Kenya Reflections – A Post by Kathryn Clontz

In June of 2017, No Ordinary Women led 14 women to Nakuru, Kenya, to meet and work alongside our Artisans in Oasis Women’s Group. To say that this was a dream come true, a dreamy adventure with dear sisters, a dream within a dream…well, even all of that seems insufficient. While we could talk for ages about our adventure, what we saw God doing, how lives were transformed, we think that our incredible team can tell you better themselves. We’ll be posting once a month a story or two from someone on our team,                so be sure to follow along!


As we entered Oasis, the women began streaming out while singing, chanting, crying, and hugging us. Though we were “strangers”, we instantly bonded through hugs and shared admiration for one another. One of the first women I met was Janet. She was holding her child that had significant special needs. I was immediately drawn to Elizabeth and asked if I could hold her. I felt at home.

As we met all the women that day, I found out that there were four mamas with children with significant special needs who were part of the Rainney Sewing Class and a community outreach that was connected with Oasis. They had formed a community group for women to get training as well as for them to have a place to bring their children as these children do not go to school. Once I laid eyes on these precious children, I new my purpose for this trip. These mothers had to either hold their babies while working on lay them on a flat mat in a dark corner. One child would sit in a plastic storage tub propped up with scrap fabric or pillows. I talked with each mother and explained what I do as my job here (I am a speech-language pathologist for students with significant disabilities for Haywood County Schools). They do not have speech-therapists here (in this area) and these children receive very little, if any services. I asked if I could work with them the next day and my mind immediately started planning for ways to help them. I began thinking of appropriate seating options and adaptive toys and books.

I spent most of the day loving on these children and getting to know their mamas and getting

the children involved with play with the other children (bubbles, parachute, toys, etc.). Their faces filled with joy as a ran them under the parachute or helped them pop bubbles. I was in my element.

I thought of an “easy” solution to the seating – bean bag chairs. That would be easy, right? Nope! The ladies weren’t familiar with them. That night, while having internet service, I searched up photos of bean bags to show them as well as patterns for simple sewing of bean bag chairs. The next morning, Ashley C. and I went to the store with a driver to get supplies for Oasis and materials to adapt toys. When returning, I met with three moms and their amazing daughters: Abigail, Elizabeth, and Stephanie. Violet, one of the Oasis women and a community program worker, helped translate when needed. The first thing I observed was that these mamas (and also the siblings) were SO in-tune with their children. They were so loving and patient and knew every need. They patiently spent over an hour feeding them if needed and were very attentive to their needs. I began by praising them

and telling them how smart their daughters were and that I could see that. I also told them how evident the love they have for their children was to me. Next, I provided some communication strategies and modeled play therapy sessions for the moms. I gave the moms some examples of how to offer their daughters choices and encourage them to reach, look, or vocalize to make a choice. I modeled how to wait and look expectantly at their child for the child to request continuation of a preferred activity. I showed them how to adapt simple toys and books (tying pipe cleaners to a car and wrapping the pipe cleaner around the child’s hand so she could push a car back and forth, adapting board books by putting separators between the pages so they could turn the pages easily, etc.) They all were so excited and seemed very receptive to all the information. It was a privilege to work with these children and mamas.

We also looked for bean bag chairs at the Nakumatt (K-mart type store) that evening. We found them. They were huge, dirty, and $80.00 a piece!! We were shocked. That was not in our budget at all. So the next morning, we visited Start with One Kenya (Bill and Chat Coble) to learn about their work with water filters and when we walked in the door, low and behold there was a bean

bag chair! After digging, we found out that Bill knows a man that makes insulation (for walls they were using to build a church) using the filler of bean bags! (those little white Styrofoam balls). So he made the bean bag chair and gave it to Bill! We decided to follow through with this and try to get the chairs or filler from this connection. Our NOW sister, Ashely C. stayed behind in Kenya for an additional month of work. Through lots of coordination and perseverance, right before she returned home to the U.S. she was able to deliver the bags to these amazing children!

Later that day we told the women about the bean bag chairs and that we were working on a way to get them to use at Oasis. Bonnie also had the idea to give them something to hang off the sewing tables that they could look at or play with while their moms worked. So, the fabric mobile idea was born. Simple leftover wire and small scraps of fabric were transformed into beautiful mobiles for the children to watch, bat, and pull. These mobiles were such a hit that we brought some back for the NOW booths here at home.

