Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Heart of a Servant Series

Having the Heart of a Servant...

Meet Sheila Sproles
(3rd from your left, front row)

Over and over I have stated that God places those who are necessary in our lives. I was honored and thrilled when Sheila became a part of our family. There are four women in my life who have impacted me more than any one. My mother, Velma, (2) my mother-in-law, Kitty, (3) my sister-in-law, Jenny (4) and my OTHER sister-in-law, Sheila.

It was a joy when Sheila informed me she was going to Africa (and to her credit, she tried to get me to go. That's another story for another time!) to lead a women's conference. What a wonderful opportunity for her, and the women who attended with her, to share their their talents.

God used them in a very profound and wonderous way. It took bravery, desire and holy submission to step out on faith and make this trip. Read about my super-doober sis-in-law, Sheila Sproles as she shares her mission trip with us.

I am proud to introduce, Sheila Sproles -- a woman with a true heart of a servant.

Tell us about the group who invited you to do a women’s conference in Africa?

Pastor Jackson Wambua had attended a Missions Conference in Abingdon in the summer of 2006. He told my friend Kim who is on staff at Highlands Fellowship in Abingdon about their annual Women's Conference and asked her if she would be interested in bringing a group of ladies from America to lead the conference in 2007. She told him she would pray about it and see how God was leading. At this time she also told him about me and how we had served together in women's ministry and both had a heart to minister to women through music and teaching.

How did you meet them?

This is how I was introduced to Pastor Jackson Wambua. Having never laid eyes on him until we arrived in Kisumu, Kenya we corresponded and arranged the details for the conference by email!

When they asked you to go on the trip, did you hesitate at all?

When Kim first mentioned the trip to me, my heart was immediately ignited for this mission. I have dreamed all my life about going to "the mission field". Due to a difficult delivery when I was born, my Mother has always told me the doctor's remarks, "this little lady should be a missionary," when I finally arrived. Also, there was another seed planted over 30 years ago when I heard my pastor at the time tell of his travels to Nairobi, Kenya and Tanzania and even brought souvenirs to me that I have treasured all these years.

Tell us about the obstacles you came upon as you prepared to leave?

As I began making preparations and asking women to join with me to make this "safari", circumstances prevented Kim from making the trip. (Safari means journey in Swahili, so this is what we called our trip.) Immediately I was thrust into the leadership role to organize a women's conference in a foreign land I had never been to with a pastor I had never met! He had requested for 10 ladies to come from America, which is the number of people required to make group reservations with the airlines. And, at this point, there were only 4 or 5 ladies semi-confirmed to make the trip. God uniquely put this group together and we had 10 Safari Sisters who made this journey.

Passports, visas, shots, baggage, shipping, etc. were just a FEW of the obstacles we encountered as we sought the Lord for His wisdom and guidance which never failed!

Two and one half weeks before we were to depart and we had received all 10 visas from the Kenyan Consulate, my dad was rushed to the ER with a possible stroke. The doctors informed my mother the diagnosis was lung cancer which had spread to his brain and he died 10 days later. The range of emotions during these two weeks were extremely intense for all of us but again, God's grace proved to be sufficient and we departed on schedule from Tri-City Airport on August 2nd.

Tell us about the answered prayers?

There was divine intervention for every Safari Sister who participated in this conference for finances, health concerns, family support, and many others. We had a direct confirmation during this time by a series of events which led us to meet a lady visiting Blountville, TN from the exact town where we would be traveling. Her name is Vicki Odundo and she was visiting America to raise support for her children's home in Kakamega, Kenya. We were able to meet with her and hear her story and also hear how one of her friends in Kakamega is Pastor Jackson Wambua from Deliverance Church! We were all overwhelmed to say the least. She returned to Kakamega to tell Pastor Wambua she had met US and asked if she could travel with him and his wife Zipporah to meet us at the airport in Kisumu when we arrived! We were able to visit her and her 43 children at Victorious Children's Home and take gifts and matching t-shirts to them. They were so precious and an eternal bond was formed as God knit so many of our hearts together with hers!

We also were divinely connected with an orphanage in Kisumu, Kenya we were able to visit and provide many needed items to them. Covenant Children's Home was started 12 years ago by Pat Botwright from the UK who felt the call of God to move there and start a home for street-boys who needed direction. She now has over 200 children and is doing a tremendous job in influencing them with the gospel!

Take some time and share with us about the conference,the ladies who attended and the success of the conference.

The "Woman of Purpose" conference schedule was Tuesday-Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with the final session being Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. These ladies sat on backless, hand-hewn, benches for 7-8 hours on a partially finished dirt floor sanctuary with only a couple of breaks! What a testimony to US!

The church presented us on Sunday morning with African
dresses and gave us Swahili names. (Mine is "Njeri" ,from
the Nakuru tribe, which means "Joy"!) We donned our African
garb in the Detroit airport to arrive in the Tri-Cities in our new
native dress.

The conference itself proved to be evidence that God can use ordinary people to meet extraordinary needs! The testimonies of our ladies from the US ministered greatly to these precious ladies in Africa. They think we have it all together because we are from a rich nation with so many luxuries. They found out we are just like them with the same hurts, wounds, and scars. Many of these Kenyan ladies shared their pain for the first time and were freed from years of emotional and spiritual bondage. There were 4 ladies (one who was Muslim) who prayed to receive Christ at the close of our evangelistic session.

We were also informed these ladies would be bringing their children for 3 mornings during the conference. We had to come up with a game plan for children's ministry on the spot because this had not previously been on our agenda! Divine providence had brought a Safari Sister with us who serves as Minister to Children in WVA. She went to work immediately to organize a children's program with crafts, games, Bible lessons, and songs. All the other ladies chipped in and helped tremendously in this area and as a result there were 41 children who came to know Christ!

In the last session on Sunday we were privileged to serve communion to our new African sisters who seemed, at this point, like familiar friends we had known much longer than 5 days. There are no words to adequately articulate how our hearts were "in one accord."

Would you go again?

Many of us felt at the onset that this was just a "scouting" trip of sorts for future ministry opportunities. I can't imagine never seeing these beautiful Kenyan people again on this side of eternity. As we left the airport in Kisumu, the Women's Ministry Director of the church (who learned how to drive so she could be one of our drivers during our stay!) said something to one of our Safari Sisters which she didn't hear clearly. She said, "Excuse me?" and Levy said, "I'll tell you next time." With that we took off from the airport in Kisumu, Kenya. Forever etched in our memory will be the sight of Pastor Jackson Wambua standing on a huge rock behind the crude fence at the airport terminal waving a white shirt in the air as we peered through tear-filled eyes from the airplane windows! Go again…are you kidding???

Vicki and some of her children from Victorious Children's Home with the t-shirts we brought them.

Covenant Children's Home, Kisumu, Kenya-Early childhood section

Sheila and her team led a beautiful week for the women in Africa. As a family, we are very proud of her. As a sister-in-Christ, I am in awe of her.

You can find Sheila as an active member of Celebration Church in Blountville, TN. She plays the piano and sings --and the woman can quote scripture verse after verse.

She stepped out on faith and fulfilled that missionary desire she was born with. If only we all had the strength and bravery to trust so fully in Christ.

When you open your heart, trust fully in the Lord and answer His call, you have the Heart of a Servant.