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 eSwatini, 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 eSwatini.
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 eSwatini 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 eSwatini 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 children have found shelter. But we believe that God has called us at Grand Staff Ministries to show vulnerable and orphaned children in eSwatini 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 eSwatini. That they will know the Father's heart and share it with others.
It took over two years to raise the funds, but we broke ground in July, 2016. Initially called Angel's Rest, our first care home was completed, and Angel moved into the home late April, 2017. We later changed the name to Shepherd's Care Home.
Angel was able to move into the home of our first house parents, Patrick and Siza. She's pictured above, left, with one of their sons, and on the right, with the couple. The middle picture is Becky with Angel, August, 2016.
It's not been all smooth-sailing. Angel had 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 and poisoned by a jealous mother who's a witch doctor . . . two sisters were abandoned by their mother, then locked in the house by their father without food or water--and terribly abused . . . two other sisters' mother died from cancer and their fathers wouldn't take care of them . . . one was rescued from being a slave on her grandmother's homestead--the stories are repeated all over eSwatini. But all of these children have been rescued now. They are learning what it means to be valued and part of a forever family. We're so thankful!
We have space to build several more of these homes.
Our feeding kitchen/preschool opened September 11, 2018. We're excited about serving the children of the village of Sipete in this way.
Little Lambs Preschool:
In August, 2019, we hired new house parents who are taking excellent care of all the children at Shepherd's Care Home--which is now bursting at the seams!
Goodenough is our wonderful house dad, one of the most gentle men I've ever met. Our one boy, Philani, is deaf, but oh, how these two have connected! Goodenough is showing the girls what a good man looks, talks, and acts like. His wife Mbali is tenderhearted and a tremendous role model for the girls. She provides a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and godly advice to these dear ones, along with her outstanding example of how to follow Jesus. The photo above was taken in 2020.
Meanwhile, our church on site, Good Shepherd Church, meets in the dining area of the feeding kitchen.
Goodenough is a capable pastor who knows how to lead the sheep, not drive them. He's exactly what we prayed for!
In March, 2021, while Becky and Tracy were in eSwatini, they moved two sisters into the home. Shortly after returning back to the States, another girl from the sponsorship program was finally able to join the family (all pictured below). We're now bursting at the seams with 12 girls, 1 boy named Philani at home 13 weeks of the year (at the School for the Deaf the rest of the time), and Goodenough and Mbali's son Jasper. It's time to raise funds to break ground on the second care home. So many children need this kind of loving family to call their own!
Elementary School Plans:
The chief said we could build an elementary school as funds are available. It's taken us time to understand how that approval actually works. Two families own the land the chief said we can use, but we need to be granted permission by the families, as well. That's delayed us, but we are still working on it.
The best scenario will be when the preschool children can go right into grade 1 with us. When we finally build, we'll likely do one or two grades at a time, and add more as funds are available.
Copyright Becky Spencer Ministries 2012