We continute our series, 'Jesus and the Poor' with Jason Miles. Today's topic is God's Heart for Orphans. We explore how Sew Powerful serves the orphans of Zambia, how this ministry may differ from others, and then Jason shares scripture that extols us to care for those in need. You will hear how Sew Powerful seeks out those most in need and why we do that. Learn what is truly at the heart of the Sew Powerful mission.
God's Heart for Orphans with Jason Miles
IN THIS EPISODE
orphans, feeding kids, 3 Esthers Farm, Tikondane, Zambia, heart for orphans, gardens, large household, Zambia, sewing for charity, James 1:27, Deuteronomy 10:17-19
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
Compassion International, https://www.compassion.com/
Save the Children, https://www.savethechildren.org/
World Vision, https://www.worldvision.org/
YWAM, Youth With A Mission, https://ywam.org/
Deuteronomy 10: 17-19
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Jason Miles
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
In our Sew Powerful podcast today, we continue our series called Jesus and the Poor with Jason Miles. Have you ever wondered why Sew Powerful is tied to helping widows and orphans? Why this tugs on all of us, but maybe especially our co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles? Stay tuned, because we're going to explore this topic from a scriptural and personal point of view. Welcome, Jason. How are you today?
Jason Miles, Guest 00:52
I'm great. Thank you so much.
I'm glad you're here. Can you sort of take us through your personal story? What relates you so much to widows and orphans? And I know that Cinnamon has something going on with that, too. We read a little bit about it in the We are Sew Powerful book.
Yeah, well, it's a topic that's near and dear to our heart for many reasons. We both have our own sort of stories and experiences related to just a heart for caring for widows and orphans. We approach it differently; I think a little bit. I guess. My story to put it shortly or quickly, as you know, my dad disappeared when I was nine. And for 17 years, we had no idea if he was alive or dead. And that really shaped you know, my childhood and my thinking. It obviously devastated our family but created a scenario in which I was just so desperate to understand the love of God, and how the Lord could be my father. And the amazing power and healing that can occur when God gets a hold of you, when you're hurting in that way. And so that was my journey. Cinnamon's journey is a little bit different. She was really, really impacted in the third or fourth grade when she saw, I think it was Dateline or 60 minutes, something like that. They did a huge expos day on Romanian orphan crisis. And some of you who are listening might remember that TV show. It really was just a massive tragedy at the national level. And she'll never forget that, and her heart was broken for the kids who were, you know, caught in that scenario. So, when we married, we just quickly found that we had this common passion for serving and for caring for kids in particular. I served at World Vision for 16 years. She was in YWAM, before we got married, and was serving in Eastern Europe. We both been to Romania multiple times together and been in orphanages there. An orphan ministry care ministries for the kids who leave the orphanages at 16 and how that works. Our whole heart has been oriented toward these topics for a long, long time. And so, you know, when I went into Ngombe compound in March 2009, and met the moms there and saw the scope of the tragedy, I guess, say it in no other way than this, it just mesmerized my, my heart and my mind and my spirit; made me wonder how in the world, we could be a part of helping so many orphans that were there.
Can you elaborate a little bit on what Sew Powerful does, specifically maybe with the Needs Care School? And I know we've expanded beyond that, but that was sort of a starting point for us. And then maybe we'll talk a little bit about the 3 Esther's Farm too.
