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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Village Project Africa

We have been celebrating at Heritage Secondary School! On February 2, our very first class graduated from high school. Many of these students have been with us since preschool, and we are so proud of the young men and women they have become and are overjoyed as they begin the next phase of their lives. The graduation was a huge community celebration, and we are forever thankful for all the support these students have received to get them to this incredible milestone. ... See MoreSee Less

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Thank you to everyone who supported us on this #GivingTuesday and every other day of the year! We are so grateful for you and all that you help us accomplish. ... See MoreSee Less

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This #GivingTuesday, we also celebrate #transformationtuesday. Our girl Norah has come such a long way since coming to Heritage Academy and finding a sponsor. She's a bright young girl with so much hope and promise, and we're so proud of her! ... See MoreSee Less

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Thanks to support from our donors, we've gone from two mud buildings housing 50 preschoolers to beautiful primary and high school campuses that offer educational opportunities to hundreds of students, something we could not have fully imagined when we first started. From a science lab to a computer lab, we're offering quality education at no cost to most of our students thanks to generous donors and sponsors. Love is changing lives in Makutano, Kenya! Will you help us keep the love going? #GivingTuesday ... See MoreSee Less

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“Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” - John F. Kennedy

We believe in the promise of every child that walks through the gates of Heritage Academy. We strive to support them every day as they reach toward goals and dreams once thought impossible. Will you join us in that support? #givingTuesday
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