No Matter How Old You Get, the Lord Will Find a Way to Use You’

How one volunteer’s willingness found her a place to serve in southern Kenya

Sidney Needles, Maranatha Volunteers International
No Matter How Old You Get, the Lord Will Find a Way to Use You’
Sondra Godfrey with two students at Kajiado Adventist School and Rescue Center in Kenya. [Photo: courtesy of the Godfrey family]

As a construction company, Maranatha Volunteers International provides volunteer opportunities that most commonly involve manual labor. Ask any volunteer about their experience on a Maranatha project, and they’ll probably describe long but rewarding days of laying blocks, shoveling sand, and mixing mortar. These physically demanding tasks are necessary to build up communities in need but can seem daunting to those less suited to the work.

Sondra Godfrey was no different. In 1996, despite her lack of impressive strength or construction proficiency, she reluctantly agreed to accompany a friend on a Maranatha project in El Salvador. While the other volunteers built a dormitory, the two women baked bread to feed the 150 children who would soon have a new home. This first Maranatha trip demonstrated to Sondra that she didn’t need to be construction-savvy to serve. She could use the unique gifts God gave her to serve in other ways. And that’s just what she did. Whether giving health talks, leading Vacation Bible School programs, or assisting at pop-up clinics, Sondra has worked on Maranatha projects almost every year for the past 27 years.

But the year 2023 felt different. Sondra and her husband, Frank, had begun to notice the physical reminders of age, and Sondra doubted there would be a place for her to serve. So, when their son, Robert, daughter-in-law, Karen, and two grandsons began making plans to join a Maranatha volunteer trip to the Kajiado Adventist School and Rescue Center in southern Kenya, Sondra and Frank made the difficult choice to stay home.

Sondra felt mixed emotions as her family obtained visas, bought plane tickets, and began to pack. She was overjoyed that her loved ones would experience the thrill of service but also felt a tang of sadness when the trip’s volunteer slots filled up without her or Frank’s name on the list.

On the Sunday before her family’s Tuesday departure, Sondra and Frank headed to Robert and Karen’s house to pick up the family dog, which they would take care of during the trip. While there, Karen said, “You know, it’s not too late to go to Kenya.” Sondra felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge at her daughter-in-law’s words. One look at her husband told Sondra that Frank felt the nudge too. After a frenzied couple days of visa applications, ticket purchases, and packing, Sondra was on her way to Kenya.

The school and rescue center in Kajiado is a place where girls escape horrific abuse such as female genital mutilation, receive an education, and experience Christ’s healing love. Sondra’s volunteer group would construct the final building for the Kajiado campus: a cafeteria. But Sondra couldn’t lift heavy blocks or balance on scaffolding. How would God use her this time?

“The things that I heard about these girls just broke my heart,” Sondra recalls. “I wanted to be a presence of joy for these girls, because they had been through a lot.”

On the first night at Kajiado, a trip leader described the need for an etiquette class that would boost the girls’ confidence and encourage them to enter the world beyond their haven. Sondra perked up. “That’s a subject I’m excited about and can talk forever about,” she says. But she made one small adjustment. “We changed the word from ‘etiquette’ to ‘kindness’ and [emphasized] treating one another as we would like to be treated.”

The 20-minute session, which she taught numerous times to accommodate all 150 girls, was very popular. The girls loved learning about table manners and how to politely greet people. Sondra also taught the girls about the power of a smile, eye contact, and confident body language.

“I’ve never seen bigger smiles,” Sondra says. “The girls were so enthusiastic to participate.” 

From baking bread in 1996 to teaching polite kindness in 2023, Sondra’s story illustrates the many sides of service. She is grateful that God chooses us, despite our limitations, to do His work. “[The trip] made me realize that no matter how old you get, if you’re willing to go, the Lord will find a way to use you.”

The original version of this story appeared on page 18 of  The Volunteer, Issue 4, 2023. Maranatha Volunteers International is an independent supporting ministry and is not operated by the corporate Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Sidney Needles, Maranatha Volunteers International