“Madam, did you order some of the students to beat other students at your school?”
Sitting behind her office desk, Antoinette Fournier, principal of the Iva Werner Primary School at Kibidula Farm in Tanzania, was startled by the question of one of the students. After promising she would follow up on the matter, the student left.
At the 2023 Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi) Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, United States in early August, Fournier discussed her joys and challenges leading a supporting ministry and institution whose mission is to “transform lives across Tanzania and beyond through practical education, agriculture, health, and community service.” In her August 4 plenary session, Fournier also shared stories about how Kibidula, launched in 1989 on 4,776 acres (1,933 hectares) in south-central Tanzania, is fulfilling its mission.
Kibidula, one of approximately 280 ministries under the umbrella of Outpost Centers International (OCI), runs a primary day school for local students and an agricultural school that provides vocational, spiritual, and life-skills training for at-risk youth who are unable to continue on to secondary school. It also offers an evangelism school, according to the ministry’s website.
The organization behind the ministry operates a lifestyle center, builds churches, publishes literature, prints Bible studies, provides Bibles, and works to reach others with the gospel. Kibidula also devotes 500 acres (202 hectares) to 73,000 avocado trees. The resulting income from avocado sales supports not only Kibidula’s mission but also local missionaries in unreached areas.
“We are embarking on an opportunity that God presented to use through agriculture,” the Kibidula site shares, explaining that the sale of avocados has helped the school become self-sufficient. “These avocados are creating opportunities for God’s light to be spread through education to all ages!” it states.
A Mission Teacher and a Mission Farmer
In her presentation at ASi, Fournier shared how that particular day at her office, she managed the situation with the informant and eventually summoned the culprit — whom she knew very well — to smooth things out. It was just one more of many challenges she has faced while leading Kibidula.
Fournier also shared how, since she was a little girl growing up in South Africa, she had wanted to be a teacher. Her husband, on the other hand, grew up in Canada wanting to be a farmer. Little did they know how God would answer their life and vocational dreams when years later they met in the mission field, 22 years ago.
She said that the decades spent in the mission field have been a journey of faith for the family, which includes three daughters. “But when we see how God really is, we are drawn to Him,” Fournier said. “He counsels us like nobody else can; He uses passages here and there to encourage you to deal with a very specific issue that you’re dealing with at that time.”
Fournier also explained that there are no psychologists where they live, and that missionaries often don’t have a support system outside their families and God. “But I want to testify today that God is faithful,” she said. “He does not try to destroy what He built up. He truly revived us, so we can keep going, keep running.”
Facing the Challenges
At the same time, she acknowledged candidly, it is easier to see God’s hand in retrospect than “when we are fighting in the trenches.” Fournier’s constant prayer is, “Lord, help me lead this school; help me to ministers to [these] children!” Fournier said as she shared how hard she has found it to be at times to balance her role as school leader with her work as wife and mother.
Fournier went on to tell harrowing stories of dealing with students with chronic diseases, health emergencies in her own family circle, students scarred due to physical and psychological abuse, student runaways and pregnancies, and many other challenges. “It’s been a tough journey, and it’s not over,” she said. “But my faith is growing.”
Along the way, Fournier has had indications that God “is still there and is still working,” she said. “I choose to trust Him, and I choose to believe that in the end, all will come together like a beautiful tapestry woven by His loving hands.” She added, “Sometimes it has cost us everything to follow this call. In our own strength we cannot make the walls come down; it’s not possible. But let’s ask God to revive us again; let’s ask God to … heal us and to use us for service.”
Fournier closed by stating, “I am mother of three and of at least one hundred more, but I am not a superwoman.… As I heard in a seminar, ‘I am an arrow in my Father’s quiver.’ … God can shoot straight if I let Him, but He can’t use a limp arrow. So, He revives me and from day to day He strengthens me. And whatever insights I might have inside my home or outside my home, it is for His honor and glory.”
Outpost Centers International is an independent supporting ministries and is not operated by the corporate Seventh-day Adventist Church.