Dave and Sue Rousseau have worked as TEAM missionaries in Dave’s native home of Zimbabwe for 24 years. While teaching at Harare Theological College, Dave met Glenn Miller, a pastor from San Jose, Calif., who became interested in the plight of orphans after living and studying in Zimbabwe.
Miller asked Rousseau to sit on the board of a non-profit organization he created called Hands of Hope that supports churches already doing the work of ministering to local children.
Working through local churches brings the stability these children need. “We want to see the church here take the initiative in reaching out to these kids because missionaries and overseas organizations can come and go, but it’s the local churches that will have long term impact,” Dave says.
The diverse work of Hands of Hope looks different at each church. Some of the churches have feeding projects, while others provide schooling or finances for schooling. One church has a thousand-acre farm that houses children and grows crops.
Hands of Hope started small by partnering with just one church. But since its inception in 2001, the ministry now serves 40 congregations who care for 2,000 children. Unfortunately, “that’s a drop in a bucket,” Dave says, when compared to Zimbabwe’s estimated total of 1.2 million orphans. “But you just take one step at a time and know you just want to see this ministry grow.”
To cultivate that growth, Hands of Hope has recently purchased a large parcel of land, where they’ll invite teams from the United States to run vacation Bible school-style camps for orphans. They’ll also use the location to offer training for caregivers and pastors. “As Hands of Hope grows and partners with other churches, the need for training and various forms of input just becomes more and more important,” he says.
The Rousseaus encourage all evangelical churches to join them in partnering with local churches of Zimbabwe to minister. Currently, churches send teams to partner by overseeing projects like fish farms, medical care and tutoring. TEAM also regularly sends short-term missionaries who serve in various roles.
The Rousseaus are also working on a micro-finance project to help train church leaders to create sustainable income, as well as brainstorming the best ways to support children who reach adulthood in their programs. In a country with a struggling economy and staggering unemployment, “income generation is the problem,” Dave says.
While one of the most gratifying experiences is seeing some of the kids reach adulthood, get married and start lives of their own, it’s also an area the Rousseaus recognize as an ongoing challenge. “People are very willing to look after infants and children,” Dave says. “Once people reach adulthood, then as you can imagine, it’s a little bit more challenging.”
For more information, visit Hands of Hope at hohafrica.org.
-Written by Cara Davis
-Photos provided by Dave Rousseau