When I moved to Zimbabwe in 2006, one of my main responsibilities there was to oversee the building of 3 homes.
The project was called "One Child at a Time", and it was a blessing project to be done in addition to the ministry Tecla does on a day to day basis.
Tecla's ministry is unique in a way that she has decided not to build an orphanage to care for the orphans she encounters. Instead she works to place them in loving homes, one child at a time.
In a country where there is no foster care system, God placed it on her heart to try to provide the best for these kids, which is family.
Surprisingly, in a country where the unemployment rate is 95%, Tecla does not have much difficulty finding loving parents to care for these orphaned children.
Before arriving in Zimbabwe, I was a bit worried that these children were being taken in by families who did not necessarily want to accept these kids as their own children, but rather take them in as workers. Although this option can be much better than what the children would face out on the streets, it is not the best that God desires for his kids.
When I arrived I discovered loving families who had taken in these children as their own. Some of them are related to the orphans they care for, some not. But what touched me the most was seeing the sacrifice this meant.
These families, all of them headed by single women, do not have a penny to spare. They do not have the option of buying more porridge to fill the hungry tummies. Instead they sacrifice their own. They do not house these children as slaves, but instead these women work twice as hard so that they too can attend school with their new siblings.
This is where Tecla comes in. She does not place these children into homes and then walk away. She continues to work with them and their families to make sure they are all provided for. Everything Tecla does on a day to day basis comes out of her own pocket. She works hard to run a business, but not to get rich. She works hard so she can ensure these families are provided for.
Tecla has taken on the role as a caregiver. These mothers try their best to care for their families, but at times this is impossible. Tecla will help provide food, clothing, medical treatment, and school fees as she can. She'll visit home to home, and see where her extra care is needed. But sometimes there are needs that she cannot meet.
For example, when a family is sleeping like sardines on a dirt floor, covered by a holey tin roof. "Houses" that welcome in centipedes, snakes, mosquitos, and scorpions, and offer no protection from intruders. The cost of providing healthy living conditions is a cost beyond what Tecla can provide. But the cost of not is something she cannot bare. This is where we decided to help.
Because of inflation rates we pushed to get the houses built as quickly as possible. I thought I was there for a year, but there was a sense of urgency to finish the homes. Now I understand why.
We were able to complete three homes in three months. Three homes with roofs, cement floors, doors, and windows. Homes for families that work harder and sacrifice more than most could imagaine.
Although Tecla and I worked hard to get everything in order for these houses to be built, the famlies worked even harder. We hired a contractor to help, but it was the families who did most of the work. When one family was not working on their own home, they were helping one of the other families with theirs.
After spending years in a private college and church, and hearing sermon after sermon on community, it was in Zimbabwe where I actually learned what community really means.