BOTSWANA (Mennonite Mission Network) — In Botswana, ministry focuses on family structures and their stability, both physical and relational. Glyn Jones and Susan Allison-Jones, serving with Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness through Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, provided aid of both types by replacing a family’s thatch roof when it became hazardous for children in the home.
A future with education
By Rebekah Paulson
“Agreement” is the name of an orphan from Botswana, Africa, who quit school in Standard One (equivalent to first grade in the United States) because of circumstances in his home life. When he tried to go back several years later he was too old to enroll. He could not go to government school.
When Susan Allison-Jones met Agreement, he was eager to be at school but could not afford non-government school tuition. The non-government Old Naledi Education Centre did not turn Agreement away but financed his education despite their poor financial situation, said Allison-Jones.
With her husband, Glyn, Allison-Jones connected Agreement with church members from Rainham Mennonite Church in Selkirk, Ontario, who have sponsored the child. The children have been sending their Sunday-school offerings to help finance his tuition at Old Naledi Education Centre this year.
“Hopefully through this he will know that there are people in Canada who care so much that they are investing in him and it will make a difference in the choices he makes later on in life,” said Allison-Jones.
According to Allison-Jones, children who are educated are less likely to take part in risky behaviors that will lead to HIV. The children need to build up confidence so risky behaviors due to lack of self-confidence and peer pressure can be avoided.
Agreement’s head teacher, Boitumelo Phama, said, "[We] want to educate the children because most of them quit school. … We want to put them in school so they can be educated as other children whose parents manage to pay fees.”
They became aware of the severity of the family’s leaky roof when the rainy season came and felt the need to help.
The Allison-Joneses gave money for the new thatch, only to find out that money was spent by a relative and the roof had not been fixed. Despite the fault of one family member, Susan Allison-Jones arranged for funds to be used from the “Compassion Fund” provided by women of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission.
Allison-Jones learned of the family’s health problem in December 2003.
Sensing there were health problems in the home when a young woman in the household delivered twins (one healthy, the other stillborn), Allison-Jones visited the family. There were three children under six months living in the rondaval (house). The rainy season had caused serious health concerns for not only the children but the four-generation family as a whole.
Their roof situation was deteriorating and without repair could prove to be fatal for the children in the home. Every time it rained the family had to stand to avoid contact with the wet floor, said Susan Allison-Jones.
When the finances were misused by the family member, Susan Allison-Jones pondered what contribution she was making. God reminded her of a philosophy of ministry: one kid at a time. She renamed it, ‘one family at a time,’ because in Botswana by helping one person you help an entire family.
When the thatch was purchased in April of 2006, Allison-Jones used her truck to deliver it to the home. The grandmother replaced the old thatch and proudly showed Allison-Jones the roof at their following visit. She was very delighted and thankful that they helped her family, said Allison-Jones.
Glyn and Susan Allison-Jones know their relationships in Botswana, Africa, are immeasurable but essential to their ministry.
According to the Allison-Joneses, the family structure in Botswana is very significant. When a family is capable they should solve their own problems. In this situation the family was not able to provide for this major repair and they needed a one-time only financial assistance.
The struggle for the Allison-Joneses is to discern when to help and identifying when their help will burden the family structure. They feel this was an opportunity that they were able to provide for a health concern while enhancing the stability of the family structure.