Extending a Hand to the Helpless
About the Guest
In 2001, Christian businessman Benedict Schwartz heard the call to begin creating orphan villages in Africa. God moved mightily, and soon the Children of Zion Village was built in Namibia. Today on the broadcast, Benedict and his wife, Kathleen, talk to Dennis Rainey about their work and ministry in southwest Africa. Find out how your church or business can join in God's effort to save the orphans around the world.
Benedict and Kathleen SchwartzIn 2001, Benedict Schwartz, a Christian businessman from Maryland, was given the call to begin creating orphan villages in Africa. God moved mightily, and after organizing a team from his church, the Children of Zion Village was built in Namibia. There are now 55 children there who are being raised in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. In 2004, Benedict was led to organize All Kids Can Learn International, Inc. (AKCLI), to spread the vision that churches and businesses can sponsor childr...more
In 2001, Christian businessman Benedict Schwartz heard the call to begin creating orphan villages in Africa.
Extending a Hand to the Helpless
Benedict: One young fellow, Albert, was 10 years old, and his parents died, and his uncle sold him as a slave. So he became a slave laborer. And Albert was found dying of malaria in a truck tire.
Bob: They have also seen children's lives transformed and even saved by the Gospel.
Benedict: Albert was found by people from the village, and then they reported it to the government, and the government brought him to us. He is a bright, happy 13-year-old filled with joy, loves the Lord, and it's just enormously exciting.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 17th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear about what God is doing for Albert and other little boys and girls in West Africa on today's program. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You're kind of excited about today's program, aren't you?
Dennis: I am. I'm excited about all of our broadcasts, though.
Bob: But there are some days when you walk in, and I can just see that little look in your eye. It's like "let me at that microphone."
Dennis: Yeah, right, right, and the reason is, is I think we have a pair, and they're going to both scoot back from their microphones and say "Who are you talking about?" but I think we have a pair of true heroes with us today on the program.
Kathleen and Benedict Schwartz join us on FamilyLife Today. Benedict, Kathleen, welcome to the broadcast.
Kathleen: Thank you.
Benedict: Thank you.
Kathleen: It's great to be here.
Dennis: I just have to introduce our listeners to this couple because, in many ways, they are a couple just like our listeners. Ten years ago they were going about their duties outside of Baltimore in business, a computer software firm, raising their six kids, and in the years that followed there was a little passion that touched their hearts that ultimately has ended up with them moving to Zambia and working with orphans of AIDS and caring for those who have no voice.
And I want to tell you, folks, this is a great story, it really is a great story of obedient faith but nonetheless heroic faith.
I have mentioned, you all have six children, Benedict. Was it your love for kids that ultimately was the reason you were reading that article that day, and you began to feel something emotionally as a result of reading that story?
Benedict: I can't say that it was based on my love for kids. I just happened to read an article about street kids around the world, and began to think about what it must be like to be a child having no one to protect you, no one to turn to, no one to care for you, no one to help you in any consistent way, and I just started crying, and I said, "God, there must be something we can do," and a though came, just as a family can sponsor a child through Compassion International or any other Christian organization, a church can sponsor a children's village.
And I remember thinking, "Hey, that's a neat idea."
Dennis: Those thoughts just came to you out of the clear blue?
Benedict: Those thoughts came to me out of the clear blue. I don't know whether the sky was blue that day or not but, anyway …
Dennis: Well, we know where those thoughts come from.
Dennis: They don't just come out of the sky. They are directed by one who is much greater than us.
Bob: Kathleen, let me ask you – you obviously had a heart for kids because in addition to having four biological children, you had decided to adopt two children of your own. What had opened that door. When had you decided to adopt? Is that something you had planned on from the beginning of your marriage?
Kathleen: Not really. When we moved to Maryland, one of the families at the church that we began to attend had adopted several children, and they continue to do so. They have nine adopted children, some of them special needs now. And their example really touched so many people in our church, and it touched my heart, and so for several months before we actually began to take the steps, I had just this call to adopt.
So we adopted Asina [sp] when we was three weeks old, and then I'd often been told that if you adopt one child and you also have birth children, it's better to have more than one. So I said, "Lord, you're going to have to bring this child to us."
So that's what happened – the Sunday before Thanksgiving a young lady came who was 15 years old. She had come to this country from Ghana because of medical reasons, and I told our other kids, "By the end of the week," I said, "We're going to pray and see if God has brought this girl to us to adopt."
