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Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 12:01 am

Springfield teacher publishes children’s book on Africa

Most of proceeds benefit African charity

Springfield teacher Allison Gnuse wrote a children’s book about her experiences in Kenya.


Although it’s only a dozen pages long, Allison Gnuse’s book is helping change lives more than 8,000 miles away.

Gnuse, a Springfield teacher, recently published a children’s book about her time in Kenya, and most of the book’s proceeds benefit the charity she worked with there.

In 2011, Gnuse traveled to Narok, Kenya, which is a 3.5-hour drive outside of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. She spent her summer working with Nasha Ministries International, a charity which provides food, clothing, shelter and education to needy and orphaned children and women. The group also sponsors schools, churches and individual children. Nasha is part of the Florida-based New Mission Systems International, which has a positive rating for financial transparency from three separate charity-tracking organizations.

“Nairobi reminds me of Chicago, and Narok is more like Springfield,” Gnuse said.

She was inspired to go to Africa by a study of the biblical book of Jonah, in which God tells Jonah to preach in a faraway land.

“I began to pray about it, and God just made it really clear that he wanted me to go,” Gnuse said. “As I was saying to God, ‘I can go for a week,’ I felt like he was saying, ‘Give me more.’ ”

During her 11-week stay, Gnuse taught in a local school, helped educate people about AIDS and worked with a youth ministry program.

“A lot of the kids are orphans or street kids, kids who are left to fend for themselves,” she said, adding that Nasha pays to send children to school and provides school uniforms for them. Part of the money is raised by teaching women to sew or use other skills. They are paid for their wares, which include sewn items like African cloth dolls, and the remaining money goes toward schooling the children.

“After I got home from Kenya, I sensed that I wasn’t done, but I realized God wasn’t calling me to full-time ministry there, either,” Gnuse said. She returned to Kenya the following summer.

“God was still tugging at my heart to be more invested in missions, and I just felt like God was telling me to tell the story,” she said. “It was on the plane ride home that I wrote the first draft of the book.”    

The book, titled My African Home, describes the poverty-stricken slums of Nairobi and the rural “bush” area, discusses Kenyan food and culture, and introduces several Swahili words like “matatu,” which is a large van used as a taxi or shuttle.

“As a teacher, I’ve tried to teach and raise awareness of the place I’ve been, but it’s really hard because there are a lot of stereotypes about Africa,” she said. “From an educational standpoint, I wanted the kids to see the whole country and not just one little part of it.”

Gnuse’s book is carried by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Tate Publishing, and soon at Simply Fair, 2357 W. Monroe St. in Springfield. It comes with an audio download recorded by Gnuse at a studio in Oklahoma. She has sold about 275 copies so far. Gnuse said half of the proceeds from the book’s sales will be donated to Nasha Ministries International, and she plans to save the other half to finance future trips to work with the charity.

“It’s been a really long process, but this is what I feel like God has been preparing me for,” Gnuse said. “It has been a little bit stressful, but I feel like God has given me this passion to be a voice for people who don’t have much of a voice in this world.”

In addition to publishing the book, Gnuse is collecting recycled books and magazines to turn into art on canvases. The proceeds from selling the canvases will be donated to Nasha to build libraries in Kenyan schools.

“This is not about me,” Gnuse said. “I never set out to write a book. I never had the ambitions of being an author. It’s really about partnering with people that God has empowered over there (in Kenya).

“The whole purpose of the book is choosing to love in spite of our differences,” she said.

That’s clear from the final line of her book: “Love joins us together. When we learn to love, the things that are different become the things we love the most.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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