This teenager who started a nonprofit ministry at age 8 continues to make a difference in the world
By Kelly Carr
“God’s teaching me that we’re not promised tomorrow, so we have to put forth our best today, every single chance we get. I need to listen to him and follow through what I’m being called to do, no matter what.”
These wise words come from Kendall Grace Kemerly, who has been following the Lord in ministry since she first dreamed of making a difference at age 8. Now 16, she has spent 8 years overseeing Kendi’s Cows of Grace, a nonprofit that strives to support sustainability for communities and education for children by providing the gift of livestock.
“I was just being obedient to what God was calling me to do. It was God saying, ‘Kendall Grace, this is what I need you doing.’ And I followed.”
If this world-changing idea from a person so young surprises you, you simply haven’t met Kendi yet.
Nothing Is Impossible
Kendi was in elementary school when she felt the urge to buy cows (and then chickens) to help people in other countries.
“Livestock teaches a person not only how to care for themselves but care for something else,” Kendi explained. “They learn how to save milk and eggs, how to give it to others and show grace, how to sell it, [and] if they have extra, how to mix it with farming [and] gardening, and create a more sustainable way of life.”
Kendi’s parents, Jason and Jessica—who themselves are in ministry at Christ’s Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana—initially anticipated Kendi would collect funds and donate animals to another organization. However, as the idea took shape, the Kemerlys saw that Kendi felt the need to start her own ministry.
When Kendi first told her parents about her ministry goals, Jason admitted, “I kind of laughed and said, ‘Well, that’s a big dream, and that’s good, but it’s pretty much impossible.’” Then Kendi reminded him that he always taught her and his church that nothing is impossible. “It’s what I’d been teaching, but I hadn’t been living it out,” Jason realized.
Jessica agreed, telling him, “We’ve got to get on board—or get out of the way.”
While Kendi found support from her parents, some adults around her thought she would surely grow out of this idea in a couple of years. And perhaps she might have, had Kendi not gone to Haiti to witness firsthand the people her ministry was impacting.
A Life-Changing Trip
The first hurdle Kendi’s Cows of Grace faced was finding a ministry partner in another country. Kendi had money in an account yet no one to give it to.
“When we started, it was really hard to find people who wanted to help and wanted to work with a kid my age, because they didn’t think I was serious,” Kendi recalled.
Eventually Haitian Christian Outreach was willing to take a chance on a young person who has a heart for Jesus and a well-researched plan to help others. But the organization shared something important with Kendi: People in Haiti need chickens, not cows. That was no problem for Kendi; she soon sent a check for chicken farms.
The partnership continued to develop for a couple years, and when Kendi was 11, she received a gift she never anticipated—someone paid for her to travel to Haiti.
“Going was incredible. . . life changing,” Kendi said. “I saw I wasn’t just doing what I think is right, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
She met several children whose survival odds had been very low. But God was using the chicken farms to bolster families and the entire community, and now these kids had futures filled with hope. She watched these same children who were supposed to lose so much now giving to others around them.
“It was inspiring. I’ve never been so touched by something,” Kendi said. “God’s doing this rippling effect.”
Role Model—for Kids and Adults
Kendi wants to be part of God’s ripple effect, not just overseas but by showing kids in the United States that young people can make a difference.
At International Conference On Missions events, it’s evident Kendall Grace Kemerly is a role model—children, teens, and college students flock (pun intended!) to the Kendi’s Cows of Grace booth, wanting to learn how they can participate in ministry beyond their backyard.
“No matter what you’re going through, you can help; you can do something,” Kendi tells other kids. “We all have different talents; we’re all being called to do something different. You just have to do it.”
Kendi is proof God can use anyone to change lives, no matter how young they are. “I want them to know it’s only because of God,” she said.
If young people have big ideas but don’t know what to do next, Kendi recommends asking for help from the adults in their lives, especially adults in their church. “Talk to people who know business; I have a lot of Christian business friends, and they watched me grow up. When I was asking for help, they had very good advice.”
Most importantly, if people have ministry ideas but are hesitant, Kendi wants them to ask God for his guidance. “Pray, because if you’re hesitant, it [may] mean you’ve got to do it, and you’re just scared or worried. Or it means you’re not called to do that, but you are called to do something else.”
Kids aren’t the only ones who can learn from Kendi. Adults also need to realize how much her generation can do for God’s kingdom.
“Yes, we’re still kids and still growing up, so we’ll make mistakes,” Kendi said. “But we’re not always as immature as people think we are, because God’s leading us on this. If we’re set on this, it’s because God’s driving us.”
Kendi said if all of us—kids and adults alike—put our faith in God, he will take care of us and our efforts for him.
Kendi said she’s learned through trial and error that large projects work best when divided into smaller stages. “It works better because it’s more planned out.”
The current goal for Kendi’s Cows of Grace is to continue through the phases of a large project in Liberia (while continuing with the ongoing project in Haiti). The organization sent two students from Liberia to college, and now those students are back in their community, beginning to teach everyone how to take care of animals, how to farm, fish, etc. Next, Kendi’s Cows of Grace and its local partners want to construct buildings to help with these efforts and get the materials the community will need to create sustainability.
Kendi hopes to someday visit Liberia, if her health will allow. You see, while spending time going to church and school, and running a nonprofit, the teenager is battling physical challenges. Kendi copes with chronic migraines, asthma, and fatigue and is undergoing additional tests. She has an adjusted class schedule to make sure she gets enough rest between all her work and ministry.
“My family is right there helping me get through it, telling me it’s OK,” Kendi said.
As you might have guessed, these struggles haven’t dampened Kendi’s spirit or her faith.
“Sometimes we feel like we’re drowning in the world and its craziness. But in the end, there’s always a reason, and there’s always something that will make you better and make the rest of the world better.”
God is certainly using this teenager in Indiana to make the world a better place.
Learn more online and partner with Kendi: KendisCows.org
Kelly Carr, former editor of The Lookout, enjoys sharing and shaping people’s stories as a writing and editing consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio (EditorOfLife.com).