Bob: So you adopted a three-week-old and a 15-year-old?
Kathleen: Right, right.
Kathleen: So our 15-year-old is now 23, and our three-week-old is now 14.
Dennis: Tell us the truth, though, did Benedict buy into this idea of adoption immediately or did it take a little female persuasion and some prayers of a mother's heart to turn his heart toward this idea?
Kathleen: It took a little while, but then it's taken me a little while to embrace, as fully as he did, the situation in Africa. So it's both circumstances – you know, one kind of led the other.
Benedict: The Lord has given me a very, very practical wife, and I remember I was sharing with my men's group – this is back in 2000, 2001, "Guys, I really think the Lord is calling me to try to mobilize our church to start a children's village in Africa." And, you know, I pray, I'm going to talk to Kathleen about it, and I went to Kathleen, and I said, "Honey, what do you think? I really feel like the Lord's leading us this way. Is it okay with you?"
And she smiled at me and said, "Yes, but please clean out the garage first."
Dennis: What was behind that?
Kathleen: Well, I knew when he feels a call for something, he gets so impassioned and so involved and puts 150 percent in, so I figured I should get the garage cleaned before he was so …
Bob: Before he was diverted to other things.
Kathleen: Right, right, right, right.
Dennis: Well, that was 2001 when you read that piece in the magazine, right?
Benedict: Yes. Actually, it was 2000, and then in 2001 God just began to open doors, He provided the missionaries who would go there, He provided the place. Miraculously, in 2002, in January, a team of four of us went over to pray for land, and while we were in the air, the land was being given to our missionaries on the ground there.
We were told when we arrived that there would be a number of permissions that would be required before we'd actually be able to receive the land. Eight senior members of that family that wanted to give it would have to sign in writing, and this was land on the Zambezi River, unlimited supply of water in a country that has two of the world's largest deserts.
So we're talking about, if you can imagine, a family giving land off the Malibu Coast or land off Lake Michigan or something like this, or the Chesapeake Bay, and all the approvals came through in three weeks without having any advocate, any attorney or anything running the movement of that through except the Holy Spirit.
So we knew that God had this on a fast track. So we received the land in January of 2002, and laid the cornerstone in March and began taking kids in December. There are now 57 children; all the ones, I would say, about seven years old have made commitments to Jesus; have been baptized by their desire and choice; and they are raised in a loving environment where they know the Lord.
Dennis: About one-third of them have HIV-AIDS, is that correct?
Benedict: Correct. One-third of them – that particular region of Namibia has a 43-percent HIV rate of the adult population – 43 percent.
Dennis: Now, you're speaking of those above the age of, like, 18?
Benedict: Correct, yes.
Dennis: They're in the process of dying.
Dennis: Because they don't have access to the drugs?
Benedict: That's right, that's right? So one-third of our children are HIV-positive, they don't know themselves that they are, they just know that every day they get medicine, and some of the ones who came to us early on as little infants who were too far gone, who have gone to be with the Lord, and we were just so consistently shaken when that would happen until someone said to us, "Don't you realize the privilege you're being given of loving these kids and cuddling them until you hand them into the arms of Jesus?"
Dennis: You know, I don't think our listeners – and I can identify with them at this point – have any idea what you're talking about. Forty-three percent of the population of a nation having a death sentence given to them, but I traveled to South Africa a couple of years ago, and I flew over a cemetery, and over 50 percent of the graves were freshly dug graves. I talked to pastors who were holding two and three and four services a Saturday just to bury the people that were dying.
Can you take our listeners to Namibia and give them a close up and personal look at the impact this disease is having on that nation and specifically upon children?
Bob: And before you take us there, just orient me on a map, because I don't know my Namibia from my Zambia, okay?
Benedict: Well, I would say 10 years ago I didn't know where Namibia was; I didn't know where Zambia was. Namibia is in Southwestern Africa. It's just a little bit north and west of South Africa.
Benedict: And it has a little panhandle that sticks out, kind of like Oklahoma has a panhandle.
Dennis: How many people there?
Benedict: I don't know what the population of Namibia is. There is a panhandle that sticks out. It's called the Caprivi Strip, and that's where our children's village is. We got to visit with grandmothers. I remember, in particular, two sisters – sweet, sweet women; loved the Lord. You know, sometimes you'll meet people who just have these sparkling eyes and the sweet smile, and they love Jesus, and these two grandmothers were taking care of 14 grandchildren, and they, themselves, had no income, but their children had died.