Yeah, well, the state of affairs in 2009, when we first visited the Needs Care School, was that it's in a place called Ngombe compound. And those of you who know our story in a part of our journey in ministry know the details, but it's urban slum in Lusaka, the capital city. And basically, at that time, the HIV AIDS crisis has devastated the population there. And I think the the average life expectancy in the nation of Zambia at its lowest, I believe, was 36 years old or 39 years old. Statistically,
Oh my gosh
because all the parents, many of them, had passed away. And when you combine TB and Malaria and HIV AIDS, you end up with just a devastation of the adult population. And when we would go to Zambia, back then you would literally see kids everywhere and then grandmas. And that's what you'd see, just socially, I mean, just walking around. The middle-aged parents demo was just eviscerated in that country, sadly, by those joint diseases, and so you would find many, many children who would be without one parent or both parents. Now, technically for development practitioners, people who work in international relief and development, they'll refer to a child who's lost one parent as a single orphan or a child that's lost two parents as a double orphan, sort of, technically to clarify. But in Zambia, they'll tell you there are no orphans. They'll say that their children are the community and the kids there are living with an auntie or a grandma; they're living with their cousins or whatever. And the household sizes are just huge. There are no orphanages there of note or of large size. And when we first met Esther, she had two thirds of her children as double or single orphan and just a radical number of kids that were just without. And that was the context. And of course, in a country like Zambia, in the villages, you'd have a lot less orphan crisis situations where small villages out in very rural areas, but as you get closer and closer to the city, the percentages change. And when you get to the worst, in essence, you know, socio economic community in Lusaka, then you have this massive intensive collection of kids without parents. And that's the circumstance there. And so, so Sew Powerful's context was to begin helping the moms who were helping those orphans. That was the intent of our program work to help them figure out how to care because we obviously couldn't. And they're the ones who are really the people who can impact and care for the kids. So our job was to come alongside them. And so, we do that. And you know, the specific ways in our programs, both with feeding programs in the farm work Tikondane gardens program now, as well as the sewing cooperative efforts.
Now the Tikondane is new. Explain that a little bit?
Sure. Yeah, we're so excited about it. We started a pilot program early this year, with a couple boys who had ended school, they had finished school early. They were done at seventh grade, but they were in the community. And we have this vision for making a difference with food and food security in Ngombe compound, which is a very, very desperate place. And there just isn't food at the household level. And people as households are happy to get one meal a day, because economically, that's kind of what they can afford. So, we envisioned a program where backyard gardens would be grown, and beyond just the food that would occur that we would also have this piece of employment strategy for these boys who are just just in the community, and they have no academic pursuit, and they have no vocational pursuit. So, we wondered, could these boys be trained to do these gardens, and it can be girls too, but her heart and the emphasis of it to start with was these young boys. And they're not boys, they're, you know, between 16 and 22, in that range. And so, it we started with a pilot, and we had each of the team members had a number of households they could serve. And they started setting up gardens, and after a few months the vegetable started to grow. And they would go in the morning in the evening and tend it, care for it. And it has just flourished into this little backyard gardens program where these kids are getting a stipend and making money and they're all using it guess what they're doing. They're going back to secondary school.
Oh, that's wonderful.
They can get back into school because they have the funds to get into school. And so they're, they're using it to reenergize their academic success. And so, we did the pilot, we've done phase one now. And so we've got just a growing group of young men doing it. And we're really excited about the impact on the community. And so we've got videos coming out now of the the moms who, you know, these moms will have 7, 8, 9 kids in their household and have no food in their house. They have no food production on the property there in their little homes. And now they've got this side garden, where they're harvesting cabbage, and tomatoes and other vegetables, and being able to feed their families. And the boys are learning a trade skill, learning about gardening and all that. So that's the new program. And we're, we're thrilled about it, and we hope to grow it in 2022.
Well, when the way it's set up, they can go before and after school and still earn their stipend, keep the garden going and go to school. I mean, what a perfect program and like you said, it's for young men ages, what 16 to 20.
Yeah and, you know, I guess what's different: here, we think of school in the West, maybe by ages and grades, but I think it's a little more fluid there, isn't it?
Yeah, it absolutely is. You'll end up with, you know, kids who are in fourth or fifth grade who are you know, 12, 13, 14 years old, because they've had to stop, or they've never gotten the chance to attend school. Their parents or guardians didn't have the little fees or whatever to get them into school for uniforms or that kind of thing. And then they they don't want to stop though. They want to go back, and they just go back to the grade they left and they start up again. So we have people who are in are in our sewing cooperative, Frienda comes to mind who was in a recent video, who's just working her way through ninth grade, and she's in her, you know, 20s. But it doesn't matter they want to get their schooling done. And it's really, really nice to be a part of that.
Yeah. Oh, that's wonderful. Now, how does the 3 Esther's Farm play into all of this?
