Author Archive

Project 5&2

Written by shelly. Posted in Children

bagsWe are so excited to be partnering again this year with Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis, Indiana as part of their outreach program, Project 5&2. The name of the project comes from Matthew 14 which tells the story of a boy who gave what he had—five loaves of bread and two fish, which Jesus multiplied to meet the needs of the entire crowd.

The goal of our partnership with Project 5&2 is to connect a family from Church at the Crossing with a child at Heritage Academy. The families are asked to pray for the child they choose and show love to him or her in what may seem like a very small way—by filling a backpack with necessary items that children in the school need to take care of themselves and to improve the quality of their education. Just as the crowd could focus more clearly on Jesus’s message when they were fed, these children can learn about both school subjects and the tangible love of God better when basic things such as soap and pencils
are provided.

We are pleased and blessed to hear that after this weekend’s kickoff, all 540 children who currently attend Heritage Academy have been paired with a family at Church at the Crossing or their current sponsor. All of the children will receive a bag and have families praying for them by name this next year. Because there was such high demand, and many people still interested in getting involved after the last child’s name was taken, Church at the Crossing has decided to go beyond blessing the children currently in our school—they are now creating bags for our “unnamed friends” who will form the new class for the new school year in January.

God is so great, and we are so blessed to be a part of the way He works to tie His people together despite apparent, even continental, barriers! Thank you, Church at the Crossing!

Want to learn more about Project 5&2 and the success of last year’s bags? Click here to watch the promotional video.


Photos courtesy of Carissa Drake

Cassidy’s Story: Reflections

Written by shelly. Posted in Missions, Stories

After Cassidy Clasen’s most recent trip to Makutano, she wanted to summarize what her experiences had been and what they meant to her. Here are her reflections:

CassidyThis is my attempt to sum up my trip this year to Kenya. Warning: I may cry. You won’t see it (lucky you!) but I hope you feel my heart for this place. Ok, here we go.

“How was it?” Oh my… How can I answer that? It was too good to be true—I cannot believe how blessed I am to see these beautiful and blessed people two years in a row. All I keep thinking is that I need to go back. How can I get back? Does God want me to live there? Is that why I feel like I belong there when I’m there, and that I’m just not satisfied here? There have been some really hard days coming home… But then I remember those kids’ singing voices and dancing bodies and can’t stop smiling. Do I really have the right to be mad that I have to go back upstairs to get something? I am blessed to be able to go up the stairs, and to have something to get from upstairs. But last year was such a life-changing trip, I never thought that I could love them any more, or another trip would be better. How wrong
I was.

You know how they say “the more the merrier?” Yeah, that’s how this feels. I just want to share it with the world… And yet, I kind of want to keep it to myself. This year, Margaret and Davis and me and Mom and Haley got to share this beautiful village with seven others. And so many things happened.

Fist bumpingWe got flowers from some of the kids that were sponsored, we got to see a wedding (dear friends of ours, no less!), we attended a church service, we saw people’s homes, we experienced what it means to have a car break down on a pot-holey road in what seems like the middle of nowhere, yet the middle of everywhere. We experienced the patience of children who aren’t on a tight schedule (at least until there’s rain), and the joy of one thousand Christmas mornings all wrapped up in one afternoon, in bags and pencils and washcloths and 400 kids’ faces. We read to kids and taught them, and we played with them. There were so many things that I can’t even describe.

I know that God is everywhere, but MAN I can see it in even the three- and four-year-olds’ faces. From that age all the way to 95 years old, everyone has UNSPEAKABLE joy. I began sponsoring another child… I don’t know how I will come up with the money, but all I can say is that GOD WILL PROVIDE. I will do anything I have to if it means that I will go to Makutano, Kenya again. As these tears stream Cassidy with kidsdown my face, I am confident that, by the will of God, I will now do whatever it is that He wants me to do. Because He can take me to the other side of the world in His hands, He can take me anywhere in His hands. I never imagined being impacted so much. But it does not feel different—this is most certainly my life now. My love and appreciation for Village Project Africa is growing, and can only do that.

I constantly miss the little kids I sponsor through VPA, and their sweet faces, along with the laughter in of the kids who see their faces on the display screen of a camera. That is how I remember them: by their smiles, laughs, handshakes, and hugs. Their sweet, lovely voices, and their quiet natures (or their smiley ones). 

