Championing Children as They Grow, Even from Afar

HandsGood morning. My name is Katy Peachey, and if you attend Good Shepherd regularly, there is a very good chance that you know me, you’ve heard of me, or you’ve seen me running around. I work with the Children’s Ministry, I’ve served as an Assisting Minister, and growing up I was always in one of the choirs. Today, however, I’d like to reach out on behalf of Good Shepherd’s Mnene Parish Outreach Ministry.

For those of you who are new, Good Shepherd began a partnership with Mnene Parish in Zimbabwe in 2002. Within this parish is a church, hospital, orphanage, primary school, and secondary school. It’s also waaay bigger than it sounds, and I know that because I got to travel to Zimbabwe with our ministry team in 2017. Part of our mission at GSLC since interactions began has been funding the care and education of 44 youth who were orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe. In 2009, Good Shepherd began its “Adopt an Orphan” program where members or families in our congregation were (and still are) paired with one of said youth. We, the “adoptive family,” support our orphan with prayers, letters, and pictures to share God’s love with each other.

Since it’s been about 17 years since this team began, these kids who we have helped to raise are young adults now. Three of them are even college graduates! So… now what? Anyone on the outreach team will tell you we do not plan to break ties with these kids at all. Peggy Ruopp, our chair, equates it to raising children of your own; you typically support your own children—sometimes financially, but mostly through love and emotional support—for your entire life. The real hot-button issue is: how do we help them become self-sufficient?

The late Dr. Rita Pierson was an educator who said in an exceptionally moving TED talk that “every child deserves a champion. An adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best that they can possibly be.” There is a very big possibility that I will become a teacher within the next five years, so that really resonated with me.

On any given Sunday, everyone I greet will ask me, “How’s school going, what classes am I taking, what am I studying, what do I want to do?” (And I love to answer these questions. Our Good Shepherd families ask our Mnene Young Adults the same questions in our letters. It shows investment in the person I am and that I’m trying to be. Thanks to people like you, I have a churchful of Champions to choose from.

A few months ago, though, I walked into the library for our monthly Mnene team meeting. Now, I am learning how to be an adult, so in our small talk before the meeting started, I mentioned my sorry excuse for a personal budget to Kristen Hoyle. She is a Certified Public Accountant and she was even the treasurer here at Good Shepherd for a while. So, naturally, she jumped right in to say that if I ever wanted to make a budget for myself that she would help me out.

THAT level of outreach is what our kids in Zimbabwe need. They need adults who will actively advise them on adult skills and work with them routinely to continue to help them build those skills. The big problem is: how do we help with that from across the Atlantic Ocean?

The reality is, between different schools, different personalities, different ideas, plans, abilities, and focus or motivation levels, these young adults have had very different experiences from each other. There’s no way to lump them all together, and certainly no singular way to approach this. What we do know, though, is that without parents, it’s hard for these kids to find the Champion that Dr. Pierson mentions. And in many ways, those of you who have been writing to our friends in Zimbabwe are the only adults they have in their lives.

It hit me in that meeting that I have such wonderful role models in you, the members of Good Shepherd. You are always so generous to share your time, money, talents, and prayers with me and with people in your community. And it may seem hard to connect with the idea of our Mnene ministry because they’re so far away. But the thing that overwhelmed me to the point where I cried in the middle of our meeting was that these kids… they’re me. They’re young adults in school or in the workforce, hoping against hope that this education is going to be enough to support themselves, and they’re doing that in the face of an 80% unemployment rate nationwide. They’re confused like me, they’re learning as they go like me, they’re trying like me. And they need the people in their network to reach out and help teach them how to cook a new dish like Cortney Tyson has taught me, or how to make a budget like Kristen Hoyle has offered to me.

If you’ve been a part of our Mnene ministry in any way, I thank you SO very much and ask that you keep doing what you’re doing because you’re doing something good. If not, I encourage you to ask about this program. Maybe you’re the one who has an idea that can teach something new and beneficial to our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, from so far away.

Wondering how you can help? Penny Wars and wristband sales to support this outreach ministry at Good Shepherd will be ongoing through May 19! And, you can always contact the church office to learn more.

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