Good news by the numbers in Botswana

Deborah Froese with files from Nathan Dirks
January 27, 2017
Mennonite Church Canada
Children on a round-about in Bontelng Park in Botswana
Winnipeg, Manitoba

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For Nathan and Taryn Dirks, ministry in Gaborone, Botswana, is all about relationships. But ministry by relationship is hard to measure, so they’ve creatively translated some of their good news into numbers.

For almost five years, the Dirks have served youth and young adults from local African Initiated Churches (AICs) through their role as Mennonite Church Canada Witness Workers, in partnership with Mennonite Mission Network and local churches. Following community needs and initiatives, they focus on development and Bible teaching. They organize local volunteers for prison ministry and a school for special needs children, and they coordinate development projects, most notably Bontleng Park. This green, sustainable initiative supports urban agriculture and sports, and has revitalized an abandoned area in a disadvantaged area of Gaborone.

As they complete their last 6 months of service, the Dirks reflect on some of the successes achieved through local partnerships, by number:

46 prison inmates at First Offenders Prison, Gaborone, completed a certificate program offered by Mennonite Ministries in Botswana

18 students graduated from the Inter-Church Ministries Botswana 3-year Bible study program. Initiated in the 1990s by Mennonites in partnership with local church leaders, this ministry has run without outside help for about 15 years, using materials written by Mennonite workers in both English and Setswana. 42 students have already signed up for the 2017 program.

7 prison inmates will begin a Masters-level theology program by distance this year.

About 25 church members from various local congregations served with Mennonite Ministries in prison over the course of the year, many of whom show up every single Saturday.

Approximate 500 prison inmates enjoyed a nutritious Christmas dinner including rice, fresh coleslaw, and fruit – foods not typically available to them – thanks to donations from Mennonite Church Canada and local ministry partners.

1 NGO was founded in Botswana, run by local Batswana with the assistance of the Dirks and Mennonite ministries, for the purpose of the social, educational, and physical development of children and youth in underdeveloped areas: Pula Sports Development Association PULA). Through PULA, 12 partnerships were established with local development organizations such as Tebelopele, an after-school tutoring program run by a local church, and international development organizations such as UNICEF, which will benefit from PULA efforts.

1 Mennonite-owned house in Botswana is being used free of charge by local Batswana Christian leaders to run Bible study programs, start a Christian resource library, and house a local church leader and his family in order to facilitate this work.

$20,000 CAD was donated by Mennonite Church Canada churches and members for community development work in Botswana over the past three years.

Leveraged by the development resulting from donations to Mennonite Church Canada , large businesses and banks in Botswana were inspired to donate $120,000 CAD toward community development work in Botswana in 2016.

2 bio-toilets were installed in the public-access space of Bontleng Park in Gaborone, modelling water conservation and waste reduction where an average of 71 litres of water is used per person each day to flush toilets. Bio-toilets use 1 litre of water daily.

7 people received certificates from Mennonite ministries for completion of at least 3 of the following modules of Bible study coursework: Christian Life and Discipleship; Beibele Ke Eng? (What is the Bible?); Paseka Ke Eng? (What is Easter?); Kereke Ke Eng? (What is the Church?); and Introduction to Theology.

96 trees and shrubs were planted so far this year in the Bontleng Park development project.

25,000 liters of rainwater were collected by midway through the rainy season for use in Bontleng Park and the surrounding community.

Nathan and Taryn complete their ministry term in June, 2017. 

Photo Credits: 
Gonna Lewis