ONE MAN’S DREAM...
Born in a small Nigerian village around 1960, subjected to life threatening child abuse and eventually orphaned, this one man grew up under destitute conditions forcing him to be self-sufficient by the age of five. Arising from these circumstances his life- long dream (goal) became “children will not have to suffer the way I did as a child.” One day, in 1986, while cutting grass on a small plot of land, Richard Obarorakpor had a vision of an orphanage arising from sparks of fire from the blades of grass coming from the cutlass in his hand.
ONE WOMAN’S CALL
Born on a rural (backwoods) Kentucky tobacco farm in 1919 to Boyd (an adoptee himself) and Carrie Chism, this one woman as a 15 year old heard and answered God’s call to foreign missionary service. In 1955 she and her husband with three small children departed for Nigeria under appointment by the Southern Baptist Foreign Missionary Board as career missionaries. Novella Bender eventually served in Nigeria for 30 years. Nigeria became the adopted homeland of her children, of whom the eldest, Marci, served two summers as a volunteer medical student at a Baptist (mission) Hospital in Richard Obarorakpor’s village. Novella’s husband Bill died in that hospital following a tragic motor vehicle accident in 1980.
THREE GOD ORCHESTRATED MARRIAGES
Three marriages that from the human perspective would have been impossible.
1950: Bill and Novella Bender:
Novella, an “old maid” school teacher, never traveled farther than her Kentucky rural county line until age 18. She met Bill in the library of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas. Novella had transferred from Louisville, Kentucky Carver School of Missions to Southwestern in order to serve as a summer missionary to a Mexican orphanage in San Antonio, Texas, while completing her seminary education to go to the mission field as a single woman.
1990: Richard and Funke Obarorakpor: From different tribes, Richard an orphan and Funke the daughter of educators, their homes several hundred miles apart. They met in Ogbomoso at the Baptist Seminary where Richard was a student and Funke was on campus, making a delivery from her employer in Lagos. Funke remembers a Southern Baptist missionary, Hattie Gardiner, as an example of orphan outreach, taking in babies abandoned and left on her doorstep. Two like-minded hearts wed together for a lifetime of ministry.
2001: Stan and Marci Hutchinson:
Stan, widowed after nearly 31 years of marriage, met Marci in a series of unlikely events. She, a pediatrician and MK (missionary kid), and he, an engineer, immediately found they had common interests in almost everything. Her ties to Nigerian missions piqued Stan's interest since he had a longstanding desire to do mission work in a foreign country.
ONE DIVINE PARTNERSHIP
In a 2006 newsletter from friends, Fred and Mary Kay Posey, who support mission efforts in this Nigerian village, came the following concerning Richard’s vision for an orphanage that would also allow an avenue to help widows. “Land is available in a good location for approximately $...... “If God has placed in your heart a desire to help, please contact….” Stan and Marci (Bender) Hutchinson felt the Holy Spirit nudging them, each separately, to accept this challenge. They provided funds to buy the land and so started the Obarorakpor-Hutchinson partnership that has far exceeded the first initiative that arose from that newsletter. And NOW….
THOUSANDS OF LIVES IMPACTED!
Through the life of ministry along side his helpmate Funke, Richard as a pastor and hospital chaplain, has impacted many, many lives.
Through 30+ years of teaching and preaching ministry, Bill & Novella Bender's influence left imprints on hundreds and maybe thousands of lives in Nigeria.
Through the support of Stan and Marci Hutchinson, Shepherd Care Orphanage, Bender Scholar Schools and SCIM Farm is connecting with hundreds of young lives, changing them forever!
Since the beginning in 2007, much has been accomplished. However, these accomplishments only reveal how much more lies ahead that needs to be done. Here is a list of projects with ongoing ramifications:
Shepherd Care Orphanage currently providing for approximately 30 children resident in the orphanage and another 200+ in the community.
Widow Care provides rice and beans to approximately 120 community widows on a monthly basis. Many of these widows who are physically able work on the farm when extra help is needed in order to bring in a harvest of which they are recipients.
Bender Scholar Schools provides quality education (state certified) for 620+ students, kindergarten through high school. A new Kindergarten building was added in 2019 to provide additional classroom space.
Solar Electricity: a 25 Kwh solar array provides electricity for the orphanage at night and the school during class hours. Electricity does not come without a cost. There are periodic maintenance expenses plus an upcoming major expenditure for battery bank replacement. Storage batteries have a limited service life and must be replaced once that is reached.
Shepherd Care Chapel offers an assembly hall for Bender Scholar Schools and "The Chapel Church" on Sunday. Lead by Pastor Friday Okoro, the church is open to the community as well as the residents and workers of the orphanage. The Chapel has also hosted several community conventions including an agricultural symposium in conjunction with Delta State University, Abraka.
SCIM Farm is a 73.5 acre spread through the jungle bordering on the Ethiope River. Currently under development, banana, plantain and pineapple are signature crops along with peanuts, various vegetable crops and a mixture of trees including lemon, orange, avocado, cashew, palm nut, coconut, Livestock production is in the initial stage. SCIM serves as an on-the-job training laboratory for students of Bender Scholar Schools providing an opportunity to "experience" the products of their labors.
Hillcrest Farm House: Located on the farm, the farm house provides quarters for security and farm manager, guest house for up to six guests, houses farm tools and a warehouse for processing and sale of produce to the public.
The future success of that which has begun in this Nigerian mission is limited only by our vision and support. The key word of the future is "sustainability." The goal of Shepherd Care Orphanage and Bender Scholar Schools is that they will become self-sufficient and not dependent upon continual financial support from outside. The key to sustainability is success with the SCIM Farm. Successful development of the SCIM Farm is the focus of the immediate future. Step by step, progress is being made.
Shepherd Care Orphanage will always have a place in the community simply because of the numbers of children without parents. Since the orphanage does not generate revenue, the other enterprises in the ministry must generate sustainable support.
Bender Scholar Schools is a private Christian school. A small tuition fee is charged to those who can afford to pay. However, there is great poverty in this area and the number of underprivileged children is high. Bender Scholar Schools has a great reputation in the community. There is usually a waiting list for enrollment. The school's enrollment is limited to classroom facilities and availability of qualified teachers. While there is some room for growth in enrollment, the margin is small.
Shepherd Care Chapel has a bright future and potential for growth. One drawing card is families of students of Bender Scholar Schools. They are also able to draw from some of the resources of the nearby theological seminary.
SCIM Farm is a major center of activity going forward. The goal is to increase the acreage of cultivatable land. Since much of the land is in a flood plane during rainy season, one principle objective is the construction of a drainage canal to lower the ground water table.
In conjunction with the drainage canal, plans are made to construct a pond to serve for irrigation of crops during dry season. The pond will also be used to raise fish for consumption at the orphanage and sale at market. While there are huge challenges, growing fish in cages in the river is an interesting concept under investigation.
Plans being made for the construction of two poultry houses: one for broiler production and the other for egg production.
Future plans include a sizeable herd of goats, turkey, ducks along with grass cutters.
Many families in the surrounding area cook their meals on open fire. With a sizable increase in population, there has arisen a shortage of firewood. Plans are underway to grow trees that will be cut and marketed to meet this need.
The farm is in dire need of a solar array to provide electricity to meet the demands of all these project. No electrical distribution exists currently.
All these projects will require the injection of start-up and development funds. Once the infrastructure is in place, SCIM Farm will become the sustainability link with all the individual components working together to impact the lives of literally thousands of people going into the future.