Mindy Van Andel’s passion to serve orphans and vulnerable children began in high school. At 17, she traveled to Africa for three months. “When I was there, it was such a life-changing experience for me as a teenager that I began to pray that, if I ever had children, God would allow me the opportunity to go on mission trips with my kids.”
Four years ago, Mindy’s oldest daughter, Abbey, returned from youth camp with more than memories. “She was really quiet for about two weeks, and I knew something was churning in her heart,” says Mindy. “One night as she crawled into bed, she burst into tears. She said that she felt like God had been calling her to go on a mission trip, but she had been ignoring it. At camp, it became clear to her that she was supposed to go but she was concerned that I would be angry.” Mindy smiled at her and talked to her about her own long-held prayer. The following summer, the two went on their first family trip to Guatemala.
“I remember hearing KVNE talking about Orphan Outreach while taking the kids to school one morning. After a phone call and a lunch meeting with Carrie Parsons (of Mornings with Mike and Carrie) to ask a lot of questions, I knew this was the trip for my daughter and me.”
Mindy and her daughter raised support for their trip to Guatemala, and then served at several ministry sites in the country with other radio station listeners. “That first trip was transforming for Abbey. She saw need in a whole new light, saw God move in new ways, and said she would do whatever it took to return every summer.”
“I love everything about Orphan Outreach,” says Mindy. “I love how they function, I love that they have in-country staff that are very knowledgeable, I’ve seen that the money raised goes directly to support the kids, and there’s not a “we’re coming into save the day and then leave” mentality. There is a true relationship between Orphan Outreach and their ministry partners. They are in it for the long-run.”
Mindy fell in love with Guatemala too, and she was amazed by the Lord’s answered prayer. But a promise made to her in Africa still tugged at her heart.
“I remember as a 17-year old kid, flying over that village for the last time. As clear as day, I heard God’s voice say, ‘You will return to Africa.’ Almost 30 years later, that promise was fulfilled when I traveled with Orphan Outreach to Kenya to serve at Patmos Junior School and Madeleine School. Honestly, the word that comes to mind is impactful – it’s just impactful. Through that trip, He’s given me a deeper faith. With Him fulfilling His promise of 30 years ago, I know I now I simply need to take the next step – and He will be faithful in disclosing His purpose in His time. These trips – in particular this last one – have opened my eyes to keep looking for the opportunity each and every day to make a difference. I’ve learned not to fret about what the days will bring. I just need to wake up and ask God what it is He would like for me to do.”
Mindy and her family have sponsored children in Guatemala since their first mission trip. And Mindy began sponsoring Joy, a student at Madeleine School, as soon as the decision was made for her to join the team. On her mission trip to Kenya in October, Mindy met Joy. Families in Mechimeru, Bungoma, live in extreme conditions. Spending time with those families has changed the way Mindy looks at her own life. “Things don’t seem to have the same hold on me as they did. I’m finding joy in minimizing so that the Lord can use me where He wants me. Sponsorship is definitely a piece of it – but I think it’s only the beginning.
“I expected the $36 a month to help keep her in school. It keeps her clothed, it puts food in her belly, and gives a little encouragement that someone out there in the world cares. But I wasn’t expecting the depth of what it meant to her and her family. I expected to see her at school and get to meet her in person. Never did it once cross my mind that I’d have the opportunity to meet her family or see where she lives. Gosh, I didn’t even consider that I would be meeting her teacher, even though we were going to be serving at her school.”
As part of their time in Kenya, Mindy’s mission team visited homes, delivering groceries and offering prayer. She and the team walked from one of the homes back to the school, and Mindy talked to Elizabeth and Bob, two members of the Madeleine School faculty. She asked about meeting Joy, and the two smiled. “There are five Joys at Madeleine,” said Bob. “Do you know which is your Joy?” Mindy knew her birthday, and Bob had an idea.
He asked all the Joys to step out of their classes, and then mentioned the birthdate. Only one Joy raised her hand. Bob was in tears. He later confessed to Mindy, “I prayed that it would be the Joy in my class. She needs someone like you.”
Joy’s father had passed away when she was younger, and she lived with her grandparents and five siblings. “Her mother is terminally ill and no longer in a place to see her kids,” shares Mindy. “Her grandfather is also near death. As we walked up to her house, I couldn’t help but think, ‘How much can one kid handle?’”
A medical team was outside tending to her grandfather, and two of her siblings were in the house with the grandmother – a younger brother, and her oldest sister. The sister shared their gratitude for the sponsorship, and said Joy was very diligent in her studies because she knew someone was helping her to succeed. She then turned to the grandmother and said something in Swahili. The elderly woman’s face lit up as she rose up from the ground and reached to hug Mindy tightly. “She kept holding me and patting my back as she said, ‘We have been praying for you, and we can’t believe God actually brought you here.’ She saw me as part of the family. The older sister spoke again, “Joy doesn’t have a mother, so you are her mother.” I understood the purpose of a sponsorship, but I had no idea of the true value of it to those kids and their families. They see sponsorship as God’s provision, as an adoption into His family.”
Mindy says the visit to Joy’s house has continued to have an impact on her life. “Being welcomed into her family through sponsorship has challenged me to think about areas in my own life that need to become vulnerable – the areas I need to welcome God’s family into my life.”
Mindy and her daughter are once again raising money to travel to Guatemala. Abbey is also looking at ways she can provide sustainable care for one of Orphan Outreach’s ministry partners. In addition to encouraging Joy and her family through sponsorship, Mindy’s goal is to get resources to the social workers and educators she met in Kenya.
“I believe that’s a way I can invest in the lives of the children even more. I’ve seen the challenges faced by those who are on the frontlines of ministry at both Patmos Junior School and Madeleine School. If God can take my $36 and make it so much more in the life of a child, how much more can He do with my willing heart to do whatever He desires for orphans and vulnerable kids?
"Sponsorship does more than meet tangible needs – it tells kids that there’s a God who loves them and cares for them. Holy moly, to think that His provision in the way of $36 opens the door of understanding to His eternal provision. What we’ll see when we get to Heaven is that our sacrifice for the kids was just a drop in the bucket to all that God was doing.”