It was an amazing experience to meet these moms and children and I truly feel that God had a purpose for me on this trip. I remember when Leah asked me to go, I thought, what could I offer? Why “me”? I do love the jewelry but I am no fashion or business expert. I am not crafty or artsy or talented in that way at all. What could I offer these women of Oasis? And then I met Stephanie, Elizabeth, Abigail, and Purity. And their mamas. And I knew. And God knew. Leah did not even know that the Oasis group had this community outreach for these families. But God did.


Kathryn Clontz has been working with children and families her  entire adult career, advocating for those with Special Needs and  their people, as well as giving selflessly of her time and heart to  her church and community, her family, and No Ordinary Women.  Kathryn has 2 wild and compassionate boys that are pretty much  as cool as kids can get, and a pretty rad husband who shares her  love of outdoors and small town living.

Kenya Reflections – A Post by Olivia

In June of 2017, No Ordinary Women led 14 women to Nakuru, Kenya, to meet and work alongside our Artisans in Oasis Women’s Group. To say that this was a dream come true, a dreamy adventure with dear sisters, a dream within a dream…well, even all of that seems insufficient. While we could talk for ages about our adventure, what we saw God doing, how lives were transformed, we think that our incredible team can tell you better themselves. We’ll be posting once a month a story or two from someone on our team,                so be sure to follow along!


I cannot even begin to put into words how this trip has affected me. It was a life-changing experience I will never forget. When we first arrived, we watched our surroundings go from a big city to a slum in a short amount of time and it broke my heart into a million pieces. Yet, the people appeared happy and carefree, especially the children. Watching them go through so many hardships in their day-to-day life, but being so joyful and happy and content with what they have fills my heart with joy. Meeting and talking to the wonderful people really changed me. No matter what their situation in life was they were always so happy and polite; it really gives me hope for the world. Everyone I came into contact with, whether it was our amazing drivers or the people who worked at our lodges, were always willing to help and became our friends. That’s what I saw within these people: friendship and kindness.

One of my happiest memories from this trip was after our team meeting at the Flamingo Lodge.

Jordan, Sophi, Avery and I met two kids (brother and sister) who had climbed the wall to talk to us. We asked them about their lives and then they sang us a song. No matter their circumstances they still had joy in their heart.

Every morning I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping. One morning, I woke up to a woman singing her heart out. She had the most amazing, soothing voice I’d ever heard. It was absolutely breathtaking. When we went to the Methodist School for church I was astounded by what I saw. Those kids had so much joy and love in their hearts and they worshiped with an intensity that I’ve never seen in a church in the United States in all my life. Our first day at Oasis will forever stick in my mind as one of my most cherished memories. When the women greeted us with their dancing and singing, it almost brought me to tears (and if you know me, I’m not much of a crier). They are some of the most astounding women. Hearing their stories and how they’ve made a better life for themselves and their children left me in awe. Our second day at Oasis was definitely an emotional one. We all got a deeper look into the lives of the women and those around us. We learned we aren’t so different after all. Our last day at Oasis was also very emotional. It was difficult leaving the people I’d grown so close to in just a matter of days. I couldn’t stop hugging everybody and the van ride back was hard for all of us.

When we went on safari, it was a mind-blowing experience. Seeing all the animals in their natural habitat, their home, filled my heart with joy. I still can’t believe I sat on top of a van driving through the African Savannah on safari.

Overall, this trip has been life-changing. I’ll never see anything the same again. I loved growing closer to all the women on this trip (and especially the kids) and most importantly growing closer to God and traveling further on my spiritual journey.

(This blog post has been edited for length and clarity.) 

 

 


Olivia is 14 years old and a Freshman at Pisgah High School. An aspiring writer and photographer, Olivia is also a lover of the outdoors, coffee, and giggling in the backseat of pretty much any vehicle. Olivia Owens is a founding member of ‘The Quad’. 

NOW does Oasis 2017: Reflections

In June of 2017, No Ordinary Women led 14 women to Nakuru, Kenya, to meet and work alongside our Artisans in Oasis Womens Group. To say that this was a dream come true, a dreamy adventure with dear sisters, a dream within a dream…well, even all of that seems insufficient.

