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Helping shape lives that will change the future.

What ingredients does it take to make an emotional milkshake?
Like any good recipe, the ingredients and the way those ingredients are prepared are what make a dish so good that you make it again and again. A milk shake requires only a few simple ingredients, and a powerful blender to blend it all up into its smooth, rich goodness!
The ingredients for our family’s emotional milkshake has been:

  • Braden’s graduation
  • Saying “see ya’ later” to our dorm boys, coworkers, and friends at RVA
  • Packing up our belongings to come back to the U.S. for about 5 months
  • Finishing our teaching responsibilities
  • Over 30 hours of traveling from Kenya to K.C.

Blend all the ingredients together in the powerful blender of only a few days, and what do you get? Something wonderful!  However, it’s funny because we find ourselves laughing and enjoying our time back here in the U.S. and then the next, feeling a huge empty sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs, knowing that in a few months we get back on the airplane leaving Braden at his college.  How can something as incredible as setting our son free feel so fulfilling yet so terrible at the same time?
The first week of our home assignment has been a great blessing.
Quick Overview of our schedule:

  • Braden graduated and we boarded a plane on July 17, landing in KC about 30 hours after leaving RVA, and with every piece of our luggage
  • Road trip to Africa Inland Mission US headquarters in Atlanta and then wedding in North Carolina July 22-29
  • Braden’s graduation open house at Grandma and Grandpa Roach’s home on Sunday, August 3
  • Braden and parents have an orientation for International Students at John Brown University August 20
  • Preston, Landon, and Trevon begin school August 20 (you may notice that mom and dad will not be present for the first few days of school for the younger three, grandma and grandpa will help here)
  • Then life will begin to settle into the “Home Assignment” mode:
    • Connecting with current supporters and churches
    • Presenting our ministry to new friends and churches
    • Focusing on family

We so appreciate your prayers. Already we have been incredibly blessed, God has used so many to help us. One of our supporting churches, Abundant Life Baptist Church has graciously allowed us to live in their missionary residence. Not only does it save on finances, but it also is absolutely beautiful—more than we ever imagined! Our home church, Crossway Bible Church, has stocked the pantry for us with many of our favorite foods. A huge thanks to ALBC and Crossway for taking care of us!

Our address and phone numbers while we are in the US:
1417 SW. Mission Rd., Lee’s Summit, MO 64081
Bill’s cell: (816) 982-4955
Jennifer’s cell: (816) 982-4962

Egypt has recently elected a new president. South Sudan continues to have fighting in many parts of the new nation. The Central African Republic continues to have fighting to the extent that the presence of missionaries is almost nonexistent. We monitor the news to see what is happening in areas that the boys in our dorm have family and friends.

Food in front of a warm fire on a cold night in Kijabe is always welcomed by the dorm!

Food in front of a warm fire on a cold Kijabe night is always welcomed by the dorm!

In the past few weeks, we have been able to talk with parents about their ministries. Hearing their stories makes me look at them with respect and awe and rekindles the purpose for which God has called us to RVA. I would like to share some of these stories so you can join with us in praying for our dorm boys’ families and their ministries.

Colby asked us to pray for the decision his family must soon make. Their ministry in Uganda is coming to a close, and they are praying about where to relocate and begin new ministry. A few generations ago, a missionary family set roots in a region and then spent the rest of their lives with an unreached people group. The goal today is for missionaries to build a church of people who become self-sustaining, then move on to another location and start over. Colby’s parents have been praying about moving to either Lebanon, or Iraq. We began praying for this decision before the recent fighting in Iraq began.

Paul’s parents work in an area of South Sudan. Dad is the only doctor in an 80 mile radius, and mom is a nurse. Together they run a clinic that is so taxing their mission organization will allow them to stay no more than three months at a time before withdrawing to a home near RVA for a time of mental, emotional, and spiritual recovery before being immersed for another three months. Paul is the youngest of six boys who all grew up in Africa on the mission field. Paul’s dad has told us that one of the worst parts of his job is removing shrapnel from children.


