Many of the children in Bulembu are generally afraid of dogs. Dogs aren’t always considered a loveable family friend in Swaziland. They are protectors of property or they are wild strays, which leads many Swazi’s to keep their distance from “man’s best friend.” Michelle Lopshire, the principle of Bulembu Christian School, loves dogs. She has four at her house. She is sensitive to the fear many of her students have for her beloved pets.

Israel is a student at Bulembu Christian School. He won a contest in which the prize was a cookout at Michelle’s house. During the cookout Michelle’s dog Benji slowly won over Israel’s love. Michelle was touched as she watched fear turn into curiosity and then bloom into a newfound affection between Benji and Israel. That day Israel became a dog person.

It wasn’t until a few months later that Michelle realized the full impact that Benji had had on Israel. Each student at Bulembu Christian School receives merits for good behavior. These merits act as a currency system in which students can use them to buy candy or small gifts from the school. Israel chose not to spend his merits so that he could save up enough for something big. When he finally cashed them in, he bought a life-like dog that even barks and snores. Michelle was impressed. Israel had worked hard and shown self-control to get something he obviously cared about.

The big surprise came when Israel knocked on Michelle’s door. Israel entered holding his newly purchased dog, and Michelle asked him what he needed. Israel told her that he had bought the dog for her because he knew how much she loved dogs. Michelle Lopshire weeps when she tells this story. It is just a small example of the selfless love that is on display in Bulembu.

The children at Bulembu Christian school are orphans. Most of them have lost both of their parents to the AIDS pandemic that has ravaged Swaziland. All told, there are roughly 150,000 children in Swaziland who have been orphaned. The staff in Bulembu are trying to help. Their dream is to create a self-sustaining community focused on raising orphans in small family centric homes, and they are well on their way.

Mission Discovery teams have the chance to join this dream. Each summer we travel to Africa to repair facilities, build playgrounds, and share our time. The results are nothing short of life changing. We have the opportunity to invest in a sustainable future for the children of Bulembu. Your support and participation are needed. Will you join us?