Our trip was filled with the making of new sisters, hearty laughter, exhausting travel, breathtaking sunrises, rivers of tears, worship that knows no language but Love, loads of hard work and so many moments of simply standing in awe of our Creator.

Our primary goal for this trip was deepened relationships on both sides- for our local women to see the impact of their advocacy of our company, and for our Oasis Artisans to be able to share their work and be encouraged in the value of their skills. We wanted both groups to finally look each other in the eyes and see a reflection of themselves, their Creator, and women everywhere.

While we could talk for ages about our adventure, what we saw God doing, how lives were transformed, we think that our incredible team can tell you better themselves. We’ll be posting once a month a story or two from someone on our team, so stay tuned!

If you’re interested in making this journey with us in July 2018, email Leah@NoOrdinaryWomen.org for more details.


 

Jamie Cogdill, 50 (& Fabulous!), Waynesville NC

Journal excerpt June 24, 2017 Saturday at Massai Mara….

The dust of Africa is in my bones-my heart is as open, and free, and wild as the savanna. The rustling of the plains grass will soon turn to the rustling of papers on my desk. I feel restless, on the cusp of change, as I have been forever changed by this trip. How does one settle back into 9-5 doing seemingly ordinary and meaningless things after such a trip? Although I know all too well that what I do matters to some and all I do matters to God so on a day by day basis I just keep plugging along.

Here at safari camp the generators switch off for hours at a time to conserve energy….we have to wait to plug in and we quickly forget we cannot have power. We immediately become disappointed when we flip a dead switch…all things we have in steady supply and take for granted back home. So it is with life…at times we feel powerful and power-full…other times we just feel dark, disconnected, and impatient waiting for the switch to come on. I’ve wrestled with God my entire life it seems, searching for my purposeful outlet of true connectivity. My introversion keeps me unplugged many times and I’ve accepted myself for those natural leanings but Kenya has inspired my prayers to God to help me keep my switch on, my heart open, and to push through hard things. I want to stay receptive to my generator God and creatively stay connected to the lovely souls of Kenya.

NOW does Oasis 2017: Get to Know Our Team!

On June 15th, 2017, 14 women will begin the long journey to Nakuru, Kenya, where we will work alongside our Oasis Artisans and Sisters. After 4 planes in 4 airports, 4 vans, 1 trailer, and 3  countries on the heels of nearly 10 months of planning, organizing, collecting, fundraising, packing, immunizing, and praying-  we will breathe that thick Kenyan air and feel the warm embrace of Oasis founder Irene…and it will all be worth it!

As we prepare to head out in a few short days, we covet your prayers for our safety and health, for eyes to see clearly and hearts to feel deeply and minds to be opened. We are so grateful for the overwhelming support and love that our families and community have shown us as we embark on this adventure!

A few of our Team Members shared their hearts with us in preparation, around why they feel led to take this wild ride, who Jesus is to them and perhaps what it means to be a true servant. We hope you enjoy getting to know some of our phenomenal Team a little better!

Kathryn Clontz
Kathryn has been working with children and families her entire adult career, advocating for those with Special Needs and their people, as well as giving selflessly of her time and heart to her church and community, her family, and No Ordinary Women. Kathryn has 2 wild and compassionate boys that are pretty much as cool as kids can get.


“I have always had a heart for mission- especially involving women and children. This organization is exactly what I feel is important in this world- helping others gain self worth and independence through God’s love! I fee this is God’s will for me. God commands us to ‘live sent’, saying in Acts 1:8 ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’.”

Jamie Cogdill
Jamie works behind the scenes of our beautiful hometown for the Downtown Waynesville Association, championing small businesses and entrepreneurs in every way imaginable. She serves her church in multiple ways on a constant basis, and serves on the Board of Directors for No Ordinary Women.


“I want to experience life outside of my sheltered existence here in my little corner. I want to see God at work in other people’s lives and in ways I’ve never experienced. I want to go in the name of Jesus because he told us to go. I can’t wait to meet my sisters at Oasis!! Jesus is my compass and he gives me direction in his teaching and his love. With his incredible sacrifice I live a hopeful, forward looking life without shame in where I’ve been and what I have done. Jesus is my guide and helps me step outside myself and interact with the world in a much more loving, compassionate way. God calls for us to have compassionate hearts and to exhibit trustworthiness just as he sent Jesus to serve and give his life…the ultimate servant.”