Game night in the dorm–with girls!

John’s parents also work in South Sudan. The region they are in is not as close to the fighting, but is very remote, not close to anything. They live in mud huts, have to walk a long distance for water. The only fruits and vegetables that are occasionally available have been brought in from Uganda and are too expensive for a missionary to afford. John’s dad is teaching Christian men to be pastors and has no medical training. There is no doctor within 100 miles, so all the people all expect the missionary to know how to help them with medical issues. He recently took a photo of a broken leg and sent it to a doctor friend who told him how to set it and splint it. His iPhone has become extremely valuable in looking up diagnoses or checking with friends, and using his own family medical kit to help the people in his village.

One dad is a brilliant engineer who grew up at RVA and even spent two years in our dorm as a student. Now he and his family are in a country in which it is very dangerous to be a Christian. His engineering skills have opened the door for him to enter a country that will not allow missionaries. God has opened the door for him to share the good news of Jesus!

Another family are Christians from Nigeria whom God has called to cross Africa to be missionaries in Mozambique. Emman has two brothers who attend RVA, and one who can’t wait to come in the near future.

In the past several weeks we have had opportunities to meet with numerous parents of the boys in our dorm. It has been very humbling to sit with these families and hear about their ministries. Often they say the words that totally shake me to the core. This message is repeated over and over by missionaries I talk with. What do they say that rattles my world? I wish you could sit in our living room and hear these words first hand.

Over and over I have heard from parents of our dorm boys, and sometimes even with tears in their eyes, “Thank you for investing in our son. We could not do our ministry without your help.


Bible studies in our home

Please join with us in praying for these families, especially for Colby and his family as they seek God’s direction for their future ministry. One thing that makes this especially hard for Colby is that after four years at RVA, he will have to complete his junior and senior years at another school on a new continent. His dorm brothers are his best friends, and they will not be able to finish high school together.

God reminds us that this world is not our home, we are only passing through. We can easily get too comfortable and place our security in our surroundings. Our comfort and security must be in God.

I received a message from a friend just a few days ago asking if we have been affected by the bombs in Nairobi. While these bombings took place in an area we never frequent, we still take notice. There are numerous hard things about serving in a boarding school in Kenya. But serving God is worth it! Here is one way we see God’s hand at work through a recent conversation with a student.

In the past week I have had a student from my 9th grade Bible class come to me for help. He has grown up with missionary parents, and was taught from a young age what to believe about Jesus and the Bible. He has begun his personal search for truth. What if Islam is the truth? Could Buddhism or Atheism be truth? How do I know what to believe?

This is the journey every student must go through as he grows up; moving from “My parents’ belief” to “My belief”. Perhaps you remember going through this in your younger years. Each person has to make his faith his own. For every student who talks openly with us about this, there are probably ten more who are silent. Pray that God would give us wiZZ Hildebrand on top of worldsdom in what to say as we answer questions and direct students to find answers.

Living with 22 guys in a dorm is a real bonus for discipleship! The impact we are able to make goes all through the campus. Sometimes we don’t know just how much we have impacted until a student asks us to be a part of their baptism or some other celebration. Thank you Lord!


These past few weeks have been tough.  Actually, these past few years have been tough. I want to try to explain what has been so difficult about these past few weeks and how I think I am realizing this is my new normal.

Have you ever heard of that phrase, “My new normal”? I stumbled upon a book by that title when we were getting ready to move to Africa. I remember having a conversation with one of my closest friends about what our new normal would be like when I moved to Kenya. So, I swallowed my tears, took a big breath, and did what a good missionary girl should do. I said goodbye to everything that seems and feels “right” and comfortable, and embraced my new normal. Right? Well, I’ve done okay for a while, but here is the difficulty, at RVA. Your new normal has the potential to change with every term. A new job, new staff, new students, new home…you just never know. There is this feeling of, “Aha, I think I’ve got this licked,” which can quickly change to “Nope, we need you to do this instead.” Ouch! Really?  You know how it feels when you get a band aid on and the throbbing feeling just goes away, and then you do something that causes the band aid to get ripped off again? It’s miserable.

