Missionary helps thousands

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 16:00 30/07/2012

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New Zealand women should feel grateful to be born and raised in a country with freedom, rights and choices, says a Ugandan-based missionary.

Marilyn Skinner was the keynote speaker at the biennial Women of Influence conference at the Marlborough Convention Centre in Blenheim at the weekend.

More than 300 women from various churches around the country attended the event, which is aimed at connecting, refreshing and empowering women and challenging the way they think.

Canadian-born Mrs Skinner, 56, and her husband Gary Skinner were teenagers and members of a Christian rock band when they met in the early 1970s.

Mr Skinner, a pastor, was born and raised in Africa and had always wanted to return, so they moved to Zambia in 1979.

In 1983 they moved to Uganda with their three young children and started up the Watoto church in a run-down hotel. Their mission to help orphaned babies and children, and abandoned women grew from there.

"Twenty years ago when Aids hit Africa people were dying all around us, it was devastating."

"A whole generation of children lost their parents and families, their childhood, so we went out into the community to rescue them."

What started off with 16 orphans packed in a single rented house, has grown to hundreds of houses in self-sustainable Children's Villages, with vegetable gardens, 250 goats, running water, schools, clinics and churches.

The children attend school and some go on to learn essential trades such as plumbing, carpentry and agriculture or go to university to study politics, law and medicine.

The village has grown to accommodate 2700 orphaned children, 2000 abandoned women and 300 babies. When the women grow too old to look after children they move into a retirement village, also set up by the Skinners.

At the end of the year Mr and Mrs Skinner are moving to South Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, to build a church and replicate the Watoto model.

"I might not see the new Africa that will rise up, but all I can do is invest my talent, my time, my passion and hopefully inspire others to carry on what I've begun."

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- The Marlborough Express

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