Hunter's Dispatch Speaks Of Hard Times, Hope, Redemption
by Suzanne Hunter,
Special to the Tyler Morning Telegraph
Click here for the Tyler Morning Telegraph online version
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Front and Insert
When the Rev. John Hunter of Tyler's Christian Heritage School was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, he admitted he was worried.
After years of working on a dream with his wife, Suzanne, of creating a comprehensive educational facility for AIDS orphans and other destitute children in Windhoek, Namibia, Africa, the situation appeared "pretty bleak," he said."We knew something was seriously wrong by the end of 2008," Mrs. Hunter said. "John was losing energy like a car running out of petrol. He coughed all the time. The doctor's report was dim. We had no choice but to begin treatments in early January 2009" at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
It had been a long, strenuous, but satisfying road in Africa for the Hunters, who are members of Tyler's Bethel Bible Church. Relocating from Tyler to the northwestern edge of the Kalahari Desert, at 5,000 feet above sea level, in 1997, they worked hard to start Community Hope School, line upon line, precept upon precept and almost literally brick by brick to serve ten students in Grade one.
Mrs. Hunter, who is also an artist, described the situations of Katatura's impoverished children raising children because one or both of their parents had AIDS, as "heartbreaking." Historically, the area had been reserved for the least liked and outcast tribe of poor and rejected people, she said.
"Before Europeans arrived in Namibia, the ruling Herero tribe on the region would make the members of the Damara tribe crawl on the ground and bark like dogs," she said. "We're ministering to some of the descendants of that tribe."
Over the years, the Hunters gained the good will of local government who saw the couple's efforts to educate, feed and encourage -- "love on" as Mrs. Hunter puts it -- children living in conditions they could not address themselves.
They did whatever needed to be done, from recruiting volunteer teachers from Europe, Canada and America to work with their "Teachers For Africa" nonprofit, to escorting children with no parents to school each day. They fed, clothed and bathed children who had none of those options available to them, and the Hunters provided hope through a quality academic education.
Hunter, who is also a potter, caught the imagination of local artisans by holding craft shows in the wealthier districts of Windhoek, a city of 250,000, to sell his pottery and fund the school. Accomplished with a gun, he shot game to put food on the tables of Community Hope School, courtesy of local farmers who let him hunt for free on their "game farms."
"There is just about any kind of game you can imagine there," he said. "Zebra, Kudu, Gemsbok and Springbok which is about the size of an American Pronghorn. I've gotten a lot of food for the school that way."
Their efforts were paying off. Things were looking up. When the school reached 50 students, Hunter ventured to ask the local government to purchase the last two acres of open land in the Katutura, designated ERF 344.
"I didn't have the money for ERF 344 ," Hunter said. "I just felt like God was telling me to ask them if they would sell it. It was a pretty bold move, really, because the Ministry of Education had the land slated for a soccer field for the community, but it had never been developed. But they didn't say 'No'."