One thing that has caused that feeling is that at the end of the school term we have said goodbye to two of our dorm guys whose families are going home for furlough for a year. Lord willing we will see them next year.  With graduation, you say goodbye to the seniors who will attend colleges all over the world. These are students you have really come to know and love. It is hard to say goodbye! Have I mentioned that?  Because this break is 7 weeks, many of the RVA staff have flown back to the U.S. and have left approximately 15 out of 100 families here. RVA is usually bustling with people with hardly a quiet moment. Right now the quiet is almost eerie! To top it off, today our family said goodbye to some of our closest friends. They are moving into a new ministry on another continent.  How do you work through all of this?

I know I am being quite dramatic, but this is how I feel.  Writing about it seems to help. These feelings have been rumbling around in my heart and needed out.  I am learning what it truly means to lean hard into Jesus. He is unmovable and unshakeable; my consistent stability in this continually morphing life I live.  During my morning run I was listening to Chuck Miller, a wonderful godly man whose ministry is to train people in spiritual leadership.  He was using an analogy of a pitcher, cup, saucer, and plate as a way of viewing how to do ministry. The pitcher represents God, the cup us, the saucer is the people we influence in our ministry and the plate represents the activities. In his analogy the pitcher (God) endlessly flows into the cup, then the cup overflows and fills the saucer, which then pours out onto the plate.  But so often in ministry, I go straight to the plate (the activity), bypassing the saucer. I am constantly trying to figure out new and cool ways to do things!

Chuck Miller’s teaching on this has really impacted me. He also mentions that we often do ministry out of a paper cup. Paper cups are easy to tear and puncture. So, instead of having the overflow from the pitcher pouring out of us, we are just a leak. God’s power is more of a trickle, rather than an out pour. This idea makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t want that.  Yes, ministry at RVA is unique. It brings challenges on so many levels relationally, emotionally and spiritually, however, if I keep my focus on the pitcher (God) and continue to allow Him to overflow out of me into the saucer, the things I do are no longer the priority, but rather the people in my life. I believe that my new “normal” is recognizing that His overflow is pouring into a saucer made up of people that constantly come and go.

Dr. SuessI Corinthians 4:20: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power!” Today, what are you “talking about?” What are you holding on to, that you just keep talking about and not allowing God’s power to live out in you? Me? I have been talking a lot about my kids, their struggles, and our difficulties. But today, I am praying and believing that God’s power will gush out of me and pour directly into His saucer.  Ephesians 3:16: “I pray that His glorious UNLIMITED resources will EMPOWER you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you STRONG!”


October 30, 2012 9:11 am

After several months of praying with our family and friends, in June 2009 we began our journey to Africa by attending “Candidate Week” with Africa Inland Mission. That was the beginning of a transition which included moving our family to Africa (no easy task for a family of six) and raising the financial and prayer support needed for our initial two year commitment to Rift Valley Academy. Those two years have flown by and are finished in July. After months of prayer and talking as a family we have committed to serve at RVA four more years. We have been given a “home assignment” from the end of July through the end of December.

What is “Home Assignment”?

  • “Home Assignment” is a time to reconnect with family and friends that we have greatly missed these past two years.
  • “Home Assignment” is a time to process as a family what we have experienced in a Third World continent.
  • “Home Assignment” is a time to share with churches and other groups what we have seen God do, our passion of the needs we have seen, and what is being done to meet those needs.
  • “Home Assignment” is a time to raise financial support for our family’s ministry.

We are in the U.S. this year from July 15 through December 27 on “Home Assignment”.

Click on photo to go to album of Naomi’s Village orphanage


While we look forward to reconnecting with friends and family, it is hard to let go of ministry and friends here. We ask that you pray especially for our sons who have been uprooted and brought to Africa for the past two years. Now that they have been settling into this new culture and made great friends, we are taking them back to the U.S. for a time.

