mind and I was carried back to Kenya to a day when others were gifted with bicycles.
On a trip to the village in 2009, we got to meet many of the pastors who serve their communities, some in Makutano and Likuyani and some who serve the Lord much further away. Each pastor was committed to the service of his community and traveled to Likuyani to participate in a Theological Seminary by Extension experience where they studied and worshiped with each other each week. Some of the pastors traveled far distances, as their tired feet and worn shoes could attest. After attending classes, they would walk back home to continue their work in the community. Their feet would find no rest at home, as many would travel to the edges of their villages to visit homes and share the Good News. Many of these pastors were older, but more committed than ever to doing God’s work. Their flesh may have been weak, but their spirits were willing!
Knowing the difficulty that some of these pastors faced in coming to weekly meetings in Likuyani, returning home, and continuing their work, a Sunday School class in Indiana decided to raise funds for bicycles. So, on a sunny day (not unlike the day I was riding), three hard working pastors were given bicycles to help them continue the good work they were doing. Those wheels became a vehicle for those pastors to be the hands and feet of Christ in an even greater capacity. Three years later, I am sure those bicycles have covered many miles and carried a message of love and hope to many people.
I’m not sure if God will use our “new” matching Schwinn bicycles the same way I know He has used those bikes in Kenya, but I do know that there is always a way to be the hands and feet of Christ, whether you’re on two feet or two wheels.
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.
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
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.
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.