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Place to Call Home
painted brick street fronts and sprawled against stretches of sidewalk,
young boys make their beds, napping in what has become their pseudo-home.
Their lean bodies and ragged clothes depict a small slice of the
difficult life they lead.
These Zambian street
children, predominately 8-15 year old boys, are central to Bob and Candace
Walker's mission through Heart of the Bride ministries - a Christian,
nonprofit organization established in 1998 with the primary goal of providing
for the needs of orphans around the world.
Through devoted partnerships with pastors and Christian leaders in underprivileged
nations, a commitment to prayer and a focus on going to bat for those
with no voice, Heart of the Bride takes a stand for the justice of the
socially oppressed, downtrodden and nearly forgotten.
Orphans at the whim of poverty, AIDS, violence and country dynamics, these
children and teenagers flock in groups while some choose to prowl their
world alone; but regardless, street children represent not only a population
in need of help, but a generation who may struggle with adulthood as well
- a somber fact that will long contribute to economic and social welfare
of many nations with swelling orphan communities.
Predominately instituted into the adult world by necessity, most street
children live an existence filled with sexual promiscuity, hunger, exposure
and chemical dependency.
"It isn't uncommon for these children - desperate for reprieve from
the squalor of the lives they lead - to regularly inhale gasoline in order
to stay high, so they can forget that they are hungry, cold or lonely,"
shares Candace, co-director of Nehemiah's Boys Ranch, home for Zambian
street boys. Into the hellish nightmare where these street kids reside
- personifying a life God never intended them to live - the Walkers have
stepped, and one day at a time, are overcoming all odds.
Leaving behind a life in Florida, the Walkers set their sights on Africa.
Having more than enough love for each other and their own eight little
ones, the Walkers prepared to open their arms for the countless orphans
they would encounter in their new home.
Due to the estimated 100,000 street children currently in Zambia, Heart
of the Bride began an outreach ministry in the city of Kitwe, where
the Walkers now serve. When the boys participating in the mission began
asking for a home, a search for directors began, along with the fundraising
efforts for dorms, a vocational center, dining hall, cabins and director's
home such a facility would require.
Through a ministry devoted to prayer and partnerships with pastors and
Christian leaders in underprivileged nations, Heart of the Bride has established
similar relationships and ministries targeted at orphans within five additional
countries around the world - Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Kenya, Uganda and Ukraine.
Through this organization, multiple missionaries have been commissioned;
many orphanage facilities have been built, similar to the Nehemiah Boys
Ranch, and short term ministry opportunities have continued to multiply.
In short, scores of children formerly calling an alley their home are
now being nurtured and cared for in a safe environment by adults who love
In September, 2006 the Walkers began their new role, starting by building
relationships with approximately 100 street children on a weekly basis.
Soon, 20 boys will reside in the Nehemiah Boys Ranch, only a fraction
of the number the Walkers hope to accommodate in the future. With limited
resources, the couple must carry out the heart-rending task of choosing
which of the 20 boys will first be admitted into the home.
"We've been working hard to communicate to them that we are not here
just to offer handouts, but that being at the ranch will take commitment
and hard work. We believe the boys will be fighting for those first 20
spots, but only time and experience will tell if they will stay once they
arrive," begins Candace.
"The street has a strong hold on these kids and our program must
be very specialized in dealing with breaking that hold. We are praying
about the selection process. Do we take the older boys who just need a
little up and have been faithful followers, or focus on the up and coming
young ones before the streets break them too much?"
In this line of work, answers don't always come easy, and consequences
of choices may be far-reaching. The Walkers rely heavily on prayer and
God's wisdom in guiding their decisions, offering peace in the light of
having to turn some boys away from the home until greater resources are
accumulated. Boys whom are chosen will reside in a dorm with nine fellow
roommates, along with a dorm dad to act as supervisor and father figure.
Tight programming and professional counseling will serve to discourage
any temptation to run back to the street and to help overcome addictions
and emotional trauma. Daily activities will include a work rotation, sports,
Bible study, English and Math education, along with vocational trade training.
Until the fiscal needs are met for the home to be completed, the couple,
dubbed "Mama Walker and Papa" by the orphaned boys, are busy
meeting with children for Bible studies, meals, soccer matches, and bussing
the boys to their facility for a weekly meal, shower and opportunity to
"Many also attend our church on Sunday where we feed them breakfast
and have another Bible study with them. But these boys are still struggling
with stealing, sexual promiscuity and [other addictions]," shares
"Some of the boys that we started with are getting colder from street
life and it hurts to feel like we are losing touch with them when we see
so much potential."
Though the challenge of this work is immense, progress is coming to fruition,
as the Walkers invest their lives into the boys they treat as their own.
"As difficult and challenging as this work is, it is full of
rewards. When you have a boy being disciplined by Bob for bad choices
and he looks at him with tears in his eyes and says, 'Thank you for talking
to me like a father,' and when we see a boy turn from hopeless to hopeful,
[it is so worth it]," reflects Candace.
"When they come to church and you really see them worship before
the Lord; when [I] am teaching and look into their wide eyes and can just
see that they are 'getting it' - they are so hungry for love and learning,
but at the same time, it has to be a long suffering, patient sort of love,
teaching and discipline."
The Walkers long to provide a home for these boys in every sense of the
word - loving discipline, affection, fun and play, shelter and food and
safety -but they also desire to offer their surrogate family hope and
tools for a thriving future.
The vocational center will educate the boys and prepare them for a trade
to live by once they are ready and old enough to leave the ranch - an
investment in their future and the future of their country.
As construction ensues, the Walkers continue to delineate the educational
and programming curriculum they plan to teach and meanwhile, are offering
a billow of hope to a population of children desperately in need of it.
For more on the Zambian street children ministry, go
Casey Manes is a writer and editor at Olivet Nazarene University, near
Chicago. She is passionate about social justice issues, assisting orphans
and using the written word to spread awareness of those in need.
-Information on Heart of the Bride Ministries used with permission.
© Casey Manes October 2007
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