Small Places Doing Big Things
by Katy Reynolds
We've all heard the cliché, dynamite comes in small packages, well, big things are happening in small places. A town of 700, Tribune, is rallying around a local mom and housewife, Shelli Miller.
Shelli is the wife of Bryan Miller, a physical therapist in Tribune, and she is the loving mother of four children. Shelli is a regular, everyday mom raising a family in a small town.
You pass her driving to work every morning, you see her at the local grocery store, you sit next to her at the hometown basketball games. She attends the school plays and claps loudest for her kids. Her mailbox is right next to yours at the post office.
She is just a mom, a small-town, Western Kansas mom… on her way to Africa.
"I am just a regular housewife and mom. That's always been my number one job and career choice," Miller said.
Miller's desire to raise a family has expanded to another continent. Miller is planning to embark on a mission trip to Uganda, Africa in April to visit and connect with several children's orphanages and ministries around the village of Jinja.
Miller's decision to go to Uganda was kindled after she read a blog on the internet about a group of businessmen in Georgia that fully support a ministry in Uganda for homeless and helpless children.
Miller said she was immediately inspired by the group of men in Georgia that are changing the lives of many in Africa from their homes in the States.
"Since I was a young girl I have longed to be involved in missions. It just never worked out for me to go so far away, but after hearing about those businessmen that are supporting a ministry to orphaned children from their homes, I thought even I could do that from Tribune," Miller said.
Miller found out about the ministry the businessmen had started through a non-profit organization called Visiting Orphans. Visiting Orphans organizes mission trips for Christian groups to visit orphanages in 11 different countries around the world. Along with mission trips, the organization forms partnerships between people in the U.S. and existing orphanages and ministries in need of support.
Miller said that is why she is going- to find an orphanage or ministry needing support.
"Once I return to Tribune, I can begin raising support for them [the orphanage/ministry] and continue a relationship long-term," Miller said, "It would be awesome to come back to Tribune and find people and resources to take back to those people in so much need later."
Miller will be in a group of 11 going on the April trip to Uganda. The group will travel to the village of Jinja to minister to women and children of the Karimojong tribe. This tribe migrated from the northern part of Uganda and live on government-owned land. They are unable to grow any crops or own cows because they do not own the land they live on. The people live in intense poverty plagued with disease, unemployment, hunger, and lack of medical care. There are very few men, and the women are forced in to prostitution, selling alcohol and picking through garbage to feed their families. The American group will be meeting with local Ugandan pastor, Pastor Andrew, who has a ministry started in Jinja to reach out to this destitute tribe.
Miller said she felt like God has opened all the right doors for her to go on this trip. She initially emailed the organization expressing her interest and giving her information, and the director of the mission trips immediately connected her with the group leader for this trip to Uganda in April.
"I just really felt that God was calling me to Uganda specifically. I told the Lord that if he wanted me to go, I would, even though it would be with very short notice. He has started this series of events and opened the doors for me to go, so I will go," Miller said.
According to Miller, the community of Tribune has been an instrumental support in helping make it possible for her to go.
"The last few weeks have been amazing. The outpouring of support for this effort from the community has been confirmation to me that God is truly leading me, and that all of these wonderful people supporting me understand that, and have confidence in me, and what I am setting out to do," Miller said.
Miller was facing a huge barrier financially, however, she had to have two-thirds of her money raised in a little over a week's time. Miller sent out fundraising letters to her family and friends and talked to local townspeople seeking support for this journey.
"People just walked into my office and handed me checks, and every day I checked the mail, there were letters and cards of support from people wanting to make this trip a reality. It has been so amazing to watch it all unfold and work out… people I didn't even know very well were praying and sending support," Miller said.
Apart from the monetary support that individual townspeople have offered, a group of women gathered together to help Miller plan a benefit dinner. Women from Tribune, Scott City, Leoti, and surrounding areas volunteered to donate pans of lasagna, bread, salad, and desserts.
"It just amazed me. I've lived in this small town for 16 years now. I know first-hand how giving and generous these people can be and how they pull together for each other, but this is for me. They are donating pans of lasagna, desserts, bread and their time for me, and ultimately for the children of Uganda," Miller wrote in her blog. The benefit dinner was held March 4.
The total cost of the trip, including air fare, is $3,200. Miller said any money they raise over that amount will go toward buying much needed items for the ministries and orphanages they visit in Uganda.
"This has been a burning passion in my heart for many years, and I am excited to go and see what God is doing in Uganda, and I want to go and be able to bless these needy children," Miller said.
Miller leaves Tribune and flies into Washington D.C. on April 13, and from there, she flies to Uganda. She will return to the United States on April 23.
"I am definitely unqualified to go on this trip. I am in way over my head. I don't travel; the farthest I've been is California (once), I didn't know the first thing about how to start a blog or post things on Facebook, or speak in front of people, or write fundraising letters… this has been a learning experience for me. I am definitely having to come out of my shell to do this," Miller said.
Miller said her goal was to go and find a ministry in need and come back and raise support.
"I want the community to be able to help take ownership of sponsoring a ministry, as well as my family. I want to come back and be able to gather up supplies and resources to take back and bless the women and children living in such poverty," Miller said.
To read more of her story, go to www.2millionreasonstolove.blogspot.com
For more information about the Visiting Orphans Ministry, go to visitingorphans.org.