Nairobi, Kenya: Serving with Missions of Hope International

The joy of the Lord radiated from her. She welcomed us into her home with anticipation and so much excitement. Her smile was contagious as we worked to squeeze five extra people in the door. Her home was approximately a 10 x 10 space located in the slums of Pangani, packed with random items piled all around leaving only a small space to stand. kenya2019-30Her name is Naomi and she is the mother of three children, with the youngest being in college. She loves the Lord and her prayer request was for the community around her that does not embrace Christ. We were able to pray over her for strength and perseverance, for the light of Christ to shine brightly through the darkness in her surrounding community, and for the health of her children. She shared that Matthew 25 was what the Lord placed on her heart that morning. She shared how her desire was to be faithful to give back what God had given her and even though it was a small amount, she knew God could fill in the rest–that He could bring more.

Naomi’s faith, pride, and joy made an impression on my heart. I witnessed what it truly looks like to experience the joy of the Lord, and the abundance this brings to one’s life even when we have little to the eyes of the world. I experienced true hospitality that came straight from her heart, out of the love of Christ, and this is something I pray I can emulate in my own life.


While this experience was eye-opening because of the living conditions we were seeing, meeting in Naomi’s home and hearing her share her love for the Lord opened my heart to what was to come over the next two weeks and I was ready for whatever might be ahead as we served with Missions of Hope International.

kenya2019-49kenya2019-17kenya-500Thanks to my friend, Randall, for capturing this picture. The kids were looking at pictures I took of them on my camera.

Some of us were able to spend time at the Skills Center at Kariobangi. The center had a sewing class, knitting, plumbing & welding, bead-working, computers, a beauty school, and a production center that produces backpacks and uniforms for all of the 18,000+ students attending the various MOHI schools. kenya2019-174kenyab4kenya2019-84

kenya2019-163I happily sat in on a bead-working class around a table with the teacher, her 3 students and a few of my team members. They were able to share their skills with us and taught us with great patience. They gave of their own time to create and prepare for exams in order to help us learn to create beautiful bracelets.

I loved listening to the teacher, Francisca, tell of her days as a social worker and how she saw a need to help women provide a way for their children to be educated. She saw her bead-working skills as a gift from God to which she said, “When God gives you a gift, it is meant to be shared and given away, not kept to yourself.” Francisca was able to pass on her bead-working skills to the women in these communities, whose husbands were failing to provide and care for their families. These women learned new skills and were able to start making income that allowed them to put their children in school, as well as pass their new skills onto other women in their community. I appreciated how Francisca used and still uses the gifts God has given her and how she works diligently to empower other women. kenya2019-164kenyab2When we arrived to our second day of bead-working class, Francisca placed the most beautiful bracelets on each of our wrists. The night before, she spent time making a bracelet specifically for each one of us. A few minutes later, each of her students handed each us a bracelet they had made for us as well. I was working with Patricia who was a mother of 3 and very quiet. It was fun to watch her open up to me and the rest of the team over the 48 hours we had together. She made me a beautiful white and blue bracelet. I was overcome with emotion for the generosity of these women. They made us feel so incredibly loved. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from these women and sitting quietly around a table, chatting, singing hymns, and creating. When the time came to say good-bye, I was overcome with emotion.kenya-800


Attached to the skills center was the Kariobangi primary school through grade 4. Every class welcomed us with singing and smiling faces.


