Paul and Tania Tanner are helping to give children in Botswana real hope of a better future.
The Serving In Mission couple, along with their two children, four-year-old Thomas and two-year-old Arthur have been serving in the southern African country for two years.
Seconded to SIM partner organisation, Flying Mission, the Tanners are involved in huge range of ministries across the country.
Paul, who has been an SIM member for five years, explained: “Flying Mission are involved in a great deal of work, some of which involves mercy and medical flying, some of it training aircraft engineers and some of it the care ministry, which started in around 2000 as a direct result of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Botswana and with which we're now involved.
“We now do a lot of work in poverty alleviation, in health improvement, in education, in resource mobilisation and in discipleship.”
One of their key projects is working to help a small care project for children in Gabane, just outside the capital city of Gaborone.
When Paul first visited Sedibeng Sa Lorato (Well of Love in the Setswana language), run by Mma Mogapi and her husband, just 30 children were going there every Friday.
Now, with Paul and Serving In Mission’s help, in partnership with Flying Mission, more than 160 children, aged from 3-14, are turning up. Most of them come from very disadvantaged backgrounds in a country where HIV has wrought havoc. Mma Mogapi makes sure all of them are fed and taught about Jesus’s love for them.
Paul said: “The gospel lies at the heart of this. Mma Mogapi sees Christ as the answer to a lot of the problems the children are facing. She’s an amazing woman, but it’s very tough for her. She’s past retirement age and has health challenges; she needs a lot of prayer.”
Mma Mogapi started the centre back in 2009 but Paul and Tania, with others from Flying Mission, have been working with her more intensely for the last 18 months. She always had ideas of expanding but Flying Mission has been able to offer her the administrative support she needed.
He said: “We have enabled them to set up a board of trustees to run the centre and have helped them in a lot of the governance issues they face – how to access government and NGO assistance, how to make the best use of their resources and how to grow.
“They now have a plot of land and are looking to build a centre for the project. Mma Mogapi’s vision is that this will be a place all sections of the community can use over time. Her hope is to do more to help people who are suffering and she is driven by her love for Jesus.”
The Tanners’ ministry extends far beyond Sedibeng Sa Lorato to include bible distribution projects, supporting Alpha courses, as well as Sunday school and children’s worker training.
Tania, a qualified nursery teacher, concentrates on home schooling Thomas and Arthur but also assists in other ministries where she can.
Paul said: “There is a huge shortage of trained and resourced children’s and youth workers in Botswana, both inside and outside the church, as well as a huge shortage of trained pastors.
“We are working to help educate and disciple the teachers and leaders of the future, so that they can go on and disciple a new generation.
“We have recently been joined by a new SIM worker from America, whose role is to move forward the discipling work we are doing here.”
The family are supported by Poulner Baptist Chapel, in Ringwood, Hampshire, which is where both Paul and Tania were brought up.
They are currently on a four-month trip home, travelling around all their supporting churches, showing their work off to schools and visiting old friends. They head back to Botswana in mid-August.
Paul said: “We have signed up for another two years and after that we’ll see what God is calling us to do.
“It’s been great to serve God and really be part of his work in Botswana. But we feel he’s been doing even more work in us, preparing and equipping us for more ministry. But to work in Botswana is a real privilege and we’re excited to see what he will achieve there in the next two years.”
Pray that Mma Mogapi would be strengthened in her ministry and that she would continue to put Jesus at the centre of all she does.
Pray for the children who attend the project, that they would find a place of refuge and safety and that they would hear the gospel.
Pray for Paul and Tania that they would continue to be inspired in their work, that they would continue to be faithful servants both of Serving In Mission and of the Lord Jesus.
By Tim Allan (firstname.lastname@example.org)