Her skin is 70% cocoa chocolate-coloured smooth.
Today, she has wrapped herself in dark green, African patterned cloth – a head scarf coiled around her head and a long skirt perfectly matching the cotton cap-sleeved blouse.
As I walk into the room, my eyes scan the restaurant private party room searching for her.
Then, I spot her.
When she greets you and holds you close to her chest, that beats with the heart of a lioness, one feels as if you were the only person in the world to her.
This woman has that effect on you.
In fact, she’s had this effect on almost 4,000 Zambian orphans.
Her name is Faith Liyena:
Mother and friend to literal thousands.
She is the type of woman that makes me believe that God still speaks and that He still calls spiritual giants and that He is still in the business of doing impossible things.
Because, Faith is impossibly powerful in her ability to love The Forgotten and Overlooked.
It’s the Faith’s Orphan Fund sponsors special luncheon. I have traveled to Cambridge, Ontario to see her and to hear of her incredible work with AIDS orphans in my home country of Zambia.
We get first dibs on all the brand new 3-week old video footage, about how Faith’s Orphan Fund is doing in its existing and new projects.
We get to hear from the Faith’s Orphan Fund Board on how this registered Canadian charity is doing financially and strategically.
And, really, I’m blown away.
You see, Faith was a nurse in the Northern Province of Zambia some twenty plus years ago. She came to a well-known missionary hospital called Mukinge where she met the formidable Doraine Ross.
Doraine never married. Apparently, she was set on a thrilling course to become a concert pianist when something stirred in her heart and she felt led to go to nursing school instead. She did her training and then obeyed the call to spend the next 35 years of her life in Zambia at a missionary hospital serving God, loving His creation and sharing His love and truth with all of her students.
Faith calls Doraine “Mom”. I love this. It is the African way. But, here I see it is really more than that. They really are progenitor and off-spring.
And, I am tickled pink at the way God will take a white Canadian farmer’s daughter and cause her to give spiritual birth to a black African daughter and have them continue a legacy of spreading the Gospel of Jesus’ shed red blood.
The way God weaves together destinies with such vibrant thread still brings awe to my soul.
Doraine is 81 years old now. And, by God! You would never, ever believe it. She has the stamina of an ox, the energy of an eighteen year-old and the drive of a Ferrari Cavalcade engine. I kid you not. This is not hyperbole.
She works more passionately than any octogenarian I have ever seen and with astounding commitment for missions, in particular for the work that Faith’s Orphan Fund is doing. She is tireless in her mission and singular in her focus.
As a young nurse, Faith noticed how the AIDS epidemic was ravaging not just individual lives, but decimating families and also altering the socio-economic and cultural landscape of entire villages and towns.
She saw how one day a patient would come in, a mother of one or many children and Faith would see that mother pass away. Within an extremely short space of time, the husband of that woman would be admitted into the hospital, also stricken with AIDS and die soon after.
She witnessed this happening over and over again as AIDS claimed lives indiscriminately.
Who is looking after the children left behind?
This question plagued Faith until she decided to actively follow the trail that would lead her to an answer – and, a calling.
She started going into surrounding villages and visiting homes investigating the fate of these children.
Faith noticed that the rise in Zambian AIDS orphans was reaching a fevered and disturbing pitch. Children of all ages, helpless and vulnerable were left totally alone, or Grandmothers would be saddled with upwards of 12 or more orphans to look after with meagre and paltry resources.
These elderly women could hardly take care of themselves – let alone a dozen children with diverse practical and educational needs!
The future of Zambia lies in the balance of women like Faith who simply refuse to turn a blind eye and refuse to believe that nothing can be done.
So, what does she do?
Faith starts believing. And, she shares her burgeoning vision with Doraine who recognizes an undeniable God-sized spark in Faith.
Faith’s Orphan Fund was born.
The mandate of Faith’s Orphan Fund is to “Give an individual a chance”.