Over the weekend we were able to visit the rural part of Kenya and tour Ndiovani, the boys boarding school, and spend time talking to the students as well as playing volleyball and soccer (football). Likewise, we were able to tour Joska, the girls boarding school, and set up a craft my friend Joni put together for them to enjoy. Watching the joy on their faces while they worked on their craft was priceless. 

kenya2019-188kenya2019-207kenya2019-227kenya2019-193kenya2019-192kenya2019-228(They wash and dry their mattresses every Saturday.)kenya2019-238kenya2019-235kenya2019-231kenya-501kenya-502kenya-503kenya-504

At church on Sunday, we experienced very energetic praise and worship and my face hurt by the end of the service from smiling the entire time. Different student groups performed for us and I was able to hold the sweetest baby girl named Joy. At the end of the service, Joy’s beautiful mother, Esther, asked me about the blue and white bracelet on my wrist. I was able to tell her about the bead-working class and about Patricia who made it for me. Esther showed me the bracelet on her wrist which was made with the colors of Kenya. She put her fingers around my wrist, as if she was measuring, and then proceeded to remove her bracelet and place it on my wrist. She told me I was to wear it and remember them every time I looked at it. Again, I was overcome with emotion from the generosity and love shown to me.kenya-506

Over the next three days we worked at the Korogocho Nyayo school to put on a VBS for students grade preschool-7th grade. Myself and two other team members were in charge of the music portion of VBS. Our theme verse for the week was from Philippians 4:13,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

We taught them a song which recited this verse and sang it each day of VBS. To hear the students sing it out warmed my heart.

kenyab1 kenya-600kenya-601kenya-603kenya-602(Two Christmases ago, our church held a shoe drive to purchase shoes for the students at the Nyayo school. Our pastor and his wife were then able to visit the school and distribute the shoes to these students.)

Throughout the three days, the students heard stories having to do with courage. The three stories included Esther, Jesus walking on water, and David and Goliath. They did crafts, sang songs, and participated in outdoor field activities that went along with these stories as well. The three days flew by and I can still see the smiling faces and hear their beautiful voices singing praises to God. We all wished we had more time at Korogocho Nyayo.kenya-604kenya-608kenya-607kenya-606kenya-609kenya-605

I was able to sponsor a child while we were there, which allowed me to meet him and give him a gift. I cannot wait to return and see how he has grown. There are just under 100 students at the Nyayo school alone who need sponsorship, which helps to cover their education, uniform, and food. Please check out the MOHI website to see how you might be able to help. Our church, South Side Christian Church, also partners with Korogocho Nyayo, so if your church is looking for an international mission partner, please consider checking out what MOHI is all about and how you can partner with a school in Kenya.kenyab7

We also went into the community for home visits to share the gospel story, as well as educate on HIV. The particular homes I visited belonged to parents of students at Nyayo, who all had a relationship with the Lord. They welcomed us into their homes with grace and shared prayer requests with us. One repeated prayer request was for a bible. It struck me how in America we can own several different bibles, in our favorite color or design, translation, ones for coloring and journaling, you name it. We have them readily available and at our fingertips on our phones, yet how often do we hunger for God’s word? I sat before brothers and sisters who loved the Lord and did not have access to a Bible and it wrecked me. They hungered to have God’s word at their fingertips to read over for encouragement in their lives.

Later when we visited the MOHI gift shop, we discovered we could order Swahili bibles. Our team took up our own collection of money and were able to purchase 25 bibles. That may not seem like a lot, but it was a start. To see our team come together to make it happen made made me so proud. What a privilege it is to serve alongside such generous people.kenyab8

As we were loading to leave Korogocho Nyayo on the last day, a big group of students were waiting for us as we boarded the bus. We exchanged high fives and hugs. As I got to the bus, students started singing the theme song from the week. I loaded the bus with tears in my eyes. My heart was full hearing the words I knew would be ringing in their hearts and minds long after we left them. What a privilege to be able to share passions, talents, and the love of Christ with others and what a gift it is to be the recipient of appreciation and gratitude.kenya-700

Our team headed to the Masai Mara for a few days to decompress and that is just what we did. I loved taking in the big expanse of God’s creation and thinking back on two weeks full of amazing people, new friendships, and absolutely wonderful experiences. God is shining His light brightly in our brothers and sisters in Kenya. It was a privilege to be able to serve alongside them and hopefully provide some encouragement for all they are doing in the lives and communities they are impacting. kenya2019-375