Ashley Creason
Ashley has recently graduated with her Masters in Social Work and has always been an active part of her church and community. Her strong leadership skills and passion for justice will take her far in her chosen field, and we are so proud of her accomplishments. Ashley and her husband have recently relocated to Washington State.


“I didn’t choose Kenya, Kenya chose me. I had a yearning to do a mission trip and somehow use my social work training. I was researching options and soon realized that I was focusing too much on a location that I wanted to go, and that missions isn’t about my desires…when Leah brought up this opportunity I immediately felt a peace and calling to go! To serve means that you’re working for God’s glory and not your own. It means a lifelong practice to show God’s love, not just on mission trips, but to ‘the least of these’ and everyone else.”

Olivia Owens
Olivia is a 14 year old student with a smile that lights up the entire room. Olivia has a brave heart and brilliant mind, and it’s an honor to have her at the youngest member of our Team. Olivia’s mom Bonnie (a warrior woman of Love in every single way) is also going on the trip with us.


“I think this will be a great learning experience for me, and an opportunity for me to grow stronger in my faith. I can see God working in my life. Jesus is my savior and I know that he will always be there and never leave my side. I know he will love me unconditionally no matter what. I am excited to be a servant, which means carrying out God’s plan and word and worshiping him with all your heart!”

Amy Pryor
Amy is a graphic designer and technical wizard. She mentors youth at her church, serves in various capacities within church leadership, and is a member of the Board of Directors for No Ordinary Women. Amy always brings snacks to our Team Meetings, which is perfecto because Leah always forgets.


“I want to go on this rip because it is out of my comfort zone. I have always been a homebody and only traveled overseas once. When we reach the end of our comfort zone, we learn our true potential and our calling. I want to grow and experience and be better than just sticking with what I’ve always known. And even though stepping out scares me, the group of women I am traveling with is comforting. I feel safe and at home in our group. I want to meet these joyful women of oasis. Life is hard for everyone, but they still work so hard to keep their families going…and still take joy in the hard work and their lives. I want that kind of joy. A servant is someone who shows up and gives of their time, energy and gifts without need of a reward. I think people just need other people to be kind in any small way. ”


Lesley Stiggins
Lesley is a Jane of All Trades, ain’t that the truth. She flips houses and fosters children and raises them with her own, helps run a farm and a camp in the Mountains, and somehow does all of it with an ease to her soul and a steadiness in her heart.


“I have wanted to go to Africa since I saw The Lion King as a kid, and as my relationship with God grew I knew I needed to go at some point in my life. This unique opportunity to travel with 13 other women came and I couldn’t pass it up! Jesus led a life of Love, and I want to emulate that.”

Jordyn Youse
Jordyn is 21 years old and wears as many hats as possible, including being a student at HCC, a firefighter for the Junaluska Fire Department, helping run the family consignment business, house/pet/baby sitter extraordinaire. Jordyn has been known to eat Taco Bell while in the drive-thru of Chick-fil-a because how can anyone choose?


“I have always had a heart for helping people and for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to go to Kenya. I remember growing up and watching people from our church go and come back with stories and thinking, ‘I want to be one of those people!’ The past couple of years have been really hard, and I lost a lot of my spiritual growth tools. Within the last year my friend invited me to a bible study and through this I have regained strength and hope. Jesus is so real to me and is always there for me!”

Avery Woods
Avery is (almost) a High School graduate heading to Gardner Webb this Fall. Avery is top in her class, teaches 1st grade Sunday School, leads a dance worship team for kids, is a student leader at her church, attends her own Life Group and leads a Middle School girls Life Group weekly. She also dances in competitions and on the beach with her Mama, is quiet like her Daddy, is a loving and attentive sister to Ella, and carries on the torch of her older brother Tyler by living life to the fullest.


“I want to see life beyond U.S. boarders. I want to reach people with Love and Jesus. Gaining this experience may give me a new value in life and deepened passion for serving others. I’m constantly striving to learn more about Jesus and glorify him. Jesus is where I find my utmost happiness.”