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Friday, 07 August 2015 12:28

Elkhorn couple following a calling to Kenya

Written by  Lisa Schmelz for Walworth County Sunday
Larry and Rhonda Voss with a group of Kenyan girls that they sponsor. Larry and Rhonda Voss with a group of Kenyan girls that they sponsor.

ELKHORN -- Larry and Rhonda Voss are selling their home and just about everything they own. They aren’t desperate for cash, but they are desperate to begin what they believe is a calling.

If all goes according to plan, and it’s heading quickly in that direction, the Vosses will be in Kenya at the end of the year providing humanitarian and educational aid through a faith-based organization known as First Love International Ministries.

How long does this Elkhorn couple, married for 27 years and the parents of three grown children, plan on staying in Kenya, a country about twice the size of Nevada where 42 percent of its 44 million citizens live below the poverty line?

"Really indefinitely," said Larry, a painting contractor who also has worked as a pastor over the years. "Until we’re not able to physically do it."

Where Larry’s sentence ended, Rhonda’s began.

"We’re not going into this looking for a quick fix," added the registered nurse who works in the emergency room at Aurora Lakeland Medical Center. "We’re not going to Kenya to set up a tent and dole out pills to people. We’re in it for the long haul."

For the Vosses, the long haul means trading in their 1,800-square-foot home for a humble space on the first floor of a boy’s dormitory that First Love International Ministries operates as an orphanage and school in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city.

The Vosses also will spend considerable time in Kibera, an urban slum about the size of New York’s Central Park, but with a population density nearly 30 times greater.

"There’s over 1 million people in two square miles," Larry said. "There’s no sanitation, no water, no basic utilities."

Tom Clinton is the founder of Loves Park-based First Love and explained that Rhonda will be coordinating the health care needs of 100 boys and girls on multiple First Love sites and in Kibera.

Larry will be directing overseas ministries for First Love, including expansion of support services for those who "age out" of the orphanage when they turn 18.

"We’ve known Larry and Rhonda for probably about eight years," said Clinton by phone from Kenya. "Rhonda has been here twice over the last six years, and Larry’s been here as well. When I mentioned to the children they were coming in December, they all cheered."

Like many relief workers and missionaries, Larry and Rhonda Voss have to fundraise their way across the globe. Their biggest expense once they’re in Kenya will be leaving every six months to stay in compliance with the eastern African nation’s foreign worker laws. That could include a return trip to the U.S. but most likely will mean a journey to a nearby African country.

Rhonda says their transition from contented empty nesters to international aid workers was in the works before she and her husband even met.

"I like to tell people when I was a kid, my aunt tortured me with watching ‘20/20.’ She gave me a world view," Rhonda said. "The problems are significant, and it’s not that we’re going to fix the wholeness of it. ‘Moja-moja’ is a saying in Kenya. It means one by one, and really, if you’re improving one life, you can change a generation with that."

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To learn more about the work the Vosses will be doing, or to support them, visit OneLoveOneHope.com. To learn more about First Love International Ministries, a nonprofit, faith-based humanitarian relief organization with headquarters in Loves Park, Illinois, visit http://www.FirstLoveInternational.com.

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