Dear God,

As everyone here prays for the Kenyan people, please give them knowledge that we are praying for them. I think about them every day, and I don’t know if my longing can ever be satisfied unless You help me. I pray that I always look towards you in everywhere I go, and that You watch over all Your children. Thank You for a loving hand when needed, and a protective hand in all different journeys. I love You so much, and help me keep my eyes on You and You alone. Thank You for all of Your provisions– too long of a list for me to even think of them all. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray and believe, Amen.

Haley’s Story: Reflections

Written by shelly. Posted in Stories

God has been moving in the life of Haley Clasen through work with Village Project Africa. Here are her reflections after her most recent trip to Makutano:


When I went to Kenya for a second time this year, my experience was so totally different. Without the factor of shock at the lives of these beautiful people, I began to see the way they live and to let it change the way I live. Here are the things I learned:



  1. Exciting things are going down at Village Project Africa!
  2. They are people, not pictures. I have no right to take their picture without first remembering that there is a person, and we have no right to look at anyone’s pictures without a thought and a prayer for the person and the story behind the picture.
  3. 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
    in weakness.”
  4. ^that does NOT mean that God will call you to the very worst thing you could imagine, the place you are very weakest. However it does mean that God just might turn the very worst thing into the very best thing.
  5. There is so much more to life than being happy, if you can put behind fear and pursue what’s really real.
  6. Long days make short nights, and when I am at the end of my rope, there is my God the whole way.
  7. Haley JumpingMy capacity for love, grace, trust, etc. can only do so much, but these things define my God and He defines them, and He is more than enough.
  8. Life keeps you learning. I choose not to remain static.
  9. I was reading a book about trees to Class 4, and I asked them, “Can one tree change the world?” They all agreed yes. Later, I asked them, “Can one person change the world? Do you believe that you can make a difference?” and they all just looked at each other. Maybe it’s simply that they didn’t understand my English well enough, but I was reminded—one tree, one person cannot change the world. One God can, and He made all the trees and all the people. He chooses to let us love and maybe change the person He has set in front of us.
  10. Every moment I spend serving, every dollar I don’t spend, is a minute someone else can rest or something I can give to them.
  11. Kenyans love the ceremony. It is less about the time, or other demands, and more about the community through ceremony.
  12. If I go here or there, I will see God in a way I never would have had I not moved.
  14. The moment I start to feel good or brag about anything is the moment I will consider my intentions.
  15. I am learning to live changed.

Haley with childrenIt’s hard coming home. It’s hard to be a different person in the same place. It’s hard to be so different inside that the people who once knew you so well don’t understand you anymore. It’s hard when the things that hit you are the ones you don’t expect, when you have an uncontrollable breakdown in the middle of Target. It’s harder coming home than going there—and that is when I am reminded that God, You are who You are, no matter where I am. I want to see Him, know Him, and love Him and His people everywhere I happen to be.

Obviously, in my two week trip, I only experienced a fraction of what others have experienced, but it is still the cry of my heart. I want more of God, wherever He takes me, and in the meantime, I need more of Him here.

I love you all and would love to talk more in person for anyone who really cares. I pray that God is working in your hearts too, that you begin to care in a way you have never experienced before, and that together we can pray, as I learned at International Youth Convention, “more of you at any cost, Lord.” I pray that we conquer fear and take hold of our calling. I pray that we can do nothing by ourselves and don’t ever try, but that God is the root and heart of all.

In Jesus’s name we pray and believe, Amen.

The Norton Family’s Story: Adoption of a Different Kind

Written by shelly. Posted in Sponsorship, Stories

Leah Norton shares what brought her family to Village Project Africa to fill a space that was empty in their family.

Our girls have been wanting to adopt more children into our family, but that’s not what Brian and I feel God calling us to do. Instead, we are thrilled to have started sponsoring two girls (they are sisters!) through Village Project Africa! At just $20 per month per child, I bet many others could sponsor a child if they wanted to as well. Our daughters, Addy and Livy, are now praying for these girls every day and loved being able to send them some gifts. This is impacting our girls—and us—in a major way. Wow!!! God is changing our worldview and our love for Him and others is GROWING. I’m so thankful! 

The Norton FamilySponsored kids

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! 

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