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Good news by the numbers in Botswana

Deborah Froese with files from Nathan Dirks, Mennonite Church Canada
Mar 07, 2017

Children play on a round-about in Bontleng Park, a local initiative supported by the energy and initiative of Mennonite Church Canada workers Nathan and Taryn Dirks. (Photo by Gonna Lewis)

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 Dirkses 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 six months of service, the Dirkses reflect on some of the successes achieved through local partnerships, by number:

  • 25,000 litres of rainwater were collected by midway through the rainy season for use in Bontleng Park and the surrounding community.
  • $20,000 was donated by MC Canada churches and members for community development work in Botswana over the past three years.
  • 96 trees and shrubs were planted so far this year in the Bontleng Park development project.
  • 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’s three-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. Forty-two students have already signed up for the 2017 program.
  • 7 prison inmates will begin a master’s-level theology program by distance this year.
  • 1 non-governmental organization—Pula Sports Development Association—was founded in Botswana, run by local Batswana with the assistance of the Dirkses and Mennonite ministries, for the purpose of the social, educational, and physical development of children and youth in underdeveloped areas.
  • 7 people received certificates from Mennonite ministries for completion of at least three of the following modules of Bible study coursework: Christian life and discipleship, the Bible, Easter, the Church and an introduction to theology.
  • 2 bio-toilets were installed in the public-access space of Bontleng Park in Gaborone, modelling water conservation and waste reduction. Bio-toilets use a litre of water daily, compared to a daily average of 71 litres of water used by each person each day to flush toilets a regular toilet.
  • 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.

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

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