The Couple that Adopted a Village
Posted on Tuesday, March 03, 2015
The sound of singing is the first thing that greets Orphan Outreach mission team members walking the rutted orange clay roads toward Madeleine School in Bungoma, Kenya. As they round the bend, the team will be met by smiles, hugs, and dancing as they join the parade of students, women, and school leaders celebrating their arrival. For Jim Clawson and Carmen Scroggin, the greeting has become their special “welcome home” to the small rural village that now holds their hearts so tightly. The husband and wife from Addison, Texas, have done more than visit this place - they’ve adopted it, and are sharing it with their world.
For the couple, a passion for orphan ministry didn’t come as the result of a compelling sermon or by reading a book. “We were called to orphan work after we adopted our daughter, Almaz, from Ethiopia in 2009. When we traveled to Ethiopia, our agency took us to three government-run orphanages to show us how orphaned children who aren’t adopted live. To say it completely wrecked us is a huge understatement. When we came back from Ethiopia, we couldn't get those faces out of our minds and we both felt an intense restlessness to do something more for orphans.
“We felt really called toward sustainability projects, those which empower local people to help their own. In 2011, we attended an orphan care conference in California and met people from Orphan Outreach. We started sharing our passion for orphans and sustainability and Mike Douris, the president of OO, asked if we would ever be open to looking at Kenya instead of Ethiopia. He said he thought he had the perfect project for us if we were open.
“With some prayers and deliberation we agreed to go on a "vision trip" to Kenya in 2012 to look at different ministry options. The moment we stepped foot on the ground of the Madeleine School, we knew our prayers had been answered. There were no other questions. This was the project we were going to dedicate ourselves to.”
Jim and Carmen have returned to Madeleine School two times. But they’ve not traveled alone. The couple has taken a team of medical specialists, vet techs, and people who have caught their vision for caring for the vulnerable. Medical clinics are set up in mud-walled classrooms illuminated only by the sun shining through turquoise-hued shutters. In 2014, a team of veterinarians scoured the country to find two strong dairy cows for the school while the rest of the team played soccer, pulled weeds in the garden, helped serve meals, and did medical and dental check-ups. And Carmen has found her personal niche - spending time with the students so she can share their stories back home.
“I’ve had the opportunity to interview every child at the school. The most memorable things are the little things the children would tell me or ask me. One child asked me to adopt her. Another was wearing huge men’s-sized shoes and told me she had worn them because of "the visitors". One girl shared that she had only two pair of underwear. One told me the best moment of her life was having us visit. One little boy told me he wants to be the vice president when he grows up. Others told me about abuse they endure at home. Just getting to know the kids on that personal level is the most meaningful to me.
“Last year, we traveled with a large team. Watching our team members fall in love with the children was so heartwarming and touching. I also really enjoyed a few more of those one-on-one moments with the children and having the chance to affirm and encourage them. This year, I was also able to carry over sponsor letters and pictures for sponsored children, and seeing the children light up as they read their letters and saw their pictures was really wonderful.”
Jim and Carmen want to see every child sponsored at Madeleine School because they’ve seen first-hand the impact of those sponsorships on the children and on the community of Bungoma. Their passion began with sponsorship of their own sweet student, Sarah. Carmen smiles as she reminisces about their first visit. “I met Sarah last year. She was this tiny little thing dressed in a rag of a dress that kept slipping of her shoulders. She was shy, but each time I looked at her, she would give me this incredible smile. During her interview, I learned about some difficulties at home and my heart just went out to her. In the few moments I did have to play with the children, she was always by my side. I knew I had to sponsor her!
“Last year, a little girl was laying on the other side of the fence from the school. She was so pitiful, just watching the other children and I inquired about her. The school director told me that her guardians couldn’t afford the tiny amount to send her to school. I couldn't stand it and brought her into the school and told the director I would find a sponsor for her. The change in that little girl has been nothing short of miraculous.
For Carmen, the three-year experience has proven to her that there is a place for everyone in orphan ministry. “There is something each person can do to make a difference in the lives of children.” She and Jim have found their place in Bungoma, and they have helped so many others find their place too.
“If anyone is looking for an easy way to impact the lives of a child, sponsorship is the way to do it. We desperately need more sponsors to be able to provide for the needs of the children. Last year, the children were coming to school hungry since many of them were only eating one meal at school. Through the growing number of sponsorships, we’ve been able to begin a breakfast program and the children are doing better. However, we still need an afternoon snack/meal program for the children to be truly full. Also because of sponsorship, we are able to provide a monthly doctors' visit for the children and many are doing much better.
“Sponsorship is only $36.00 per month and provides life changes for sponsored children. They receive education, medical care, food and other needs, but they also know someone is caring for them, praying for them and loving them. Sponsors can write letters to their children and many choose to do this, but it is not a requirement. The only requirement is to open your heart to the love of one of these precious little ones.”Learn more about the children of Madeleine School and connect with your new sponsor child today. You plus one child, your church plus one orphanage or school, your community plus a community. Every single child sponsored is the goal of Carmen and Jim. It's our goal too.