Throughout the course of this year, we at Freedom to Lead will be intermittently featuring segments called “These Are Their Stories.” We will be telling stories of men and women throughout Asia and Africa who have been impacted by God’s work in their lives and leadership through Freedom to Lead.
*to protect their identities, these are not their real names
Matthew* and his wife are simple people of Zimbabwe who lead a quiet life unto the Lord. When the AIDS epidemic swept throughout southern Africa in the late 80s, Matthew and his wife took in four children from their church home who had recently become orphans. Their heart for these children was due in large part to Matthew’s wife having grown up as an orphan herself. She knew firsthand what it’s like to walk that lonely road and is using her story to give her life to others. Over the years they began to add to the number of children they would bring in and care for. Today their ministry to these orphans have expanded to 66 orphans that reside with them. In addition to these 66, over 100 children are fed meals every day by their ministry.
Like many other things in southern Africa, it is more than just about one person and one ministry. It’s about a community. Others from the community have become inspired by their love for the orphans and began to donate supplies, livestock, and land. Matthew and his wife have four biological children of their own and the whole family has taken part in caring for these lost ones. It’s not just “mom and dad’s ministry.” Their family eats whatever the orphans eat. One cow is slaughtered to feed all of them for a month. There are about several dozen chickens, too, that reside with them on the 100-acre farm someone donated to them.
Matthew and his family are currently making plans to build a school on the farm compound that would meet the unique educational needs of these young children. Some of the children have now grown into adulthood and Matthew has provided for 14 of them to go on to college. Today this ministry is completely self-sustaining and self-supporting.
In addition to his work with the orphans, Matthew is an evangelist and pastor. He oversees several churches in his area. His own growing church is about to become two churches. God is growing the church through the quiet obedience of people like Matthew.
When you meet Matthew you would never know all this. In a large group he doesn’t say a whole lot, but when he does people listen. His quiet words of humility are worth emulating. I think if you asked him he would say that he’s simply trying to follow daily in Christ-likeness.
Participation in The Garden Project
Matthew is one of the participants with Freedom to Lead’s The Garden Project. He and 22 of his ministry partners from southern and eastern Africa recently met together to go through a leadership module on Leading Change. Together they talked and wrestled what it means to lead their people through a change that is both natural and necessary, but can also be quite difficult. This was their second time meeting together. Over the next three years they will come together every six months to enter into an experience that will challenge their leadership and cause them to reassess what this Christ-centered leadership looks like in their specific ministry context. At the end of each time, people like Matthew will go home, begin to implement the simple truths they have learned, pass it along to a new generation of leaders- all the while knowing that it could be ten years before they are able to change a culture.
But it’s the faithfulness of people like our friend Matthew that God is using to grow the church. That’s the way he’s been doing it from the beginning and that’s the way he will continue to do it.