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

Being the hands and feet…and wheels… of Christ

Written by lauren. Posted in Stories, Village Project Africa

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.

 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Written by lauren. Posted in Village Project Africa

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.

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!

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