Imagine that it is late 1993, you are working for International Bible Society, and you have been dispatched to Russia (after the fall of the USSR) to help repopulate the country with Bibles since the communists destroyed nearly every Bible during their atheist rule. Your mission is to go through any door that will open and offer to provide them with Bibles…and some of those doors are orphanages that are run by the government. Keep in mind that the communist approach had been centralized government that “took care of everything.” And while the communist government was pouring most of its resources into waging the Cold War with America, social services, including operating the state-run orphanages, were severely underfunded, resulting in atrocious conditions.
When you walk through the door of several orphanages, you are appalled and shocked at the conditions. You find very few staff supervising multitudes of underfed and malnourished children. Overcrowding in the orphanages was a huge problem as children were left by their parents as economic conditions continued to deteriorate. Some of the orphaned children are running around in the winter time with no shoes and a lack of adequate clothing. Facilities are beginning to crumble from neglect. Essentially, these orphanages are islands of neglect and despair. These vulnerable orphans are children of God too! And the Holy Spirit taps something deep inside you to do something about it.
Your name is George Steiner and your answer to the inspiration and nudging of the Holy Spirit is to create an organization to provide hope to the orphaned children. Twenty-five years ago, in 1994, Children’s HopeChest was established. As with any new endeavor, a variety of approaches were tried, some didn’t work so well, and others resulted in success. While the concept of child sponsorship had been around for a while, the HopeChest leadership team was inspired to create a unique twist to child sponsorship.
They recognized the power of a community coming together to help another community and this was manifested by connecting a group of believers in one church to a group of children in one orphanage through the idea of sponsorship.
This innovative approach of Community-to-Community is still the centerpiece of the HopeChest model. It has proven to be a crucial ingredient in transforming both of the communities. Trusting relationships have an opportunity to flourish and within that space, we have seen that true transformation can take root on both sides of the relationship. To see this same idea being replicated by young adults who have been part of our CarePoints is rewarding and inspirational.
Mkhuleko Mangwe is a young man in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) who has decided to defy all odds and follow his music dream. His father died when he was young and the homestead of his mother and siblings plunged into deep poverty. He attended and participated in the Music Ministry program that is offered at HopeChest’s CarePoints. And through the scholarship assistance program, Mkhuleko graduated from university last year with a degree in information technology, which he enjoys as much as his music. The leader of the Music Ministry, Londiwe Dlamini, said, “At first I thought he was delusional to think he could make a living out of music in his genre of gospel hip hop. But in the last two years, Mkhuleko has made a name among young people who follow Christ and love hip hop, he has released a number of singles that have done well and also hosted successful gospel shows.” His mother reports that he has become the bread-winner in their family while influencing his siblings to passionately follow Christ.
Londiwe goes on to explain, “Earlier this year, Mkhuleko shocked us more when he shared how he wanted to use his growing fame in his community to improve the lives of the elderly people. He has rallied a lot of his followers in coming together to make a difference in their village.”
With his leadership, they started the Endlini kaGogo Foundation which translates to “Grandmother’s hut – a room of comfort, peace, and happiness where children run to for wisdom and teachings.” This group of young people bring hope to these elders by being there to listen to them, praying for them, doing house chores for them, buying groceries, and repairing their huts and fences using donations from their Foundation.
There are thousands and thousands of stories of transformation like Mkhuleko’s because of the Community-to-Community approach that focuses not only on the individual child, but on the community around them. And to see youth reinvesting in their own communities, those who have been transformed in-turn transforming others…well there simply is no better return on investment than that.
In the 25 years since our founding, our Community-to-Community approach has expanded to include North American communities of churches, businesses, schools, and like-minded groups of individuals (Connect Communities) who connect with one of our 124 CarePoints in one of the seven countries we now operate in. Over 34,000 individuals are being directly and indirectly impacted through HopeChest programming and the ripple effect is immense. These initial 25 years have been an amazing journey authored by God and we are excited about what is coming for the next 25 years.
We invite you to join in on the journey by making a meaningful donation as there are some innovative approaches that are about to gain full-sail as we head into 2020. Your gift will provide our organization with momentum to charge full speed into the new year.
Join us, by making a donation at: hopechest.org/transformation