During “Home Assignment”, we continue to live on monthly support during our time in the U.S., in fact expenses can be greater during this time, so your continued monthly prayers and financial support are vital.

Help us 50 new partners giving $30 in 30 days (by Thanksgiving)

March 10, 2012 7:35 am

click photo to see more photos from "8th Grade Basketball"

March 10, 2012–

In January, Jennifer and I began praying with Preston someone would step forward to coach the Jr. High team. Basketball has been my favorite sport, but with all the other responsibilities I did not want to step forward. Being a head coach is not something I have done, and is definitely out of my comfort zone! Two weeks went by. Finally a deadline came up, if a coach didn’t come forward, they would not have a team, and forfeit all their games and even cancel a tournament RVA was hosting. It sure appeared that God wanted me to step forward.

Looking back, I am so thankful for the opportunity to be their head coach. Working with 9 eighth grade boys was so fun. The varsity and junior varsity coaches gave me great help and advice. Jennifer volunteered to the player with the most rebounds join us for dinner after each game. At least half the team ended up eating with our family, and what a great opportunity it was to get to know the players!

We only lost one league game, and the boys improved so much over the season. We even took first place in the tournament we hosted with eight other teams. The emotional championship game even included a last second three point shot from an unlikely player on our team that allowed us to go into overtime to come from behind and win the game! Best of all was the time I was able to spend with Preston, working together on our love for the Lord and our love for basketball! After the championship, I walked away to a quiet place to thank God for His confidence to have this great opportunity with nine awesome young men.

February 7, 2012 10:05 am

Recently I was asked a very good question by an elementary Sunday school class in the U.S. about why families would leave their children in a boarding school. My answer for them deals with God’s call of our family to Rift Valley Academy. As I was responding to their question, I realised there may be many more wondering the same thing, and decided to post it for others to see as well.

My (Bill’s) first mission trip was to a boarding school for missionary kids in the U.S. When I learned that parents would drop their kids off and leave for the “utter most parts of the earth,” I couldn’t believe it. They only see mom and dad for two weeks each year? I could never do that to my kids! Then God called us to work at a missionary boarding school.

There are multiple reasons that a family may leave children at a boarding school. Before I get into those reasons, I need to help you understand something first. It is about culture.

Why do we sit in chairs around a table to eat a meal? Why do we use a fork, spoon and knife? Perhaps you have seen pictures of people in Asia sitting on the floor using chopsticks. Would you believe people in Ethiopia sit around one big pile of meat (not separate servings) and eat with their fingers from the same pile? Sometimes they use a form of bread that actually looks more like a rolled up white sponge. This meal is one of Preston’s favorites!

Is our way of eating with chairs and utensils the correct way and all other ways wrong? It is a matter of preference, isn’t it? The way we eat is just one example of cultural differences. Men in Scotland may choose to wear what we think is a skirt. In our culture that just isn’t right, but in Scotland (and every now and then at Rift Valley Academy) you may see men wearing a kilts.

Deeply embedded in our minds, we have a way that school looks. Students live at home with their parents until they graduate from 12th grade, and then might move out to attend a university or college. Boarding schools for students 12th grade and younger are unheard of. That is not the case outside our culture. A large part of the world that has formal education has boarding schools. How would you like to live with your entire 3rd grade class? Sounds like one big slumber party doesn’t it!

Adults may argue on either side as to which way is better. There is one big truth, boarding school sure is different than the way I grew up!

Let’s step aside from boarding school for a moment. Imagine that when you were three years old, God called your parents to work with a people group in Tanzania that has never had the Bible in their language, and these people have never heard of Jesus. For years you and your family live in this village. No electricity. No water. No boys and girls who speak English or look like you do, other than you brothers and sisters. For 12 years, the only people who speak English are in your family, except the two times you went to the United States for furlough (that’s when missionaries travel around to present their ministry to different churches—a whole new story we can tell you about another time).