Just like a home which is built brick-by-brick, Faith’s Orphan Fund believes that a nation and the church at large, is built one individual at a time.
You can read all about the specifics of Faith’s Orphan Fund at www.fofcanada.com.
But, I’m going to tell you, as a Zambian myself, why exactly I am smitten with the Faith’s Orphan Fund philosophy and why you can be confident that they mean what they say and they do what they say they will do.
I am proud to be able to endorse Faith’s Orphan Fund – because, I trust them.
And, I know Faith personally.
The very first time I ever met her, she gave her presentation at another luncheon and asked if it was alright to sing a song.
A capella and with just a microphone, she sang a song that I have never forgotten. Tears flowed that day in the room.
It wasn’t her vocal prowess – to be honest, for a black woman, there was little! :p
It wasn’t her outstanding song-writing skills – let’s be real, the song was as simple as 1 + 1.
It wasn’t her charisma – you’d be hard pressed to find a more humble and unassuming character.
It was rather the depth of conviction and gravitas that God has saturated this woman with.
You see, she’s not the CEO of a multi-million dollar charity with a salary to match and an entire media department at her disposal. She’s not a talking figure-head – she gets her hands dirty and walks the same dusty roads as the people she is loving and serving.
But, she sang of Heaven being her home, and that she must fulfill her destiny to help the orphans and that she must look after the orphans until she dies.
Faith is not old. This is not the song of a woman on her last legs. It is rather the song of a woman pouring out her whole life to leave a legacy.
Just so that those who are poor, hurting, lonely, uneducated, futureless, fatherless, motherless, frightened, vulnerable, abandoned, sick and hopeless may also confidently call Heaven their home and still taste God’s goodness in this life.
The reason why I love Faith’s Orphan Fund is that it is not just looking for a handout.
It is looking for people to partner with them to execute a brilliant, efficient and well-thought plan that is 100% committed to re-building lives and entire communities – not just for a few months or years – but, for life.
They have a high concept, low tech approach that fits in perfectly with the infrastructure and cultural framework of rural Zambia.
In short, they know what works the best for Zambians at this point in time.
With Faith’s Orphan Fund, you have native Zambians helping native Zambians. They already speak the language and understand the culture, they live in those very communities, they have a vested interest in improving lives and households.
My favourite part about Faith’s Orphan Fund’s work is their die-hard devotion to becoming self-sufficient and self-sustaining.
Instead of turning only to simple feeding programs – though they do that also - they have endeavoured to pin-point how to strengthen their growth platform, not just for the short-term but, for the long haul.
They also do this by understanding the element of nurturing the future of Zambia itself by striving to educate children, adolescents and young adults. They also go beyond this demographic and reach out to adults and grandparents and offer appropriate support as they look after orphaned children.
They want to touch the entire community and they want to ensure the future of that community and, improve its entire trajectory for good.
Faith’s Orphan Fund has hatched a clever plan. And, they have managed to accomplish this in various ways.
In order to be self-sustaining, self-sufficient and simultaneously build the health and wealth of the current and future community, they have turned to a few practical and useful agricultural, entrepreneurial and educational endeavours.
And, all of these components are firmly rooted and intertwined with sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and spreading God’s love and care for individual lives.
So, Faith’s Orphan Fund started a banana plantation and growing corn, which is the main ingredient in one of Zambia’s staple foods called nshima.
The banana/corn plantation manager is a wonderful Christian man who is using his background and skills in agriculture to teach his workers both practical and spiritual tools. These workers have been recruited from the community, the bi-product being the creation of jobs for those living nearby.
Now, Faith’s Orphan Fund is expanding its entrepreneurial endeavours through a new poultry farm. Not only will this poultry feed the community, and fund other Faith’s Orphan Fund projects, but it will also create jobs and help provide useful skills to workers.
Faith’s Orphan Fund has a massive emphasis on education and entrepreneurialism.