Lifestyle Farm Session: Strawn Family|Springfield, IL Photographer

My favorite place to capture a family is at their home or a place they are comfortable being themselves. I loved getting to know this family as we walked around their property. The girls warmed up to me as they twirled and showed me how they love to climb and it wasn’t long before they felt right at home in front of my camera;)strawn-068strawn-078strawn-209strawn1strawn-096strawn-119strawn5strawn-117strawn4strawn-158strawn2strawn-218strawn-245strawn3strawn-308

6 Months Old: Hudson | Springfield, IL Family+Lifestyle Photographer

Watching clients grow up will never get old! Hudson is already 6 months old and handsome as ever with those blue eyes and great big smile.

His newborn session was full of tears and most likely stressful for mom and dad, but this time around was different. This session was full of joy and ease and it made my heart smile watching them all share the genuine smiles with one another!


50th Wedding Anniversary Session: Donna+Claude |Springfield, IL Photographer

“There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” -Martin Luther

50 years of marriage is worth celebrating—It’s worth holding hands and walking in the park to capture a few sweet moments in this grand life God has given you together. ♥️

Take the pictures, write the newspaper article, take the trip, enjoy time together…whatever you decide to do, celebrate the love you have sacrificially given to each other day in and day out to make it however far you have come and then keep going!


Kaitlyn+Peter|Engagement|Springfield, IL

This IT guy knew the way to his librarian’s heart by incorporating their shared love for Harry Potter in his proposal. Not only did he have custom wands made, but he also designed her a custom ring. Kaitlyn’s father passed away a couple years ago, so Peter used the stones from her dad’s ring to create hers. I absolutely love the thoughtfulness and meaning behind her ring and I loved watching these two interact even more. Peter put Kaitlyn at ease and made her laugh all throughout their session. I can’t wait to photograph all the smiles and laughter on their wedding day this coming fall.

And because…Harry Potter.

“Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world”

— Professor McGonagall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Quinn Sophia|Lifeyle+Newborn|Springfield, IL

Bringing home a new baby is full of so many emotions. As a parent, the love you have for your children can be overwhelming. Sometimes you might feel as though your heart might explode as you watch your children grow in their love for one another. Parenting is not always easy as you wade through life with a new exhaustion. Life with two does not allow for as many adult naps as it did with one. Toddlers have an excess amount of energy and curiosity for life that you are still responsible for. These moments though, sitting together as a family, relishing those incredible snippets of joy and laughter, sweet kisses and hugs, these are the moments that make it worth it. Combine these moments with the sheer determination and endurance of a parent’s love and desire to give their children the world and you have the makings of a pretty sweet life.quinn-249quinn2quinn-267quinn-074quinn-009quinn-230quinn-089quinn-098quinn3quinn-152

The Jett Pack Adoption Campaign|2 Adoption stories in 1

Today’s post is by my friend, Tandra. We work together at Black Hawk Elementary and she is an incredible teacher. We share a love for Jesus and I know without a doubt our paths were meant to cross. Today she is sharing her story of how God lead her to adoption in more than one way. Because adoption is so expensive, I would love for us to come together to help her raise the $22,545 to bring home her next baby.  At the end of her story, I will share a couple links of ways in which you all can help.


Tandra’s story:

Being a mother is one of the highest callings in life.   Even as a young girl, I knew that I wanted to be a mother when I grew up.  

Like many young women, I thought that I would find someone, get married and have children during or soon after graduating from college.  Around the age of 31, I realized that marriage may not be in my future and started considering the possibility of adoption.  I felt that my single status should not hinder my chances of becoming a mother.  At that time in my life, it was something that I was considering, but not actively pursuing, because I still thought that I would have time to have children.  


Four years later, as a result of a medical issue, I learned that I would not be able to have biological children.  I was devastated, and angry with God for not giving me the desires that I had wanted all of my life.  In my eyes, I felt like my life was over or simply a waste. What good was I as a woman if I could not have children?  I scoured the Bible for answers and prayed relentlessly that God would miraculously heal my body and this would all just be a bad nightmare that wouldn’t last forever.  

