How we got started: Becky and Tracy met Angel in 2008,
when she was only 7 years old. She lived with her gogo
(grandmother), because her father was deceased and her
mother had abandoned her.
(Angel, left, 7 years old in Swaziland, Africa)
(Angel, right, 9, benefiting from sponsorship)
The Spencer's daughter Sara and her husband Danny quickly became Angel's sponsors, providing her with an education and basic daily needs. Angel bonded with Sara in 2012, when Sara took her first mission trip to Swaziland.
The pictures below show a progression from summer of 2013 to summer of 2014, then fall of 2014 . . . at first, we didn't yet know what was happening at home--only that Angel's gogo had passed away, and her mother had come back into her life.
Two little brothers joined the family, but it wasn't a cozy home situation. There was no father figure to lead them--only men who fathered children and moved on. Her mother began locking Angel out of the house at night when she was only a third grader.
This continued for several years, and it was bad enough that the mother made it clear she didn't want Angel. The changes we saw in Angel convinced us that worse things were happening in the dark. Becky searched for an orphanage or orphan home where this precious little girl could be safe . . . she suffered much abuse during the long nights outside with no supervision or protection. Imagine the poorest neighborhood with men outside drinking. Add to that the cold, hard facts that Swaziland has the highest incidence of AIDS in the world. Then throw in the myth that having sex with a virgin will cure your AIDS. And realize that after a few drinks, nobody bothers to ask whether or not you're still a virgin.
When Becky came home from Swaziland in January, 2014, she tearfully shared with the Grand Staff Ministries board of directors that there simply wasn't a spot available for Angel anywhere in the country. She had checked every possible lead, but it's quite difficult to find a place for an elementary aged child. Angel is only one of thousands of children in Swaziland who are left to fend for themselves. (Read more here.)
The board's reply was quick and sure: if we can't find a home for her, let's build her one.
The orphanage model from the last century has housed many children, and many hundreds of thousands of children have found shelter. But we believe that God has called us at Grand Staff Ministries, Inc. to show vulnerable and orphaned children in Swaziland the Father's love more directly. In a home environment with house parents, serving up to 12 children per home.
Some will worry that we can't reach as many children if we only have 12 per home. And that's a valid concern.
But we believe as we show these children how valued they are--as we make them part of a family unit--they will grow in ways that can't be realized in a more institutionalized environment.
We believe . . . we hope . . . and we pray that they will heal and become part of the solution for the future of Swaziland. That they will know the Father's heart and share it with others.
Angel was able to move into the home of our first house parents, Patrick and Siza Matsebula. She's pictured above, left, with one of their sons, and on the right, with the couple. They have already been helping orphans, and we are eternally grateful that God sent them to partner with us. They will make excellent parents, and will also mentor other house parents in the future.
Becky and Angel, August, 2016
It took over two years to raise the funds, but we broke ground in July, 2016. Angel's Rest is completed, and Angel moved into the home with the Matsebulas late April, 2017.
It's not been all smooth-sailing. Angel has never known what it's like to be part of a loving family. She was on her own for a very long time--not answering to anyone else or sharing normal family responsibilities. She suffered the worst of rejection and abandonment. And she missed her friends after so many years of just hanging out with them whenever she wanted to.
She ended up running away from the care home many times. She said she knew how much she was loved there, and she was happy. But the draw of independence was too strong. The police and social workers finally said that she would be a poor influence on the younger children in the home, and they gently insisted that we let her go.
It was one of the hardest things we've ever done. We pray that our precious Angel will have grace to be able to receive the love God longs to show her, and that He'll protect her, drawing her back to the path to healing and wholeness.
Meanwhile, our hearts break because of the delays in raising the funds. We weren't able to rescue Angel in time.
Oh, how we pray that we will never have to make another child wait like that again.
The good news is that we have been able to welcome other children into Shepherd's Care Home! Some were neglected because their parents are mentally ill . . . some were raped by their fathers and grandfather . . . one was beaten terribly by a jealous mother . . . but all have been rescued now. They are learning what it means to be valued and part of a forever family.
Our feeding kitchen/preschool opened September 11, 2018. We're excited about serving the children of the village of Sipete in this way.
We have space to build eleven more of these homes, so we're in the fundraising phase again.
Meanwhile, the church has been meeting in the living room of the home, but now it will meet in the dining area of the feeding kitchen.
And the chief granted us more land where we can build an elementary school as funds are available. We'd like to have grade 1 done by January of 2020 so the preschool children can go right into classes with us.
Copyright Becky Spencer Ministries 2012