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Seeing in the Dark, Part 1

An interview with Michelle Tessendorf, Executive Director of Orchard: Africa

What's the mission of Orchard: Africa, and what do you do?

The ministry work in Africa is to empower the church in the Western world and in Africa to respond to the AIDS and orphans crisis that is in Africa at the moment, and it's a twofold ministry. On the one hand, we are empowering local, rural African church pastors to become community leaders and to speak up in their communities during this crisis with AIDS and the compounded poverty that's resulted. At the same time, the Western church is wanting to respond and understands that the church in Africa needs assistance, but oftentimes the Western church doesn't know how to respond or what the correct response is. So Orchard: Africa is that bridge between the Western world and the rural church in Africa, helping the churches to come up with a sustainable response in this time of crisis. We believe that the church community wants us to care for widows and orphans, and so it is the church's role to step up to the plate.

What are some specific ways you pursue that mission, and in what countries are you working?

We're currently working in South Africa, Zambia, and Botswana, and we are in the process of expanding to other countries. The whole of sub-Saharan Africa is reeling under the AIDS pandemic, and the church is struggling tremendously. And so we will go wherever God leads us and wherever we have resources to respond.

What we do is help pastors, empower them to actually respond to the needs of the orphans in the AIDS crisis. Some of the projects that we help to implement in their communities are feeding projects for children. Orphan intervention programs where pastors step in and help the extended family or help the grandmothers, who are typically caring for their orphaned grandchildren. We want to see an end to the AIDS pandemic and the HIV infection rate. So we very strongly help the pastors to implement AIDS prevention programs in the high schools.

For the Western church, we have materials that we make available to our partner churches in the United States, to help them explain the AIDS situation in Africa. Oftentimes people don't really understand, so we have curriculum available and we help our partner churches to help their congregations fully understand what's going on in Africa and to support a response that is sustainable. So we're working on both sides, empowering church leaders.

What is your specific role with Orchard: Africa?

I am one of the founders, and currently the executive director. I'm also an ordained pastor. So my role is also senior missions pastor. I lead strategically and make sure that we're planning ahead and that the programs we implement are sustainable and have great outcomes. And then, because I have a pastoral heart, I work pastorally with those we work with. We basically pastor other pastors more so than the congregations. It's really a pastoral role to other church leaders.

July15, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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