They want the nearly 4,000 people that they are helping to obtain futures that shine bright with promise not only for them, but also their children’s children.
This is why they help pay school fees for children, and also teach valuable and practical skills through their Skills Training Centre. In the latter, orphans aged 18-20 are provided with accredited training opportunities such as computer skills, tailoring, horticulture and carpentry.
Faith’s Orphan Fund Skills Training Certificate goes beyond just the skill itself. They teach these young people what it means to have integrity, how to cultivate a solid work ethic, how to be a person that employers can rely on.
Slowly, community employers are seeing an encouraging trend in the calibre of high quality skill and character that graduates are displaying.
These orphans have gone from having no education or viable skills to becoming highly sought after workers. They are also taught and encouraged to become knowledgeable entrepreneurs in their own right, with a slew of operating local micro-businesses that both provide for their households and, also build up the economic landscape of the community itself.
These orphans are growing in hope, confidence and personal strength. They finally have someone who loves and cares for them and their success in life.
This is a great platform for the deeper healing to begin as orphans find their footing with the help of Faith’s Orphan Fund.
When I examine what they are doing from every angle. I can only come up with one word:
As a Zambian myself, I can recognize the need for more leaders like Faith Liyena who, have not only concerned themselves with immediate needs, but also seek to build a better Zambia in the future.
The Faith’s Orphan Fund Board, along with Faith and Doraine, are a group of individuals highly committed to integrity and excellence.
On their website, you can view some of their latest video footage which shows you their commitment to doing things right and doing them properly within the context and challenges of Zambia itself.
When God has called you, as He has so apparently done Faith, Doraine and the rest of the Faith’s Orphan Fund team - nothing but the best effort will do.
Giving these valuable lives a chance demands that we provide exemplary leadership and consistent love.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” ~ James 1:27
The incredible legacy that Faith’s Orphan Fund is leaving will shape an entire corner of Zambia.
And, I am praying that Faith’s work and her amazing team of implementers, teachers, instructors, farmers and pastors will bleed mighty and roaring into the rest of Zambia just as the mighty Zambezi flows into the majestic Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders) and, which Dr. David Livingston later called Victoria Falls.
I want the orphans of Zambia to become mighty Sons and Daughters of Thunder in the earth. And, see them make a difference that shapes the future of their country and their region in Africa.
I am excited to see who among this group of 3,900 orphans, that Faith’s Orphan Fund is serving, will become the next president of Zambia or the future doctors, scientists and professors of our country.
I dream of the Olympians that are now running along roads with red dust coating their feet, and the next great soccer star emerging from a village square.
I also dream that among them is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and poet laureate, perhaps even the next Pavarotti or the greatest political mind our nation has ever seen.
And, that’s just the point...
One can actually dream now.
One can actually dream since, someone is caring for these orphans and ensuring that these precious lives, that these people fulfill their potential one by one.
Almost 4,000 lives changed!
Only because one woman shared her vision with another woman and they didn’t just feel compassion...they chose to walk in love everyday single day treating others as they would themselves.
Who knows who Faith’s Orphan Fund is nurturing as we speak?
And, who knows who you are helping to nurture by giving.
We all can’t live in Africa. We can’t all be there – but, Faith is. Believe me, when I say that she is all there! With her heart and soul and strength.
She lives, breathes and sleeps the opportunity to give almost 4,000 orphans a chance on a daily basis.
Won’t you come alongside her?
I invite you to do something daring, dear friend.
I invite you to share yourself.
I invite you to give.
I applaud you, for all your sharing and giving – it is providing the chance of a lifetime for Peter Sampa, Angelina Sakala, for Albert Matafwali, for Esther Foloko...and, for 3,896 other young lives.
Thank you so much!
Because of you – dreams have been kept alive.
© PRIYA H. DEVALIA
Copyright © PRIYA H. DEVALIA 2014 All rights reserved