I was talking with a 15 year old in my 9th grade Bible class who was a brand new student to RVA. The example you just heard was his story. When he came to RVA, he had never lived with other English speaking students. Even when his family lived in the U.S., he was home-schooled because his family travelled so much to present their ministry. While it is true that RVA is ranked number two academically out of all the schools in Africa, this student is learning life skills that he couldn’t get in his remote village in Tanzania. He has been learning social and cultural skills, things that will help him to be prepared to go to a university in a few years.

Some amazing facts about RVA and our students:

  • Most students come for 9-12 grades
  • Most students are bilingual or trilingual (some even know 4 or more languages!)
  • Most are missionary kids
  • RVA students represent over 30 countries around the world, including:
    • (Asia) Korea (38% of our student body!), China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, and more
    • Australia, New Zealand
    • (Europe) England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Swiss, and more
    • (North America) USA, Canada
    • (Central America) Mexico, Belize
    • (South America) Brazil, Peru
    • and of course—Africa!

Social development, academic progress, and cultural development are not the only reasons missionaries may need to have their kids live in a boarding school. Some missionaries, especially in Africa live in areas that are unsafe. There are countries in Africa that are very dangerous for people who believe Jesus is Lord. You may wonder why missionaries would risk their lives to go to these places. The good news of Jesus Christ is the greatest news in all the world. These places need the news about Jesus as much or more than any others. (Check out the short movie “Walking in Shadow” from this site: http://www.aimint.org/usa/explore/videos)

RVA is a valuable school for missionaries in Africa. Over and over we hear missionaries say, “We couldn’t be here without RVA,” and even “We couldn’t continue our ministry if it wasn’t for RVA.” I still don’t know a second language, but God can use me and my family to be a part of a huge team of missionaries fulfilling the mission statement for Africa Inland Mission, “Christ centered churches among all African peoples.”

February 5, 2012 7:09 am

click photo to see more pictures from "St. Edwin's"

February 5th, 2012–We have made time in our schedule to continue our involvement as a family and as a dorm with the St. Edwin’s Orphanage in the town of Kimende which is 30 minutes away from RVA. On a recent visit we were able to deliver ponchos made by Midge Nelson from our home church in Blue Springs. The children loved them. On this visit, our dorm students were with us, and spent time on the Sunday afternoon playing games. Everyone had fun and was worn out as we drove back to Kijabe.

December 15, 2011 1:02 am

We began our move to Africa with a two year commitment to you and to Rift Valley Academy. Those two years are finished in July. The decision is does God want us to stay and continue in ministry at RVA, or does He have another plan? After much prayer and counsel, we feel that God wants us to continue to minister here for at least four more years. That would be through Braden and Preston’s graduations.

Why Africa? After 26 years of youth ministry in America, why would we move to Africa? After all, are there needy students in America? Let me share five good reasons and the most important reason.

  1. We have the opportunity to provide spiritual direction for an entire campus of students and staff.
  2. RVA has some of the brightest, most gifted students in the world.
  3. Many of these students grow up to be missions-minded adults. One former student told me that 25% of his graduating class are on the mission field, and at least 10% of the remaining class support him and his family financially as they serve on here in Africa.
  4. Missions is the greatest way to spread the life-changing news of Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs His love. The U.S. Is rapidly declining in the number of missionaries being sent.
  5. Many of the missionary families who send their children to RVA could not continue the ministry God has called them to if it weren’t for RVA. One student told Jennifer and me that her parents pick her up at the airport and drive 16 hours into the bush to their home. In that village, there are no other missionaries. This student is 16, and a majority of the girls her age are pregnant. She has nothing in common with them. A ninth grade boy in his first year at RVA told me that this was the first time he has lived with students his age who spoke English. One important thing RVA provides for children of missionary families is social growth and development.

These are incredible reasons for our continuing ministry at RVA, but not the most important. In our own search for God’s will concerning our family, I am reminded that the most important quality God looks for in our lives is obedience.  I would be lying if I said these past two years have been easy.  We have been stretched in many ways; but as we are stretched, we are drawn to the arms of Jesus where we find comfort and strength.  To pursue obedience is a matter of faith and trust, believing that God is in control. Jennifer clings to Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  We are encouraged to obedience by the words in Luke 9:23, “He said to them all:  ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” 

The easy thing is to say, “We have served two years; we have done our part.” But God has called us to this ministry. How long? We are not sure, but right now we know He wants us to continue at RVA.

