Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Little Child Shall Lead Them-The Story of Saving A Nation by Dr. Elizabeth Hynd

When Mother Theresa died at the age of 87 on September 5, 1997 in Calcutta, India, a lot of the awareness of what international charities were accomplishing died with her. With the release of a few unfavorable biographies this year focusing on what some field missions have done wrong, it is only fair to look at what the many unnamed Mother Teresa’s of the world are doing right. The first name that comes to mind is Dr. Elizabeth Hynd.

Through New Hope Center, she not only provides food and clothing for orphans, but an education as well. I’m not talking just reading, writing and arithmetic, either. She teaches Biblical concepts in a manner that shames the average parent. Hynd begins each day with chapel and devotions, each Friday is a celebration of Shabbat-in fact, all of the feasts are celebrated-and perhaps my favorite is how she engages the children on Christmas. “Christmas morning, we are up early to go to Anglican cathedral in Mbabane for high mass. The children are prepared and practiced to take communion formally in church; they know the scriptures of the liturgy from memory and participate fully in the service. The rest of the day is free for fun in the sun.”

Dr. Elizabeth Hynd’s book titled A Little Child Shall Lead Them-The Story of Saving a Nation is applicable reading for this time of year. She shares her story and the previously untold stories of many orphans victimized by an out of control AIDS epidemic. Her book arouses compassion, sheds light on a much needed mission, and makes you want to board the next plane to Africa and personally hug some of the children whose stories she shared.

Hynd represents the power of one but can not satisfy the full scope of what’s needed alone. She asks for help, but don’t ask her for specifics. She’s leaving that between you and God.

MN-You have a background in teaching, science, and math. What made you consider opening a home for children in Africa who’ve been orphaned by AIDS?

EH-It really wasn’t my decision. I was happy working in Hong Kong when God tapped me on the shoulder and caused me to think again about the desperate need of the country where I had been born to missionary parents. Then the king of Swaziland, King Mswati III, personally asked me to come back to Swaziland and help the country. I could not ignore a call from the King of Swaziland and the King of kings, God our Father.

MN-Your philosophy seems to be broader than merely feeding and clothing children. What is your vision for New Hope Centre Swaziland?

EH-Because most of the middle generations of Swaziland—parents, teachers, policemen, doctors, and nurses—have died in the AIDS epidemic, the country has lost its leadership. In fact, a local newspaper declared that if the deaths due to AIDS do not abate, by 2020 there will be no adults in Swaziland. It will be a nation of children. I believe my calling is to raise the next generation of leadership in this tiny country.

MN-So, why did you write the book?

EH-To make others aware of the great need of our land, to raise support for our children, to enlist volunteers to come help us, and because this home and these children are my life’s work.

MN-How many children are at New Hope Centre’s home?

EH-The number varies from time to time, but currently we have about 50 children.

MN-How do you help these uneducated children to learn?

EH-We use a self-directed program that was developed for missionary children. The students can go ahead as fast as they wish, depending on how hard they work. Most of them are diligent students. There are competitions and goals toward which they can strive in their academic success. In addition to academics, many of the children are in swimming, and they regularly win awards. They participate in other sports. They learn ballet and other dance. They write and produce their own plays. They lead in regional camps we conduct for other Swazi orphans whom we cannot bring into our home because of lack of space and funds. We expect the children to learn to speak in public and to speak out clearly.

MN-What is your greatest need at the home?

EH-First, we need funds, especially sponsorship funds for each child. Second, we need the help of volunteers to fill in the gaps of our staff. Some have come and taught. Some have taught music and dance. Some have helped our swimmers. Some write books for us. There is much to be done in a home such as ours, and we can always use assistance.

MN-If someone reading this interview wanted to help, how would they respond?

EH-They can go to our website where they’ll find a lot more information about how to buy this book and about how to sponsor a child or about how to become involved in sharing gifts and talents as a volunteer.

MN-Just how bad is the AIDS epidemic in Swaziland?

EH-One can hardly call it an epidemic. It is more like a pandemic. 8,000 children are
orphaned by the disease each month. 42% of the population has the disease. The
average life expectancy is 29 years. The adult population is diminishing to levels that leave thousands of children without any living relative. The result is that many children are left stranded, living alone in the abandoned, desolate homestead, living off insects, berries, and frogs, dropping out of school or with strangers who abuse them and use them as unpaid labor, providing a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs, but little else.

MN- Is the government able to help the children, especially with schooling?

EH-The governments of surrounding nations, such as South Africa and Botswana, have
resources to provide child support of about US$120 monthly to their countries’ orphans living with relatives or strangers, but the Swaziland government is not able to do so and gives only US$10 monthly to some children. The government of Swaziland had announced that all orphan children would be sponsored to attend school through funds donated by UNICEF. But recently it was announced that these have dried up, and
thousands of children were sent home before the end of the school year due to lack of
funds to pay school fees. This adds to the loss of hope for the future for the children of Swaziland.

MN-It sounds desperate. Do you have any hope that things can be better?

EH-Oh, yes, and that’s why we’ve named our home New Hope Centre. We serve a mighty
God, and what we have already accomplished here is amazing. What we have
accomplished has been done by the power and leading of a mighty Heavenly Father who
loves these children more than any human could. I’d like to remind listeners that the task of saving Africa’s orphans seems formidable until we realize that if each of us would just do what we can—give, pray, volunteer—one child might be saved and trained, and that child might become the leader who turns the destiny of Swaziland and other African nations. The only thing I want readers to do today is ask God what he wants them to do.