“Starting a ministry for children at risk of abuse and human trafficking was not on my bucket list when I began my journey. As a girl reading the SDA publications that made their way to our church in Trinidad, I dreamt of being a missionary doctor. When I left home to study nursing/pre-medicine in the US, God must have been smiling. The sight of blood was upsetting and I internalized patients’ pain, to the point of bawling in the bathroom. God wanted to save lives, so He got me out of the medical field in a hurry!
“God first gives you the passion, then clarifies your purpose. I wanted women and girls to understand that they are of equal value in God’s eyes and that limitations are most often self-imposed. This became my passion. For many years I served in some capacity in Women’s Ministries, both officially or unofficially.
“In the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, I was invited to speak at an SDA Camp Meeting in Eswatini (then Swaziland). I was coordinating with ADRA to feed 1000 children during the week-long event. I was the first woman to have this honor in a country where women are rarely allowed to stand at the pulpit. It was a big event in front of Queen of Kwa Zulu Natal, sister to the King of Swaziland, and the Swazi Ambassador to the US. I was aware of the massive numbers and dire plight of child headed households due to a 33% HIV prevalence rate at the time. As I looked at hundreds of children with little hope for the future, an inner voice said to me, “These are the least of these,” the face of Christ on planet Earth. That experience changed the trajectory of my life.
“Upon my return home, I resigned from my management job and began my walk of faith with no paycheck, no church network or no foundation. That was fourteen years ago. Our organization, Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach (SOHO) has seen God show up in ways that I could never have imagined.
“Eswatini is the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa, and a polygamous, patriarchal society. One in three girls affected by Gender based abuse. I began a series of forums and gala events to raise awareness about these abused girls and generate funds, both in Eswatini and Indianapolis where I live. Our honorees include Dr Wendy Luhabe, a SDA entrepreneur in South Africa, Naomi Nontombi Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Josina Machel, daughter of President Samora and Graca Machel, step-daughter of Nelson Mandela, CeCe Winans and woman’s advocate, Gail Masondo.
“Our initial focus was to heal, educate, feed, nurture and empower orphans and vulnerable children. We conducted massive mobile clinics, a pre-school, a feeding program, weekend events for abused girls and an agricultural initiative. We even developed the first inclusive school in the country for children with disabilities. A non-profit sister organization, Seeds of Hope Outreach was formed in Eswatini, so local leaders could invest in moving the mission forward.
“One of the burning concerns over the years had been the lack of safe housing for children at risk. Much of the land in the country is Swazi Nation Land, held in trust by the king for the Swazi people. After eight years of prayer and failed efforts, God has pulled off the biggest miracle so far with our acquisition of one of the most beautiful farms in the country. It is a 1075 plus acre , fully fenced solar powered farm where we plan to develop a Children’s Village as well as a Lifestyle Center and social enterprise to provide job skills and generate revenue for the Village.
“Leadership for me meant simply saying ‘yes’ to God. One of my challenges was to find acceptance within our church as an independent ministry operating across denominational and religious boundaries. God has provided support from Jews, and Gentiles alike to keep His work going. I have also learned not to journey alone. I still work with no pay, but I could not manage without my ministry partner, Linda Schultz, and volunteers and interns, many from secular universities.
“I know that prayer still works. God’s answers may be unexpected, but they are always best. If it is God-directed and God-driven, it will glorify Him, and you will not fail. I have had scoffers predict that this ministry, run on a shoestring, would be extinct in six months, but God keeps opening more doors. He is the One who calls you to leadership and if you follow His leading, the blessing is sure.”
You can support Cynthia Primes ministry at www.saving-orphans.org