And the thing that's hard for us to imagine is a whole generation between 18 and 40 years old dying off, and when you think about it, that's the economic core of a society – that's your doctors, your nurses, your teachers. It's just beyond our comprehension.
I remember we prayed with one woman who had four children, her husband had recently died of HIV-AIDS, and she was dying, and she was just sobbing, saying to us, "Who will take care of my babies? Who will take care of my babies?" and that affects you.
And God asks us the same thing – "Who will take care of my babies?" He tells us in James 1:27, "This is religion, pure and undefiled, pleasing to God to go to the aid of widows and orphans in their distress, in their anguish, in their agony," and to alleviate that agony. Now, I added a couple of words there, but that's Momentary Amplified Version.
Dennis: Yeah, really.
Bob: Kathleen, you mentioned that your passion for this subject lagged a little bit behind your husband's. Can you tell us about your first trip to the country? Your first time in Namibia and what God did in your heart on that trip?
Kathleen: Well, my first trip was – began in Zambia, because we knew that we were going to be starting another village and ministering there, so we began in Zambia, and we were praying that God would give us land just as He had in Namibia, and so that trip the Lord did answer our prayers. And then we went down to Namibia so that I could see the home that we have there, the Children of Zion Village, and it was a great joy. I did a special music and arts kind of camp for them in the afternoons and just to see children who knew you would have had no hope, who many of them would probably be dead, who are alive and joyful and laughing and learning and developing as children should brought great joy.
Dennis: You know, I have so many thoughts. I recently spoke at Rick and Kay Warren's HIV-AIDS conference, the Global AIDS Conference out at Saddleback, and Rick stood up and said, "If you have a shirt on your back, some coins in your pocket, food in your refrigerator, shoes on your feet, and a roof over your head, you have so much more than these children of AIDS and these people who have been devastated by this disease.
You, undoubtedly, coming back to the United States have to process what you think of our affluence, having come from a place of such poverty.
Kathleen: Well, part of the adjustment is in living there and living close to some of these villages and knowing that I have meat once or twice a day, if I want, and they maybe have a chicken once a month. They have dirt floors, no electricity, no running water, so you would see them carrying the water on their head in big containers.
To realize that you have so much, and other people are surviving with so little, it takes a while to process that. And coming back, it's true, you see we have so much, and take it all for granted, and what's important to us, really, is not so important to the Lord so often.
Dennis: Benedict, I mean, you just arrived back, you got off the plane, it has to be surreal in many regards.
Benedict: It is, and it's a hard readjustment. I'm 62 years old, have had my own software company for almost 30 years, and I have such a burden for – especially for my brother baby boomers in this country, and I think about the Scriptures. When Jesus talks about the rich young man who came to Jesus and went away sad, I became aware how, often, when I would read the Scriptures, I would not see myself as the rich young man, I would see myself as the good guy in the story and, "Ah, that foolish rich young man who went away sad because he wouldn't do what the Lord had called him to do."
When I'd read the story about the rich man who had Lazarus outside of his door every day, and he would step over him, I thought about how many times we have Lazarus in front of us on the television set, and we ignore him. And I thought about the consequences of that – the story tells it very clearly that that rich young man did not end up in heaven, and when you read Matthew 25, what the Lord calls us to and "insomuch as you do these to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me. Insomuch as you haven't clothed, fed, visited, you haven't done unto me. Depart from me."
That's shocking, and yet we live in such a sense of denial – "Well, God has blessed me. He has given me all this." Yeah, He's given us all this but toward what end, to whom much is given, much is required. And we have the opportunity; we have the skill sets to make such a huge difference in the rest of the world.
One of the things that we saw when we began the next village, the one in Zambia – we have 230 acres there, an hour and 15 minutes north of the capital of Zambia, Lusaka, and one of the things that we realized was we need to be doing not only orphan care, but we need to be involved in training young adults and in doing economic development.
So I see the call as different parts of the body of Christ having different giftings coming together to solve enormous problems. Rick Warren says that the HIV-AIDS crisis is resulting in the largest humanitarian crisis that the world has ever seen and that the only organization that has the mandate, the history, and the breadth of presence throughout this creation is the church, the body of Christ.
