A few weeks before Christmas, Janna and I spent an afternoon at a village with 42 children on the western outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia. Few of them have living parents. Some suffer from HIV-Aids. All have heart-breaking stories.
The village orphanage is supported by Mothers Without Borders, a non-profit organization. Kathy Headlee, a tender-hearted, strong willed American Fork, Utah, woman leads the efforts.
We all experience “Oh, wow!” moments in our life. But, friends of my hometown, this was a life-changing experience for Janna and myself. The emotions all peaked when I was asked to say a prayer. As I attempted to ask God to individually bless these children, I could not utter the words — seventeen seconds of silence. Anyone who knows me, knows I comment on virtually everything. Charlie Roberts silent for 17 seconds? Surely you jest. Scout’s honor, it happened.
These children receive a top-notch education. There are classrooms on-site for students through the sixth grade. Middle school-aged students attend a nearby school. Once students reach ninth grade, they are usually placed in foster homes of LDS families as they transition into adulthood.
The mission of Mothers Without Borders is simple, straight forward, and visionary: “We offer hope to orphaned and vulnerable children by nurturing and caring for them as if they were our own.”
Their focus is in Zambia where they partner with local schools, government agencies, and other organizations to strengthen these children. They also empower women and offer adult caregivers literacy and business skills training.
The professional, certified classroom teachers live offsite. They love these children and teach life skills along with reading, writing, science, history, and the arts. Christianity is a big part of their lives as they implement the teachings of our Savior in their day-to-day lives. Several have served full-time LDS missions after graduating.
The teenaged kids I chatted with fully understood that education is the gateway to their success. Their career dreams range from cooks to journalists to nurses and teachers.
Janna and I loved watching them display their talents performing traditional African songs and dances. My favorite were the drummers pounding beats on the djembe-type percussions.
After our first visit, Janna and I decided it would be exciting to take all the teenaged girls grocery shopping for baking supplies. We would then go to our mission office, and bake sweets and treats for all the children in the village.
Auntie Josephine, the village director, greeted our idea with positive enthusiasm and we circled Saturday, Jan. 2 on the calendar.
The eyes of these young women glistened when they roamed the aisles of Shoprite. They seldom experience the bright lights, wide aisles, and countless choices offered in a large grocery store. They worked hand-in-hand with Janna selecting ingredients to make plates stacked with muffins, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies — a rare treat in Zambia. Since it’s unwise to bake on an empty stomach, we stopped for pizza and Hungry Lion chicken.
Then the work began with chopping, stirring, blending, and cooking treats for all their brothers, sisters, and leaders at Mothers Without Borders. For the two of us, it was a memorable afternoon where we began to make eternal ties to special young women who enrich our lives in untold ways.
Please do yourself — and an orphaned Zambian child — a favor and check out their website at motherswithoutborders.org.
Charlie Roberts and his wife Janna are currently serving in the Zambia Lusaka Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.