In­spired Graney pens book The Marvelous Mud House

The chil­dren's book is set to re­lease on Sun­day, Oct. 1.

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Janelle Jessen Staff Writer jjessen@nwadg.com

A trip to Africa in­spired lo­cal au­thor April Graney to write a chil­dren’s book about the im­por­tant life lessons a fam­ily in Ok­la­homa and a fam­ily in Kenya learned from each other.

The Marvelous Mud House, pub­lished by B&H Pub­lish­ing, a divi­sion of Life­way Chris­tian Re­sources, is sched­uled to be re­leased Sun­day, Oct. 1. The book is il­lus­trated by Al­ida Mas­sari, a well-known chil­dren’s il­lus­tra­tor who has worked for pub­lish­ers such as Harper Collins, Ox­ford Univer­sity Press and Us­borne.

In the story, Ben and his Amer­i­can fam­ily live in a hun­gry ranch house in Ok­la­homa, where they are al­ways want­ing more. They travel across the world to Kenya, where they meet Ge­orge and Mama Ge­orge who live in a marvelous mud house. There, among the mango trees, they dis­cover a marvelous les­son about what it’s like to be full of joy in­stead, the book de­scrip­tion states.

In the story, the Smith fam­ily is over­run by pos­ses­sions while in con­trast Ge­orge and Mama Ge­orge live in a lush beau­ti­ful set­ting where pos­ses­sions are few but joy and peace abound, Graney said. The visit changes the Smith fam­ily’s per­spec­tive about what is im­por­tant in life.

Mean­while, Ge­orge wants to go to school but isn’t sure how he is go­ing to af­ford the fees.

Through­out the story, Mama Ge­orge sings to her son, “We’re

rich, my son, rich in love, strength, and life. The giver of these hears ev­ery cry. Let’s lift up our hands to the God who pro­vides.”

The story is in­spired by Graney’s Septem­ber 2013 trip to Kenya with her hus­band Tom and their five chil­dren. The fam­ily lives in Col­cord, Okla., and Tom and April run New Life Ranch. The Graney fam­ily spent two weeks in the African coun­try with April’s brother, who is a mis­sion­ary doc­tor, and his fam­ily.

While some of the sights and ex­treme poverty were hard to see, April was in­spired by the faith and joy of the peo­ple she met there.

Ge­orge and his mother Agnes are real peo­ple, and the book is based on the true story of the Graney fam­ily de­cid­ing to help Ge­orge pay for school. April ex­plained that in Kenyan cul­ture, a mother is called by the name of her old­est child, so Ge­orge’s mother’s nick­name is Mama Ge­orge.

The char­ac­ter of Mama Ge­orge is ac­tu­ally in­spired by a com­bi­na­tion of three women — Agnes, Sally and Ed­nah. While Graney’s fam­ily didn’t get to visit Ge­orge and Agnes’ home be­cause it was too far away, they did get to visit Sally and Ed­nah’s home. All three women shared their joy and faith, and cared for the Graney fam­ily while they were in Kenya.

When the Graney fam­ily re­turned home, April’s brother told her that school fees are a big way to help be­cause even though school is free, there are a lot of fees for cloth­ing and books. In ad­di­tion, sec­ondary school, which is equiv­a­lent to high school, is not free.

April talked to her chil­dren about the need for school fees, and the kids had a meet­ing on the back porch and de­cided what kind of chores and jobs they could do to earn money to help.

“We started pray­ing about who should we send the money to,” April said. “We met Agnes, and we met her kids and she just stood out to me, how joy­ful and happy she was, and how she served us.”

The Graney fam­ily sent word through April’s sis­terin-law about their plans to spon­sor Ge­orge’s high school fees. April found out af­ter the fact that Agnes had been pray­ing and telling Ge­orge that God would pro­vide.

April’s sis­ter-in-law mes­saged back that Agnes was so filled with joy when she heard the news that she start­ing jump­ing up and down and cry­ing. April imag­ined her run­ning the two miles home to tell Ge­orge the good news.

“I just imag­ined her run­ning back home to tell Ge­orge the news ‘God has pro­vided, you get to go to school,’ and I just imag­ined how ex­cit­ing a mo­ment that would be,” April said.

That night, April got up at 2 a.m. and wrote the first draft of her book in about an hour.

“The Marvelous Mud House is not just a story about help­ing the poor,” April said. “It’s about what we can learn from those liv­ing in poverty. God has cho­sen the poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith.”

Al­though the first draft came easy, the real work would take much longer. April sent it to a cou­ple of friends who con­nected her with a writ­ing coach, who chal­lenged her to re­write the story to make read­ers more clearly un­der­stand her mes­sage. April es­ti­mated that she wrote 15 drafts of the story and re­vised and worked on it for al­most a year be­fore it took its fi­nal form.

The Graney fam­ily ended up spon­sor­ing Ge­orge for all four years of high school and he is set to grad­u­ate in De­cem­ber. They have also spon­sored a teenage girl in Uganda and an­other boy in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

April hopes the chil­dren’s story will in­spire par­ents and chil­dren to ac­tion.

“I don’t want par­ents and chil­dren to just read The Marvelous Mud House and think it’s a great story,” April said. “I want it to in­spire them to ac­tion. I want them to open up a lemon­ade stand and give their prof­its to the lo­cal homeless shel­ter. I want them to get on Com­pas­sion’s web­site with their par­ents and choose to spon­sor a child. I want them to be con­tent with what they have and find joy in help­ing oth­ers.”

More in­for­ma­tion about the book is avail­able on­line at www.bh­pub­lish­ing­group.com/prod­ucts/the­mar­velous-mud-house. The book can be pur­chased at Life­way Chris­tian Stores, or on­line at Ama­zon, Barnes & Noble or Life­way’s web­site, life­way.com.

Photo sub­mit­ted

PLFWured are $SrLO Graney and Ker faPLOy durLng a 2013 WrLS Wo .enya, wKLFK Ln­sSLred Ker Wo wrLWe WKe EooN The Marvelous Mud House, which is sched­uled to be re­leased Sun­day, Oct. 1.

Photo sub­mit­ted

Pic­tured are Ge­orge and Mama Ge­orge (Agnes), the real life char­ac­ters from April Graney’s new chil­dren’s book The

Marvelous Mud House, which is be­ing re­leased Sun­day, Oct. 1. In Kenyan cul­ture, a mom is called by the first name of her old­est child.

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