Jim Skidmore, a long time friend, sent me this letter from Nancy Dimmock. Nancy and her husband, Frank, are Presbyterian missionaries, just recently relocated to Lesotho from Malawi. This letter tells a story about the Ministry of Hope in Malawi. that I find is a great encouragement to God's spirit alive in the church. I hope you will share it with your friends, families and churches.
July 21, 2007
The Honourable Deputy Minister of Gender, ChildWelfare and Community Services,
The Board Chairman of Ministry of Hope; The U.S. Ambassador; The Ambassador from South Africa; The Director of Social Services; The staff of Ministry of Hope; Foster and Adoptive parents; All children; Ladies and Gentlemen
I am so moved and honoured by this wonderful occasion. What pleases me most is that it is an occasion which honours and values Children. We lift them up and acknowledge that they are indeed a blessing. They are a blessing to our families; they are a blessing to our nation; they are a blessing to our world. They enrich our lives. They teach us about love and joy and wonder and responsibility and challenge and hope. It is a privilege to serve them.
I do want to correct one misconception. The real founder of Ministry of Hope is Fletcher Matandika. This is important for the sake of truth and for your encouragement. This ministry is local and grass roots. It was started by a Malawian and is being run by Malawians. God gave Fletcher the original vision and motivation to reach out to the needy children in the Matapila area – TA Mazengera. That first Saturday in April 1999 when he had a small tea party and Bible study there were 60 children registered. It has now grown to 6 community based child care centers in villages north and south of Lilongwe, caring for almost 3500 children on a daily basis. And it really is a model of care that can and should be replicated throughout the country. It is a day care program which is commited to meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of children, supported by volunteers in their communities and giving support and encouragement to their caregivers as well. It is my prayer that God will raise up more young men and women like Gift and Shadrach and Jimmy and William and other center supervisors, who will establish these centers of care for children, both in the villages and the cities of Malawi – teaching them that they are precious and full of potential and teaching them to honour and serve the God who loves them so much.
It was in September 2000 that God brought me to the ministry. I had been helping Fletcher behind the scenes with prayer and some occasional typing. One Saturday he asked my husband Frank and I to come and see what was happening. We went and saw him caring for several hundred children. We saw in their faces the simple joy of a full belly and a place to belong, surrounded by people who care. And we also saw an extremely malnourished infant sitting on her auntie’s lap. My husband, who has been working in health and nutrition in Africa for 20 years, realized at once that the baby’s life was on the line. We returned to town and couldn’t sleep. First thing Monday morning we went to the District Social Welfare office and told Amai Chisala the story. To her everlasting credit, she was willing to go at once and see what could be done for the child.
It turned out that the child’s mother had died the previous February of a suspected AIDS related illness. The husband had disappeared. The grandmother was very elderly and infirm. No one wanted the responsibility of the care of the infant left behind. Her auntie had stepped forward at the last minute, but was struggling with her care. She agreed to release the child to the government and Mrs. Chisala brought her to us.
I took the infant to the doctor immediately. He was not encouraging. She was 2 ½ years old and weighed 5.5 kg! He said she had a 50% chance to live. So I said, OK, what do we have to do to give her that 50% chance? And he inserted a nasogastric feeding tube down her nose and into her stomach and told us to feed her every hour around the clock with a rich soya phala. We did this, and after one week, she had regained some energy and interest in life. One day while sitting on my lap during a meal, she reached out and began to eat by herself. After two weeks we were able to take the tube out and she was on her way back to health. She was quite stunted for a couple of years, but now has completely caught up with her age mates. She is a beautiful and healthy 9-year old.
The extended family released her for adoption through Social Welfare and she became a part of our family. Her given name was Alifa. We kept her name. She was the first-born of her birth mother. And she was the first-born of what became the crisis nursery. Through Alifa we learned about the plight of infants when they lose their mothers in various ways. We also learned how to care for them and learned about the processes and caregivers and government structures and procedures in place for their care. We became connected to the police and the hospitals, working in partnership with them, to provide crisis care for these very youngest in our nation.
The Crisis Nursery was officially established under the Ministry of Hope with the blessing of the Department of Social Welfare in October, 2002. Since that time, we can all proudly take credit for saving over 300 babies who would otherwise almost surely have perished. The wonderful, committed, loving mothers and fathers at the Crisis Nursery, The Department of Social Services, the Victim Support Unit of the police, the hospitals, community-based care center supervisors, Community service organizations like the Rotary Club, the women of the church, lawyers and the judicial system, embassy personnel, many volunteers and of course, the families that have taken these babies into their hearts and homes have all been a part of giving these children a chance at Life. Each of these babies has a story of miracles and hope like Alifa’s. What a privilege it is for each one of us to be a part of those stories.
I hope you’ll bear with me for a few more minutes. While I have the ears of this esteemed audience I have a few words of admonition as well. Those of us gathered here have been given both a privilege and a responsibility. The responsibility is to be the voice for the children in places of policy and power. They cannot petition Parliament on their own behalf. They cannot make policy on their own behalf. They cannot protect themselves or act in their own best interest. We are the ones who must do that. Please, my friends, make their best interest your aim. It can be your justification and your source of courage. Yes, laws need to be established to protect the children, but also to facilitate their care. There needs to be flexibility. There needs to trust and collegiality between us. The needs of infants are acute and need to be met in a timely manner. Their sense of security and identity are at stake. When a mother is carrying a child in her womb, there are many unknowns and some insecurity. She longs to hold the child and get to know her child and help her child know that she belongs and is loved and protected. This is very much like the fostering period. There are uncertainties and insecurities. The foster parents long to protect their child with their name and their resources and help her know that she belongs and is loved. To prolong the pregnancy by even a few days is agony to the mother. Could we not consider this natural time frame of 9 months to be our working frame to determine the best care for an orphaned child? It is certainly possible if we work together. We can share information and transportation and facilitate each others’ work in a variety of ways to make this happen. The children need for us to make them a priority and to make our decisions in their best interest.
Thank you for your attention to my few remarks. Thank you for all of your hard work on behalf of the babies and children of this great nation. Please be encouraged now with the words of 1 Chronicles 16:8-12
“Give thanks to the Lord and pray to him.
Tell the nations what he has done.
Sing to him; Sing praises to him.
Tell about all his miracles.
Be glad that you are his;
Let those who seek the Lord be happy.
Depend on the Lord and his strength;
Always go to him for help.
Remember the miracles his has done,
His wonders, and his decisions.”
Thank you and may God bless us all.
If Nancy's letter moves you to contribute, you can do so at,
Ministry of Hope, Inc.
P.O. Box 1462
Black Mountain, NC 28711