Mennonite Church Canada logo
News » Releases » One family at a time

One family at a time


Family members unload thatch to replace the roof on their home.

View or download full sized image.


August 4, 2006
-by Rebekah Paulson

Botswana — Sensing ongoing health problems, Susan Allison-Jones paid a visit.

There were three children under six months living in the rondaval (house). The rainy season had caused serious health concerns for not only the children, but for the whole four-generation family. Allison-Jones soon discovered that a young woman in the household had delivered twins – one healthy, the other stillborn.

The rainy season living conditions were made worse by the family home’s severely leaky roof.

Susan Allison-Jones and her husband, Glyn Jones, workers with Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network through Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, gave money for the new thatch, only to find out later that the money was spent by a relative and the roof had not been fixed. Despite the fault of one family member, Susan Allison-Jones arranged for money to be used from the “Compassion Fund” provided by women of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission.

Without repairs to the roof, unsanitary conditions could prove fatal for the children in the home. Every time it rained the family had to stand to limit contact with the wet floor, said Susan Allison-Jones.

When the finances were misused, Susan Allison-Jones pondered what contribution she was making. God reminded her of a philosophy of ministry: one kid at a time. She renamed it, ‘one family at a time,’ because in Botswana by helping one person you help an entire family.

When the thatch was purchased in April of 2006, Allison-Jones personally delivered it to the home with her truck. The grandmother replaced the old thatch, and during a follow-up visit, demonstrated her gratitude by proudly showing Allison-Jones the new roof.

Glyn Jones and Susan Allison-Jones know their relationships in Botswana, Africa, are immeasurable but essential to their ministry. Ministry focuses on family structures and their stability – both physical and relational. Glyn and Susan provided aid of both types by replacing a family’s thatch roof when it became a health risk for children in the home.

The family structure in Botswana is very significant. When a family is capable they should solve their own problems, according to the Allison-Joneses. In this situation the family was not able to provide for a major repair.

The struggle, say Allison-Joneses, is to discern when to help, and understanding when their help will burden the family structure. In this instance they were able to improve a physically unhealthy living situation while improving the stability of the family structure.

Sidebar: A future with education

By Rebekah Paulson

“Agreement” is the name of an orphan from Botswana, Africa, who quit school in Standard One (equivalent to first grade in Canada) because of circumstances in his home life. When he tried to go back several years later he was too old to enroll. He could not go to government school.

When Susan Allison-Jones met Agreement, he was eager to be at school but could not afford non-government school tuition. The non-government Old Naledi Education Centre did not turn Agreement away, but financed his education despite their poor financial situation, said Allison-Jones.

With her husband, Glyn, Allison-Jones connected Agreement with church members from Rainham Mennonite Church in Selkirk, Ontario, who decided to sponsor the child. The children have been sending their Sunday-school offerings to help finance Agreement’s tuition at Old Naledi Education Centre this year.

“Hopefully through this he will know that there are people in Canada who care so much that they are investing in him and it will make a difference in the choices he makes later on in life,” said Allison-Jones.

According to Allison-Jones, children who are educated are less likely to take part in risky behaviors that lead to HIV. The children need to build up confidence to help them resist peer pressure.

Agreement’s head teacher, Boitumelo Phama, said, "[We] want to educate the children because most of them quit school. … We want to put them in school so they can be educated as other children whose parents manage to pay fees.”