Yeah, the Farm Program is at scale working to produce food for the Needs Care School and, and it's quite its own enterprise. We have three people who work there as the farm team. But you know, what's been kind of neat, too, is that Esther's actually taken groups have these older kids out to the farm. And I guess you'd call it field trips to the farm. And these kids had never been outside Ngombe compound and having them go out to the farm and learn about all of it, you know, the big wide world that's out there is just a very, very fun thing. So, she does that kind of thing. And she's even had some of the kids come out before, like, some of these boys go out and help with harvesting the maize corn and, and that kind of thing. And so, she's used it as sort of this destination location, not so much for work for employing them or anything like that. But just as more of a exposure to what else is out there in the world in terms of working at farms or working, you know, outside the city, that kind of thing.
Well, and you know, agricultural education is so important for feeding everyone. So that's fantastic. Now, how is what Sew Powerful does in terms of feeding and employing the young men, how is that different than the work other charities are doing in terms of feeding hungry children?
Yeah. Now, it's a great question. There are many, many ministries that do a great job. The challenge related to helping with with orphans in particular is a hard one. You know, a lot of organizations like Compassion International or Save the Children or World Vision, where I used to work, they'll do child sponsorship programs. And the child sponsorship programs frequently assist in situations with orphans. They'll try to, you know, have orphans be in the program. But most of those programs are run in rural areas, like small villages. They'll have villages that they serve. And you know, there'll be a collection of 15 villages or something like that, that they'll have child sponsorship be a part of the programming work. And the reason I do that is because in the villages, the transitory nature of families and kids is a lot lower. In essence, they just don't move around. But in an urban context, like in Ngombe compound, the fluidity of where people live and their circumstance of being in a school or not in a school in the community are not changes frequently. And so those large organizations generally don't do child sponsorship in these desperate urban slums. And it's sort of sad, because it's a program that's designed to help kids and yet the kids that are the most needy in a way, I mean, that have the biggest obvious intensity of or challenge of their circumstance, are in slums. And so, our heart, and our program started, and obviously, the Ngombe compound, but our heart is to serve in that context. So, for example, when we expanded into Livingston, the first thing Esther did was go there and meet community leaders and school teachers, and that kind of thing in the four most challenging neighborhoods or slums in Livingston. And we found the one that we felt like was the most challenging, and that's the one we wanted to serve in. And so that's our heart. And we want to be a part of what God's doing in the life of the kids. And to create programs that really help them like the, you know, school uniforms being made, the reusable hygiene pads and the purse program occurring, and the feeding program. These work together to create employment, that creates an impact in the community. And that's the heart and soul of our our mission and our purpose.
Well, thank you for that. Throughout the Bible, there are several scriptures that speak directly to us about caring for widows and orphans. Can you can you talk about the ones that are most meaningful to you and maybe sort of tie that into exactly what we're doing?
Sure, yeah. There are so many passages that remind us, that as believers, we're called to serve orphans and widows, James 1:27 comes to mind; it's a beautiful passage. It says, "Religion that God our Father accepts is pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." That's a beautiful reminder of the importance of what we're doing. I just came across this verse in the Old Testament as I was looking at various passages related to orphans. And this passage in Deuteronomy stood out to me so vibrantly. If it's okay, I'll just read this. It's just a striking, striking passage and it fits us perfectly. It says this in [Deuteronomy, Chapter 10] verse 17, "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless, and the widow.  He loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food, and clothing". I thought to myself, when I read that, man, we're working on these school uniforms and the reusable hygiene pants, obviously fits under clothing category broadly, and feeding programs. And I just love that passage. And it goes on to say in verse 19, "And you are to love those who were foreigners. For you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him." And I am just reminded by that passage that God's heart and if you look, do a study of Scripture, you'll see that phrase, the foreigner, fatherless and widow, repeated throughout the Old Testament, as our requirement as believers. Foreigners, Fatherless and Widows. And it was almost like a thematic three phrase thing, which just comes up over and over. And so that's our heart. And it's grounded in our love for the Lord and for his call on our lives to make a difference in the world. And that's how we feel like we can do it.
Well, Jason, thank you so much for sharing that. This has been very enlightening. And I love how you've added new elements to the ministry, the Tikondane farm boys, farm young man, you know, and as we expand into new places like Livingston, and maybe eventually further out, continuing to serve widows and orphans, and clothing and feeding those needs. So, thank you so much for your time today.
All right. Well, we'll talk to you next week. Bye-bye.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference. I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org That's SEWPOWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns, or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.