Adventist Review associate editor Lael Caesar recently spoke with Frazier and Virginia Mathis about their ministry for orphans in Africa.
Tell me about your ministry: What is Global Vessels?
VM: Global Vessels is a nonprofit organization. Its aim is simple—to bless and be blessed. With this in mind, we do outreach, mostly in Africa. We are happy to go wherever God sends us. We have discovered that we think we’re going to bless somebody, but instead we receive the blessing.
What led you to start Global Vessels?
FM: We started by going on several Maranatha mission trips. We returned after one trip, and I said, “You know what? I’d like to go to Africa.” An inquiry into Maranatha found they were focused on a different part of the world. Since I’m in construction, I asked if they would share blueprints for a church. With those plans in hand, I stood before the Emmanuel Brinklow church, in Ashton, Maryland. “I have a set of drawings to go and build a church in Africa,” I said. “Who wants to go with me?” Thirty-eight volunteers decided to go build a church in Bekwai (in Ghana).
Which is easier: Getting the ministry started or keeping it running?
VM: That’s a difficult question, but I’m going to say, keeping it running. Especially since we have moved into new territory—orphanages. We built three churches, a dormitory, and a library in Ghana. Buildings you can build and leave. But with orphanages, we have to take care of children.
So let’s talk about the orphanages: Why? And why Tanzania?
FM: Each year we went to Ghana. When we returned, we would give a report at our church. We’d talk about what we had done in Ghana.
VM: It wasn’t just building! We did evangelistic series. Often we would present a Week of Prayer while there. We worked day and night, and by God’s grace saw many young people join the church. But we felt as though God was impressing us to go elsewhere.
So you started an orphanage.
FM: Yes, we were telling everybody what we were doing when someone asked, “When are you going to go to my country [Tanzania]?” So we went and met with the church leadership. They wanted an extension on an existing clinic. They also wanted something for pregnant women, as well as for AIDS patients.
VM: We took a group and started building. While there, we lived at the union compound.
FM: Each day we’d pass this sign that said “Orphanage.” Each day we said we were going to stop. One day we did. It was a one-room house with a man in charge of at least 20 orphaned children he had rescued off the streets. They were in dismal circumstances.
We decided to pass the hat in the group. We got money from everyone there. We bought flip-flops and clothing for the children. We sent the women to the store. They bought some basins, and then got a 55-gallon drum, and filled it with water. We began to bathe the children and dress them.
VM: After we finished our building project, on the plane returning to the U.S. one woman asked, “What are you going to do? You saw those children. You can do better. You can build an orphanage.”
How long did it take you to return?
FM: The following summer we returned to Tanzania to buy land. The university owns at least 250 acres, and they offered us three locations to choose from. The original plan was to have 10 homes with 10 children per home. After some planning we returned to build the first house in honor of our board chair’s mother.
How did you decide on the name of your ministry and the name of the orphanage?
VM: We came up with Global Vessels because while our determination was that we were going to Africa, we’ll go wherever God sends us.
FM: The name of , “Havilah,” means “where there is gold” (Gen. 2:11). Our children are gold, thus the name Havilah. After the first house, we did house two. The daughter of Louise Washington Warnick decided to give funds for that house. Then house three was built in memory of Valerie Silver, who died in the World Trade Center, and house four in memory of William Woods.
How many children do you now serve?
And how many houses?
FM: Twenty-nine children.
VM: We have four houses. The directors live in one. The other three are occupied by children.
What’s the one thing that keeps you from doing more or reaching your ideal?
VM: I’m going to say money. We could tell you stories. We’re not challenged by money, because God has it all, and we know that. We do trust Him, but we do need people to help us.
FM: Money is a big thing, but it’s really not the thing. One year we were planning house four. We hadn’t raised any money. Then we got a call. I drove over to see the individual. He gave me a check for $10,000. Brother Caesar, when I got that check, the Holy Spirit whispered to me: “Money isn’t your issue. I can get all the money you need. The only thing I need you to do is be faithful.” With that in my mind, what is it that you cannot do? We decided to build a learning center.
VM: God has blessed us. God has a lot of pastors who hold us close to their hearts. They encourage their members to come with us, because that’s another way that we raise funds.
What’s your next big thing?
FM: The next thing is to get this learning center functioning. We need teachers to teach computer coding. We need individuals who know how to saw. We need individuals who know how to bake. We need individuals who can repair cell phones and computers. We have the building and equipment, but we need instructors. The children (orphans) have grown. We took them in when they were 3 and 5 years old; our oldest is now almost 20. She’s in the first stages of law school. When the children turn 18, the government no longer allows them to be in an orphanage. We have other children coming behind and [we have] those who are leaving. They need to be able to take care of themselves.
What about your Adventist faith?
Is that a dimension of your work?
FM: The children have worship every day and evening. We take them to church every Sabbath.
VM: We are not allowed to force anyone to be in a religion, because we’re working with social service in the government, but we take them to church. The director is a pastor. He and his wife have beautiful voices. He has made a wonderful children’s choir with our children. They go around Tanzania and sing. Churches invite them to preach. We have tried to teach them the love of God, who God is, and to pray to God. We want them to remember this when they leave us. Many of the children choose to be baptized. One of the other things we do is ask people to help us send them to Adventist schools.
How should interested readers and listeners reach you if they want to know more about your ministry or want to lend support to your ministry?
VM: There are several ways. We have an e-mail address: [email protected]. We have a postal box: Global Vessels, P.O. Box 702, Fulton, MD 20759. Or you may call (202) 438-7325.