High school girls receiving their prized certificates after completing the Smart Choices program. (Melissa Sims, second from left.)
Sawubona FOL family! My name is Melissa Sims and I have been a member of FOL for about a year and a half. I want to share with you my heart and passion for Southern Africa. I first traveled to South Africa in 2013 with my dad who introduced me to an organization called Beacon of Hope International (BOHI). BOHI supports 15 indigenous teams who present a program called Smart Choices in the local schools in four different countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Zambia. It is an amazing education program that teaches HIV/AIDS prevention and character development through the lens of the gospel of Jesus. We serve a very big God who is doing mighty things across that beautiful continent.
In January of this year, I returned from my fourth trip to Southern Africa and every time I return to the States I feel as though a greater portion of my heart has been left behind in my beloved Africa. I have been serving on the board of BOHI for two years now and am continually amazed by how God is moving across Africa. I am humbled by how HE continues to provide not only the funding for the Smart Choices program, but how HE provides for our brothers and sisters there, who are often in quite dire circumstances. It brings me such joy to minister alongside these amazing warriors of faith. Their relentless trust upon our Father inspires me.
People often ask, what is it that I love so much about Africa. Although it is hard to sum up, I think it is the people and the ability to see and experience God in a different way. On this last trip, God enabled BOHI to host a Renewal Conference for our team leaders (a total of 35 leaders and spouses were able to attend) with two main goals: 1) bring all these leaders together, most of whom had never met each other. We hoped to create a greater sense of community amongst them so they can encourage each other as they serve together in His mighty kingdom. 2) to have a time of Sabbath type rest for them, spiritual formation, and a chance for us to simply “love on” and spoil them. My favorite part of that week was the worship time. My heart was so full as people from four different countries, with numerous cultural backgrounds, a variety of skin tones all worshipped our Lord and Savior together. God was able to receive glory as we sang in at least 6 different languages, all at the same time. What an amazingly beautiful glimpse of what I believe heaven will look like! Amen?
I spent the second week of the trip in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe with my dear brother, Pastor Cyprian Shumba and his family. We taught the Smart Choices program together at a community school comprised of very poor high school students who are either HIV/AIDS affected or infected. I was reminded yet again of the desperate situation of these students, specifically the young girls. Unfortunately, even though they might know the risks of sexual promiscuity, these gals end up in relationships with older men who promise them money. The girls often use this money to buy school uniforms, pay school fees, or to simply feed their families. It is heart-breaking.
Pastor Shumba’s congregation is called Liberty House Church (which also meets in a public school) and I would be remiss if I did not greet you, in the Lord’s holy name, on their behalf. After allowing me to worship and minister together with our wonderful and humble brothers and sisters in rural Zimbabwe, they now feel as though they are a part of the FOL church family.
If you would like to know more about Beacon of Hope or Southern Africa in general, I would be very happy to talk with you.
Here are some ways to get involved:
- Check out our website: www.beaconint.org.
- Invite me to speak to your Life Group where I can tell stories about how God is moving.
- Sponsor an HIV infected or affected child through horizoninternationalinc.com.
- Donate garage sale items.
- Donate old smart phones or tablets as these are vital for our team leaders to perform their ministries.
- Ask me about Sanika, a fair trade enterprise that sells beautiful, handmade African fabrics and jewelry that supports one of our partner NGO’s in Zambia.
Pastor Cyprian Shumba team teaching the program with me in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
A picture that captures God’s faithfulness.
A very traditional classroom in a government school.
Pastor Dumisani Mkhwanazi of South Africa at our traditional night at the Renewal Conference.
Melissa with Ester and Isheanesu.