1 Children Raising Children

Marchiano Ministries is a US non-profit organization founded by actor and author, Bruce Marchiano. In the year 2002, “MarchMin” formed a partnership with Flames Christian Church in South Africa to better support the spiritual and physical needs of numerous SA villages and to plant new churches. With their commitment and growing work, the atmosphere of the villages began a transformation from that of crime to an atmosphere of peace. New believers started growing strong in the Lord and salvation started to spread. Flames and Marchiano Ministries together built their mission on the love of Jesus and serving the people.

In 2008, through a primary school outreach conducted by MarchMin missionary, Sharon Puterbaugh, the partnership became aware of a specific district where the poverty and conditions were much poorer than the rest. Pastor Martin Tivane, the shepherd of Flames Ministry, began visiting this area, as the primary school’s principal would call him to help the poorest of the school’s children. Because this district is mostly populated by immigrants seeking refuge from nearby African countries by coming into South Africa without legal documents, it is largely ignored by the government. The expected life span in these places is very short. Undocumented parents die young from AIDS, crime, and disease, leaving their children to fend for themselves. And so the tragedy deepens, as older siblings, mere children themselves are left to raise younger siblings.

Moved by compassion for these children, Flames and Marchiano Ministries turned focus toward them and began working through the primary school to provide for them. At present, this school is comprised of approximately 400+ orphans, many of whom have no relatives left at all. They also discovered that the school is the orphans’ only source of nutrition–providing one meal a day, however, no meals on weekends and school holidays. The personal stories that were exposed were beyond tragic and painful to hear…especially the extent of terror and sexual abuse of girls, who were known by everyone to be alone and unprotected. Other girls were drawn into selling themselves as the only way to provide for their younger brothers and sisters. Upon hearing these reports and Pastor Martin’s personal commitment to “look after” these children, an advocacy partnership was formed with the principal/school counselors and teachers to provide the needed protection, sustenance, and mentorship for these vulnerable children. At the same time, the partnership of Flames/Marchiano Ministries made them a priority.

Marchiano Ministries workers began providing nursing care and counseling programs to these children, many of whom had suffered repeated rape at the hands of predators. Very difficult it is, to stand in front of a group of 8 to 9 year olds and teach them about “good touch/bad touch”; the importance of each of their lives, how to guard their bodies and how to report abuse… all new concepts to these defenseless little ones that are culturally bent to “never say no,” and bow to the expectations of “elder” men and even women (enticing them into prostitution rings).

The stories are innumerable. The village of Majakeneng is oftentimes called the ‘forgotten village’. It is comprised of sibling families orphaned due to AIDS and crime. Many of these children traveled from nearby countries with their parents and while squatting on the land in this village their parents died leaving them to fend for themselves. Being undocumented they receive no grants from the government to live on and become vulnerable to sex predators in order to provide food for themselves. These sibling families live in tin shacks alone and are so exposed to the elements and crime.

I have met 15 year old girls who have been trafficked by local enterprises starting at age 13. Most cases it is the only way they are able to feed younger siblings. I met a 17 year old who had been raped 11 times in the past year, and has a baby to show for it – a baby she can’t feed. I met several boys of 13, 14, 15, who were both father and mother to their younger siblings. And then there is the girl who was sold by her grandmother for a bottle of beer, and ended up with AIDS. There was the girl who went to her uncle for help when her parents died and was told, ‘You have a body, use it.’

We could go on and on, but needless to say, we have decided to take on the children of this village, and step-in to do everything we can as a ministry step-by-step.—-Sally Herman