Financial Needs

Right now we need to know who is willing to continue to commit to our future support. We thank you so much for committing two years of financial support. Will you pray about continuing to support our family as we serve on the mission field at Rift Valley Academy?

Praise the Lord, we just heard from a church that has been praying for us, and will now be able to support us financially for $100 per month! What a blessing from God!

Home Assignment—Our plan is to return to the U.S. to visit family and raise more support from mid-July through Christmas 2012. We have a couple of huge prayer requests regarding that:

  1. We need a house to live in, hopefully in the Blue Springs area. We do own a house in Grain Valley, but the missionary family living in it won’t be going back on the mission field until June 2013.
  2. Our support level is about $2,500 per month lower than it needs to be, so we have a lot of work ahead of us!
  3. Speaking opportunities,we would be glad to share our experiences of what God is doing in East Africa and our ministry. Do you know of a church or group who would like to hear? Contact us!

    First Place! Way to go Suni Dorm!

December 14, 2011 6:54 am
Published in: Rift Valley Academy

Just before bed I heard a scream. Running into the kitchen, I found Jennifer bent over looking at something. It didn’t take long to see what she was looking at. The boys had all run in by now and she had a clear container to trap one of the biggest spiders I had seen in my life. With another squeal, she slammed the container down over the spider. Preston, Trevon, and I took the container (with a lid) to the neighbors’ house.

They took one look at our scary, hairy capture and were pretty sure of his identity, but looked him up online to confirm. Sure enough, he is a common “wolf spider”. He is a relative to the common spiders you have seen throughout America, only bigger. Much bigger! He was over 2” in diameter, with one of the biggest bodies I have seen outside of the tarantula family.

We took the spider back home and decided to keep him overnight. The next day our boys dropped a small beetle into the container, hoping to see the spider eat. After ignoring the bug for a couple hours, one boy yelled out, “Larry’s eating the bug!” Next thing I knew, the boys had named him “Hairy Larry”. In a search for more food, the boys found another spider of a different species. It was a little smaller, so they thought Larry wouldn’t have any trouble. After ignoring each other for a short time, the two spiders began to fight. Larry won, but only after being bit by the other spider. The boys new pet had won a spot in their hearts and immediately they felt bad, even grieving that they had hurt Larry. For an entire day, Larry was looking more dead than alive. Finally he came out of it and was acting normal (whatever that looks like for a wolf spider!). A few days later we turned Larry loose…outside…FAR outside.

Life has heavy issues

Why would our family grow so attached to a spider? Recently our family has been praying for some heavy life issues. Every time Trevon prays out loud, he prays for a man named Daniel who needs God to bless his peanut farm so he can feed his family. We have also been praying for a family whose father died a few months ago. He was a nurse right here on campus and his youngest sons were two of Trevon’s best friends. Another heavy prayer request of our family’s has been for Trinity, a 9 year old battling life threatening problems in California since birth. Just a few days ago Trinity went to be with the Lord. Her struggle is over, but her family, who are coworkers and close friends of ours, grieves. Our next door neighbors, who have grown to become some of our best friends here at RVA have just lost their Dad/grandpa to cancer.

Death is all around us here, whether relatives of friends of ours, or like the auto accident we came upon yesterday.   Death is more real to those living here in Africa, than where we grew up in the U.S.

Here, our family is constantly reminded of this truth from God, “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Life is short; we have no guarantee of tomorrow. What will be the eternal value of what we are doing with our lives? How are we spending our time? How are we spending our money?

These are heavy issues. The African people rarely plan their lives ahead of today because life and death are so integrated; they don’t count on tomorrow. If they live till tomorrow, that is a blessing from God. Keeping a pet spider for a week or so can be a great diversion from adjusting to the heaviness of life, and death.