Physical healing never came, but God pressed even harder on my heart that adoption was no longer just a thought that I should be entertaining.  It was His will for my life, and became my desire.

I was nervous to tell my family about my plans, and secretly looked on line at different agencies and different adoption possibilities.  I knew my parents and siblings would support me in any decision that I made, but speaking it out loud would make everything so real and also meant that I had to admit to myself that conventionally becoming a mother was no longer an option for me.

There were many sleepless nights filled with prayer, scripture reading, searching the internet, and mostly crying.  Something led me to one particular agency that specialized in connecting birth mothers with prospective families.  The name of the company also helped.

Angel Adoptions Inc. was a very selective company that only chose 5 new prospective adoptive families a month.  When I applied, it was already near the end of the month and I was told that there was only one more spot left to fill.   

Three days seemed like an eternity, but I was confident that this was where God was leading me.  I was elated when I received the call that I was selected to be the final prospective parent, out of over 200 applicants, that was allowed into the program that month.

As the first 2-3 months passed, I excitedly waited for that call that would change my life forever.  I carefully watched the website, decorated and set up a nursery.  I even made my new favorite verse into a decal and stuck it on my future child’s wall.

1 Samuel 1:27:  For this child I have prayed, and God has granted the desires of my heart.


I knew that if God had granted Hannah’s desire, He would also grant mine.  I had so much to offer. I just knew that a birthmother would pick me.  In my mind, I had great answers to my profile questions. I picked only the best pictures of me that showed what a fun and loving mother I would be.  Angel Adoptions Inc. had such a great success rate in placing babies with adoptive parents.  I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I too would be chosen.  

Boy, was I WRONG!  A few months turned into half a year.  Half a year turned into a year.  A year turned into a year and a half.  I only had a two year contract with the agency before I would have to reapply and pay that mountain of fees all over again.  The mountain of fees that both my parents and I had taken out loans to pay for.  Meanwhile, I watched the monthly newsletters that came out celebrating the new families that were created from the sacrifice of birthmothers.

What was wrong with me?  What did these people have that I didn’t?  What made them a better pick than me?  Once again, I spiraled down into a pity party. All the while, watching my sister bring a new baby into her family, a sister-in-law bring a baby into theirs, and two cousins bring new babies into our ever growing extended family.  I wondered if maybe I had only thought I had heard God’s voice telling me that I would become a mother through adoption.

It wasn’t until late August of 2014, that I finally got my call.  A birthmother had picked me and wanted to talk to me.  I immediately called her back, and once again felt God reassuring me that becoming a mother was still one of His many plans for me.


After many conversations, I learned that originally, the birthmother as well as the birthfather, did not want to look at any profiles that did not include both a mother and a father.  A single parent was out of the question for this baby.  She took her stack of prospective parents and started separating them into 2 piles.  A pile of “two parent” homes, and a pile of “single parent” homes that would not be read.  She told me she didn’t know why, but when my profile came up, she put it in the same pile as the two- parent homes.  She saw something in my picture and, on a whim, decided to keep my profile.  It was placed on the top of the stack and left to be read later.   When she finally returned to the stack, my profile was still on top and she decided to read it.  That was it for her.  After reading my profile, she knew definitely that I was to be the mother of this baby.  She did not read any other profiles.  The birthfather also agreed.  That circumstance couldn’t be anything other than the hand of God.

I knew that God had planned this child for me.  She had been designed to be my daughter from the very start, even before she was thought into being.  

The next few months were not the smooth sailing, “little to no worries” months that some mothers experience through their pregnancies.  It was full of ups and downs, doubts and fears that many adoptive parents experience.  One such time was when we learned that the baby, that was soon to be my child, was a girl.  I was excited!  My sister had three girls and I could imagine all of the fun things we would do together with our daughters.  My daughter’s birthmother had a completely different emotion.  Hers was one of pain and doubt.  She was already a mother to two boys and had always wanted a daughter.  She had gone back and forth with her decision several times, while I lived in a constant state of fear, before finally deciding to go ahead and proceed with the adoption.

