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Helping shape lives that will change the future.
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)

October 29, 2012 10:31 am
Published in: Partnership

Help us reach 50 at 30 in 30! Click on this image to receive a response sheet in Word format.

50 givers–at $30 per month–in 30 days! After serving two years at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, Africa our family has been back in the states on a short home assignment. One of our priorities while home has been raising more financial and prayer support before going back to Africa. Would you prayerfully consider joining our team and helping us reach our support goal by THANKSGIVING?!! All we need is 50 givers at $30/month in 30 days. That is as little as $1 a day. No amount is too small or big. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Partner with us today.

We are so thankful for the team of prayer and financial supporters who have faithfully and sacrificially supported us through our first two years in Africa. ALMOST ALL have committed to continue their support as our family commits to four more years, but we are short of what is needed for Africa Inland Mission to clear us to go back. To support us online, click on the 50 30 30 button and fill out the information on our giving page, or contact us by email for other ways to give.

March 23, 2012 8:10 am
Published in: Uncategorized

click on photo to see more photos from "Musical Sons"

March 23, 2012

We have really enjoyed Braden and Preston as they enjoy music. Braden has been working on his guitar and leading worship with classmates for chapel. Preston’s percussion abilities have made some senior high students take note of this eighth grader. He plays various percussion instruments in the school orchestra, and has really excelled on the drum kit for worship teams. God has blessed both of them with a love and ability to make great music!

March 15, 2012 8:22 am
Published in: Uncategorized

click on photo to see more photos from "End of Term 2"

March 15, 2012

On December 28 we picked Meredith up at the Nairobi airport and helped introduce her to Africa before she headed to Tanzania for the next month. She is a student at John Brown University that we have known from our home church in Blue Springs. After being a part of AIM’s program called “TIMO Quest”, she came back to Kenya and started helping us at RVA. I am very sad as I write this thinking about the fact that she will head back to the states on April 10. She has become a great companion for Jennifer as they take early walks (at 6:30am every day!), helping in Jennifer’s classroom, and helping our family and dorm with meals. She has truly become a part of our family!

One day Jennifer decided to take Meredith to visit the hospital just down the road from RVA. As they were visiting the pediatric ward they were able to talk with a young mom who brought her newborn infant to the hospital. Jennifer and Meredith were able to see this young lady accept Christ as the hospital chaplain led her to the Lord!  Mercy, one of the chaplains in the hospital is helping to find someone in Kibera (largest slum in Africa, located in Nairobi) who can disciple this young mom when she returns to her home. Jennifer and Meredith helped in seeing the new birth of this new mom!

A day or two later, Meredith was giving our family a night off as she did study time and devotion time with the dorm. After the devotion, one boy who we were unsure of his relationship with the Lord began asking her questions. Meredith was able to lead him to Jesus that night! The room mate of this boy stuck around during this time and listened in as well. She was able to help assure him of his relationship with Jesus as well. What a week for all of us! God was able to use our visitor to help in the spiritual births of two new Christians!

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.

September 12, 2010 8:27 am

I’ve had the wind knocked out of me again! This time it Trevon and his friend Kevinwasn’t the hill we live on here at RVA. Gathering for prayer at the very start of “Outreach Day”, our fifth and sixth grade dorm boys met with Jr. high girls and a few Sr. high boys who also volunteered. As this mixed group of students and adults came together, we were given the news that the orphanage coming to visit us was made up of children from birth to 13 years old, but only 24 of the older kids were coming to visit. If having to live in an orphanage isn’t enough, each of these children are HIV positive.

It wasn’t the fear of this horrible virus that knocked the wind out of me. I am glad for what we learned about HIV in our three weeks of Africa Based Orientation when we arrived in Africa. Basically, it is nearly impossible to get this virus from a child during normal interaction on the playground or in the dining hall.

What knocked the wind out of me was the thought of coming face to face with the very children I have read about and heard about. Children who likely have lost both parents and probably even aunts and uncles to AIDS. Children whose lives are forever impacted not by their own choices or actions, but by the choices of someone else. Children, not monsters or freaks. Children.

Meet ClintonClinton is a new friend of mine. He is ten years old, the same age as our son Landon. He has an older sister, loves to play on the playground, play soccer, and eat hot dogs. In fact, Clinton ate at least three hot dogs, potatoes, carrots, strawberry jelly, and more. He even had a couple of glasses of milk to wash it all down as I sat next to him at lunch! You wouldn’t even realize that he is HIV positive.

This little boy, and the 23 others, looked totally normal. Watching them play games you couldn’t tell any difference from other kids. The orphanage did a good job of clothing them, and based on their physical appearance, these children are receiving good nutrition. Anti Retro Viral (ARV) drugs and good nutrition can help these children live a fairly normal life. If they miss just one of the daily doses of their ARV, tuberculosis, or pneumonia, or some other common illness will wipe out what is left of their immune system. If he stops taking his ARV, Clinton will not see his 20th birthday. Even with his ARV, he may not live past his twenties.

As I try to catch my breath again after spending half a day with these wonderful children, a question goes through my mind. For the past week, my 11th grade “Doctrines of the Bible” class has been wrestling with the thought, “Why would God create people who would never have an opportunity to hear the Gospel?” The question I find myself wrestling with is a similar thought, “Why would God create these children, knowing that they would be born with HIV?” I am reminded of the character of God, that He hates sin but loves the sinners. One of the reasons He hates sin so much is the consequences of sin. The consequences are far reaching. Each of us can testify to the destructive effects of sin in our own lives.

Our purpose in “Outreach Day” here at RVA was to share the love of Christ with others. God certainly loves these children we met and played with. I’m not sure how much of that love they felt and saw from us, but I know I have come away touched by God in a huge way.