And that is the call, for we in the church who have been given so much who have these gifts and talents to get together with our brothers and sisters who are in such enormous need to share those talents and to solve these problems.
Dennis: And Benedict, what you and Kathleen are talking about is ultimately deploying the church against this problem, and that's what we've been all about here in partnering with Saddleback and Rick Warren around the Global AIDS Conference, calling the church to establish an orphan care adoption/foster care ministry that can begin to take laymen and women, like yourselves, take their heart and their passion that they have for orphans, and begin to equip them to establish an orphan care ministry that's in the local church that can begin to touch the world from that place.
And so the first action point I'd have out of our conversation today is I'd encourage listeners who are resonating with Kathleen and Benedict and what they have given their lives to, to write us and get a copy of our book that we put together, "How to Launch an Orphan's Ministry in Your Local Church."
It's got a DVD that goes with it, and it really is very simple. There's going to be a lot of pain associated with it because it's difficult to get this off the ground and get it going but you know what? It's worth it.
The second application I'd like to give our listeners is coming up May 1 through 3. We are having the fourth summit for orphan care providers, foster care leaders, adoption organizations, foundations, churches that are doing this, and we're doing it at Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale in partnership with them and about 80 other organizations.
And I would just encourage our listeners to come near the needs of orphans and to come and join us at this summit on behalf of those who have no voice and come and find out practically and meet Benedict and Kathleen and find out how they've done it and how you can do it in your church, and I want to tell you something – this is a treasure trove of spiritual growth for your church. There is all kinds of life around this.
I wish we had more time right now, Benedict, to hear just about what this did to your church. We'll talk more about that later, but, Bob, this is a great opportunity for the church, this global crisis really is perfect for the church to meet.
Bob: Well, and the details of the events you're talking about are on our website at FamilyLife.com. Now, you said you wanted people to write us to get information about this – people don't write you anymore, Dennis.
Dennis: Did I really say that?
Bob: You said, "I want people to write us."
Dennis: On the e-mail, e-mail us.
Bob: Okay, e-mail would work. Actually, you can just go to the website, FamilyLife – "I want you to write us," I'm thinking, "Nobody writes anybody anymore."
Dennis: Well, I've just – I was …
Bob: My Mom kind of …
Dennis: I was on passion overload, Bob, and I – go online at FamilyLife.com and find out all about what we're talking about here and you know what? There will be a link there to Benedict and Kathleen's ministry, and you can find out all about these villages that he's building in Zambia and Namibia and how you can plug in there as well.
Bob: And if you do want to use old technology, you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.
Dennis: Okay, okay, okay.
Bob: That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, but, again …
Dennis: And you can write us. We still do receive mail.
Bob: We still do have a post office box. You can get all the information on our website at FamilyLife.com. If you go to the home page, on the right side of the screen, there is a box there that says "Today's Broadcast." You click that box, it will take you to an area of the site where you'll find the link to Benedict and Kathleen's website, information about the upcoming summit in Fort Lauderdale, and information on how you can launch an orphan's ministry in your church. In fact, we've got a number of resources we've developed to help churches and individuals find a way to get involved in caring for the plight of the orphan around the world.
So, again, go to FamilyLife.com, click on the box at the right side of the screen that says "Today's Broadcast," and all the information you need is right there, or, as I mentioned, you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and let us know what information you need, and we'll be happy to pass it along to you.
Let me say a quick word of thanks, Dennis, to the folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and in the process of doing that also help support the Help for Orphans outreach and our work to try to equip churches and individuals to be able to care for the needs of orphans all around the world. We appreciate those of you who make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today from time to time, and this month we'd like to say thank you for your financial support by sending you a copy of the Jesus film on DVD.
This is a faithful retelling of the story of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. It was filmed as a major motion picture, it's been viewed by millions of people all around the world and has been translated into hundreds of languages. We'd be happy to send you a copy of this movie on DVD as our way of saying thank you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. If you're making your donation online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type in "JesusDVD," all as one word, and we'll send a copy of this DVD out to you.
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and ask to receive a copy of the Jesus film on DVD. Again, we very much appreciate your partnership. Thanks for standing with us here at FamilyLife Today.
Tomorrow we're going to hear more about what God is doing in West Africa through Benedict and Kathleen Schwartz's ministry. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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