On April 7, 2015, my daughter, Katelynn was born, three days late.  She was already showing me her stubborn and independent character.  God had finally given me the chance to become a mother.  A mother to a daughter who has the same personality and defiant streak I had as a child.  A daughter whose face lights up when I walk in the door from being at work all day.  A constant source of the words, “I love you, Mommy.”  Those are the 4 most precious words that I will never tire of hearing.


Being a mother has been one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever had.  My daughter is the light of my world.  For the 2 ½ years that she has been a part of my life she has been my world.


Recently, this past summer, I once again felt the strong desire to have another child.  I didn’t want Katelynn to grow up an only child.  I loved having siblings and I wanted Katelynn to have that same experience.  Deep down I told myself that another child would not be a possibility for me.  I would never have enough money to pay for Angel Adoptions services again, plus the agency in Texas, as well as the agency here in Illinois.  Every time the thought would enter my mind, I would suck back the pain and tell God that she was enough.  And she is.  She is everything I ever wanted, but that still didn’t stop the nagging feelings that I wanted her to grow up and have a brother or sister to fight with, learn valuable lessons with, and to lean on for support when life gets hard.  Everything I had with my siblings.  It never entered my mind that I would have the real possibility and opportunity to become a mother again.  It was impossible!

By now, I should know that nothing is impossible with God.

Once again in late August of this year, I got an email from the adoption agency in Texas. Katelynn’s birthmother was pregnant again and wanted to know if I wanted this child. She asked them to ask me first before pursuing other prospective parents.  I leaped at the chance!  My impossibility had become possible.  Katelynn could have a sibling.  A real, full biological sibling.

Many would think that this adoption would be so much easier having already gone through an adoption and with the same birthmother.  Boy, would they be wrong!  There have still been many obstacles and hurdles that I’ve had to jump over.  For instance, would I be able to get another loan while still paying off the loan from Katelynn’s adoption?  If I did get a loan, would it be enough to pay for all of the new expenses?

God has shown me in so many ways that this baby has also been planned for my life.  He has used a deep desire in my heart, a stranger with a wooden cross outside of the credit union, and a friend who has felt God telling her to pray for and help a family adopt a baby, without evening knowing my situation, as a confirmation that I am indeed to be this baby’s mother.

Once again, Hannah’s words from  1 Samuel echo in my mind:  “For this child I have prayed, and God has granted the desires of my heart.”jettgirls-231Ways YOU can help!

  1. If you would like to follow along with Tandra’s story you can do so over at the Jett Pack Adoption Facebook Page.
  2. For the months of October and November, a portion from every family session booked with jclaytor photography will go toward the Jett Pack adoption.
  3. Support this adoption by purchasing a Jett Pack shirt. Our goal is to sell 100 shirts by October 21, 2017.
  4. Give Financially at Go Fund Me.
  5. Pray- Pray for the funds to cover this adoption, for the health of the and baby and for the whole Jett family as they anxiously await the newest member of their family.
  6. Share this post, so that others may here Tandra’s story and urge others to help where they can.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for taking the time to read my friend’s story and for helping where you can.





Adventures in Kite Flying (and mud puddles)


I love the excitement from the kids as we got ready to fly our kites, but the wind was crazy that day and the kites were not taking flight.  You will see in the next few photos how things took an unexpected turn.ImageImageImage

You see, I started taking pictures of the sky and it wasn’t until my daughter started screaming that I figured out what was going on.


Elise managed to get her kite in the air for a brief time and meanwhile Nolan was stripping off his mudding clothing.  My son does not like to be dirty.  But I loved what happened next because I can’t imagine a more fun way to capture a little boy than naked, dirty and running free in an open field.


Nolan showed us his belly so he wanted to see his sissy’s belly too.


I can’t imagine a better shot to capture the end of our adventure;)