Cover Story

From hopelessness to hope

"From hopelessness to hope" Continued...

Issue: "Saving Isaac," Nov. 10, 2007

Kimberly lived in lots of places as a child with an Air Force dad; she rebelled and for years had a life of turmoil until, anxious after reading the book of Revelation during the first Gulf War, and then reading Romans and seeing herself as a sinner, she prayed, "Lord, my way is not working, I'm ready to do it Your way now." She met Kamau while accompanying a friend on a missionary trip to Moscow in 1992; they were married in 1997, with Kamau going to work at Ministry of Caring, a Wilmington, Del., feeding program.

By 2005 they were "used to the American way of life," Kamau said: "I had a four-bedroom home. I also had my memories. I was 30 when my mother died, and years later I feel the pain. How does a 5-year-old deal with losing parents? I know what it is like to live in the slums . . . and then here comes this white man giving up his suburban life."

"This white man" is Benedict Schwartz, a Maryland software CEO who learned about the low-tech world while developing an AIDS orphans village in Namibia. Schwartz created an evangelical ministry that directs the project, All Kids Can Learn International (AKCLI), and recruited conscientious Christians like Kamau. Schwartz has now plunged in further: In July he and his family uprooted themselves from the United States and moved to the Village of Hope.

Schwartz has also hired a business-minded pastor, Emmanuel Lusumpa, to be his overall administrator. The 44-year-old Lusumpa grew up in Lusaka poverty and in 1981 "came to understand the gospel, that it's all by grace." He regularly faces government bureaucrats who believe in a different kind of grace-but AKCLI will not pay bribes. Schwartz and Lusumpa have tried to develop their own community base by networking with local village leaders, farmers, tourist lodge owners, and churches.

Schwartz realizes the need to stay in the background. As Lusumpa put it about Zambian sellers, "If they know money is coming from America, they exaggerate their prices. Once they see a white man, the price is doubled." Racial politics are also important: "When Benedict wanted to rebuff a man who was not working well, I pulled him back. The man might complain to the government that a white man is abusing him, and the government might then deport Benedict. If a person needs to be fired, I'll fire him." AKCLI (akcli.org) has a Zambian board of directors.

Seven North American churches now support the Village of Hope, and Schwartz is recruiting others to build and adopt orphan cottages on the property, to take mission trips to the farm, and to pray for the children. Two teams from the United States had a Vacation Bible School for 400 children this past summer, and two Americans taught five Zambians to be welders.

Schwartz does not want government money for the project, believing that it would hamper rather than help. To maintain one cottage of 8-10 children plus a widow caregiver costs $500 per month: His goal is one church, one cottage, including financial and prayer support. He would like to see a team from a supporting church take a mission trip every 12-18 months to visit the children and develop relationships with them. A website that will allow church members to see current photos of their kids, updated each month, is under construction.

Schwartz's challenge to Americans who have already attained wealth: "Don't think of what kind of home entertainment system or which set of golf clubs to buy. Think of lives that could be changed for the better."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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