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20-year-old Shades Mountain member expanding nonprofit work in Zambiacomment (0)

February 6, 2014

By Julie Payne

20-year-old Shades Mountain member expanding nonprofit work in Zambia

Luyando means “love” in the local Zambian language of Tonga, so it was the perfect name choice for the nonprofit ministry Kelsey Weeks launched in Zambia in 2012.

“We chose [Luyando] because we wanted to give a clear picture of what we are all about and what we strive to show,” Weeks said.

Weeks, 20, and a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, said her ministry calling to Zambia occurred after a several-week visit to the country in 2009. 

“After not feeling like the Lord wanted me in college (and) after graduating (from high school) I went to Zambia to spend the year in ministry,” she said. However, Weeks’ yearlong plan in Zambia turned into a shorter six-month stint when she decided to return home to fundraise for Luyando, the ministry born out of her time living in Zambia. 

The idea for Luyando began after Weeks and Pastor Wilfred Kapapa began discussing their visions for ministry in October 2011. 

“We realized that we have the same passion for serving children and believe that the future of Zambia lies with them,” Weeks noted. “With that in mind, we designed a ministry that would help (children) where they are while showing them the love of Christ. We launched Luyando in January of 2012 with our Isaiah 1:17 RESPONSE, which consists of our daily programs, kids club, feeding program, sponsorship and community outreach.” 

Luyando seeks to meet kids’ needs through first meeting their physical needs and then meeting spiritual needs by giving them a tangible example of the love of Christ, Weeks explained.

The ministry works in the village of Simukale in the Southern Province of Zambia. 

Weeks serves as executive director and oversees the ministry’s operations in the United States by connecting sponsors with the children, coordinating volunteers and helping Kapapa “keep us in line with the vision God has given us,” she said.

Luyando has no paid employees but is staffed by 21 Zambian volunteers who have a burden for their community, Weeks noted. When Luyando began it had about 150 children involved in its programs. Today the number of children has grown to more than 300, and 37 of these kids are currently sponsored by families or individuals in the U.S. These yearlong sponsorships through Luyando provide for a child’s school fees, meals, basic medical needs, shelter and discipleship.

One of these sponsors is Emily Neill, Weeks’ best friend and a member of Shades Mountain Baptist. 

Like Weeks, Neill also has a heart for Zambia and has visited Luyando twice. While visiting in the summer of 2013, Neill had the opportunity to spend time with her family’s 7-year-old sponsor child, Precious. 

“Precious lives in a small hut with a dozen other family members,” Neill said. “She walks miles and miles to school every day. She gets a meal every day only because Luyando provides one.”

Neill recalled one particular night when the “Jesus” film was shown in the village. “Precious and all of her family came. After the film, the local church pastor shared the gospel … and gave an invitation,” she said. “Sweet little Precious walked up all by herself and was among several who came forward. That night, Precious prayed to become a follower of Christ. … Her circumstances have not changed, but her life has been changed by Christ alone and His power. And it is all because Luyando has been faithful in what the Lord has called them to be in this village.” 

Weeks noted that future plans for the ministry include building an orphanage, Luyando Children’s Village. Zambia has the largest number of orphans per capita of any country in the world, according to Luyando’s website, and Weeks noted there are 50 known orphans within Simukale alone. 

“We need to raise $400,000 (for the orphanage), which covers the cost of construction and its use for the first two years,” she said. The orphanage will be designed with the Zambian culture in mind. Rather than dormitory-style housing, the plan is to have home units with eight children in each home under the care of a Christian widow. 

“We believe that this will give our children an environment to call their own and help cultivate discipleship,” Weeks said. “We … hope to start the building process (in) summer of 2014,” she added, noting that as funds are provided the ministry will build the orphanage as the Lord allows. 

Luyando also hopes to have a private school in the future. “There will also be a trade school to teach children a skill so that they can master it and use it to start their own business or get hired when they leave us,” Weeks added.

Thinking back on the ministry journey so far, Weeks believes the best part has been “seeing the change in these kids’ lives. I remember the first week we did anything in this community they had no smiles on their faces — and now they can’t stop smiling.” She also noted they are healthier and are attending school on a regular basis, which wasn’t happening before. 

“God deserves the full glory for intervening in the lives of the children of Zambia, not me or our staff. We simply get to be the vessels to carry out His love,” she said.

For more information about Luyando, plans for Luyando Children’s Village or ways to become involved, visit www.luyando.org.

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