Zambia (MNN) — As the AIDS epidemic rages on in Sub-Sahara Africa, a secondary problem is arising: millions of children are losing touch with their cultural identity because their parents are not there to teach them.
According to the Encyclopedia of Nations, Zambia's population totaled 10.8 million in 2003. Of those, 600,000 are AIDS orphans.
"Without adults from the same tribe to guide and mentor them in the ways of traditional society, many are falling out of touch with their heritage, which has put many at a disadvantage when they head into society, also leaving them open to ridicule," said SOS Children's Villages.
Teen Missions International is in country offering support to these orphans. While it is difficult to reestablish their connection with their tribal roots, Teen Missions is doing what they can.
Bob Bland with Teen Missions said, "[The orphans] are not taught the things they would normally learn in a village situation, such as how to grow a garden, because there's no one to train them. At our rescue units, one of things we do is try to help them grow gardens."
Often times, they lack the tools needed to plant, but Teen Missions provides what they need. "To do that, we provide a hoe," Bland said.
So far, these orphan gardens have proven very successful, and in one village, a child's garden is the only source of vegetables for a whole village.
Teen Mission has 33 rescue units throughout Zambia working to provide safety, food, medical needs and education to these orphans.
Recently at a rescue center in Solwezi, a government van brought Martha Mwitwa, a nine-year-old girl, to the center to be cared for. Her mother had severely beaten her with a stick and cut several of the girl's fingers off for taking some Nshima, corn meal mush, while she was out of the house. The family was in deep poverty, Mwitwa simply wanted to fill her stomach.
The unit lived up to its name and literally rescued Mwitwa from her mother's hands.
"She now doesn't ever want to leave the unit but wants to stay with us," reported Richard Matalokoshi, a worker at the center.
Children like Mwitwa are being helped by these rescue units daily, and in doing so, Bland said they are showing these children a "practical Christianity."
"It's one [thing] to talk about the love of God … and certainly not saying we shouldn't, but people are wanting to see some practical Christianity," Bland said.
As they do this, children are responding to the love of Christ.
Bland said, "There's been a tremendous response among the orphans. They feel that someone cares for them, because an orphan is looked down upon to start with, and an AIDS orphan has a double whammy."
Pray for Teen Missions as they seek to provide for these children medically, educationally and spiritually. Pray for God to use the hands of the workers to impact as many orphans and searching children as possible.
To support Teen Missions in Zambia or other areas, click here. Also, if you know of a youth in your life interested in short-term missions, Teen Missions will post applications for mission trips up on their Web site on Nov. 26.