Tanzania (MNN) — The east-African nation of Tanzania is saturated with AIDS orphans–1.3 million of them.
Overall, this makes 4 million orphans living in Tanzania without the loving arms of a parent.
Shannin Pickle has always had a heart for orphans. When she heard about 11 acres of property in Tanzania near Mt. Kilimanjaro that could be an orphanage site, she decided to investigate.
35% of the surrounding Tanzanian community lives on just $1.45 a day. And 40% has chronic shortages of food. The need for ministry there is great.
Pickle and her family had also been on missions trips with Orphan’s Heart to Guatemala. When Pickle talked to them, Orphan’s Heart decided to help her in the process of starting an orphanage.
Ron Gunter with Orphan’s Heart says, “As an organization we like to never say no. We always want to pray and search God’s heart on any opportunities anywhere in the world. So we made a site visit [in Tanzania] when they were looking for property and was able to travel with Paul and Shannin Pickle and help them look [at] the property and then went through the decision making process with them.”
It was then, two years ago, that Orphan’s Heart started a partnership with Pickle’s new Tanzanian ministry, Small Steps for Compassion.
This week, Orphan’s Heart has a team in Tanzania groundbreaking and starting construction for the first orphans’ home on the orphanage property. Their goal is to build three homes for Tanzanian orphans. They have raised funds for the first two homes. Orphan’s Heart hopes to finish building the first two homes by the end of the year and start fundraising for the third home.
There are currently only 3 orphans at Small Steps for Compassion, but these homes will provide a place for 36 more kids. Each orphans home will house 12 kids. All the homes will have house parents and serve as a central place for community outreach.
Ultimately, they’d like to see the orphanage have a level of self-sustainability, says Gunter. “We want to provide fish from the fish pond that we’re almost in the finishing stages of, have fruit trees on the property, we have coffee trees on the property, banana trees on the property that will all generate revenue to help underwrite the cost of the orphanage.”
Along with construction, the Orphan’s Heart mission team is holding Vacation Bible School for the community children this week. The first day, they had 50 kids show up. But by tomorrow, Gunter predicts there could be up to 150 children. The team members are sharing Bible stories and crafts with the kids all on the orphanage site.
“The children are extremely responsive to the Gospel,” says Gunter. “Some of the children were very familiar with the Bible stories that we’ve been doing; others it was very new to them. But it’s amazing how interested the children were in hearing the stories.”
Gunter says it’s not just the kids hearing the Good News of Christ. “The parents that are coming also, we were amazed at the number that are coming and just sitting on the grass with us, with the children. So the reception is very well. We’re very pleased with that and we see great potential in sharing the Gospel in this community and reaching families for the cause of Christ.”
Along with the orphans homes and VBS, Orphan’s Heart is working with Small Steps for Compassion on other long-term projects. They hope to build a community center, medical center, and have dug deep wells on the orphanage property for community use.
Orphan’s Heart has another missions trip to Tanzania coming up in October. Click here to learn more.