The fulfillment of a 31-year-old prophetic word spoken by an Oklahoma pastor to a machinist and his worship-leader wife in 1984 is leading them to say like the lead character in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
Indeed, South Africa is a long way from Buhler, Kansas, but Tracy and Becky Spencer are planning to build their second home in Swaziland—this one for orphans of HIV/AIDS. They believe like Dorothy, the Kansas farm girl in the 1900 children's novel and 1939 film, "There's no place like home."
The Spencer's home and ministry, Grand Staff Ministries Inc., is located in rural Kansas and has grown from a sponsorship program for orphaned Swazi children in 2006 to a nonprofit Christian charity that's drawing support from across the United States and South Africa.
And their Kansas home, believe it or not, is as much a part of the Spencer's ministry as a future orphanage in Swaziland and their support of orphans.
This year Grand Staff Ministries, Inc. (GSM) received sizable cash contributions—one from a widow in the United States—to to build an orphanage in Swaziland and two offers of land from benefactors in South Africa. The American woman, a Swazi pastor and apostle, and Christian leaders in South Africa have told the Spencers they want to help fulfill the prophetic word and vision for their ministry.
In July 2015, the Spencers traveled to Swaziland to see a large parcel of land next to a Christian school administered by an African apostle who oversees multiple churches. Pastor Solomon Fasmande told the Spencers, who were in Swaziland to "prayer-walk" the acreage, that he wanted to give it to GSM for an orphanage.
While there, the Spencers learned from an American couple doing ministry in Swaziland that they recently purchased land from a South African chief—and all of them believe the tract is compatible for an extension of Grand Staff's prophesied ministry vision.
Praying about where to build is as high a priority for the Spencers as is registering the planned orphanage as a non-governmental organization, and the finalization of architectural plans for it. Experts in both fields have offered their services for free to fulfill the prophetic vision.
"So we are content and eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of His dream, not just ours," Becky Spencer says. "We know the one in our hearts comes from Him because of the sure, prophetic word, but it is not always clear at first."
The Spencer's vision for building Christ-centered orphanages in Swaziland, where 50 percent of men and 32 percent of women are infected with the immune system-destroying virus, looks and sounds like it's the fulfillment of a prophecy given to them by an Oklahoma pastor more than three decades ago at a home Bible study.
John Hollar, who today is director of Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, looked directly at Tracy Spencer in 1984 and said, "You will be a father to many more than your eyes can see."
At the time, the Spencers had four children in their home and one was on the way. The family eventually grew to eight—four adopted and four biological children—but it hardly numbered as far as the eye can see.
Until 2006, when the Spencers traveled to Swaziland on a missions trip, they pondered Holler's words. There, in South Africa, the Spencers saw untold numbers of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and wondered if they were Tracy's prophesied family.
"From the standpoint of the first time ever going on an overseas mission trip, it was very life-changing," Tracy Spencer says. "Just everywhere you turn there are kids on the streets, chasing your car, asking for help.
"Lots of them are complete orphans or living in an orphanage or on their own," says Spencer, who was also struck by the orphans inability to obtain an education like he had been denied as a teenager.
Back home in Kansas, sitting on their front porch praying about how Tracy might become a spiritual father to Swazi children, the Spencers both saw the same vision, simultaneously.
In what Becky Spencer calls an open vision, she and Tracy saw their home transformed into a haven for burned-out pastors, tired Christians, troubled marriages and weary travelers.
The vision became the footprint for Grand Staff Ministries Inc., a group of nonprofit missionary endeavors that extend from Kansas to South Africa.
Jesus cares for abandoned, orphaned and vulnerable children who are like lost lambs, says Becky Spencer. "The Good Shepherd's staff is grand enough to care for each one—through sponsors," she says, explaining the ministry name.
Since 2006, GSM has provided money to educate 209 Swazi children—several of whom have graduated college or trade school in recent years—with support from American sponsors. Sixty-one children are currently in school, courtesy of generous spiritual parents in the U.S. Five more are pursuing post-secondary training.
The Spencers admit they've lost track of the number of trips to Swaziland but not the vulnerable people with whom they've "fallen in love" over the last nine years.
In 2010, 20 percent of the homesteads in Swaziland—or 195,000 children—were without adults parents, due primarily to deaths from AIDS. Four years earlier, when the Spencers first visited Swaziland, 11 percent of the homesteads were run by orphaned children—a more than 10 percent increase from 2006.
Today, an estimated one-half million people in Swaziland are infected with HIV; untold numbers don't know they're infected because of the stigma associated with the disease. Some people visit Christian mobile medical units after dark to receive anti-retroviral medications to avoid suspicion about their HIV status. Others refuse to be tested and receive life-saving drugs.
As real as the emotional pain HIV/AIDS produces in orphaned kids, so is the spiritual hunger back home in Kansas, where ministry begins.
The Spencer's residence, at one time a nursing home dating back to 1895, was converted to a bed and breakfast within a year of their inaugural trip to Swaziland. It, along with Tracy's work as a manager of trained machinists and Becky's speaking, writing and worship activities, help support GSM's budget and is itself a type of evangelism.
The Spencers saw their first guests in 2007 at what had been home for 23 years.
An admitted perfectionist, Becky Spencer had exquisitely furnished three bedrooms of the home for the people she and Tracy saw in the shared vision.
When the first guests arrived—an unmarried couple and two women who requested that they sleep together—the Spencers didn't turn them away, nor did they refuse to share their Christian faith with them over breakfast.
The next morning, Becky Spencer discovered the lesbian couple had vomited throughout the bedroom—a result of excessive drinking at the Kansas State Fair—and she reached a breaking point, reminding the Lord of the vision he'd given her and Tracy.
In the silence, she heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit say, "You saw hurting Christians but I see a hurting world."
As they cleaned the foul-smelling, soiled bedroom, the Spencers were reminded that loving people only like themselves—two ordinary Christians with a big vision for Swaziland—made them like biblical Pharisees instead of followers of Jesus, who commanded his disciples to be like salt and light.
In addition to travelers, the Spencer's seven grown children and numerous grandchildren sometimes occupy the 110-year-old homestead during visits—or out of necessity when they've no other place to go except back to dad and mom's place. Becky Spencer says her family has its share of dysfunction, and every member needs and finds God's grace at home.
Hundreds of guests have stayed at the Grand Staff B&B. Some guests come back annually because they've formed deep friendships with the Spencers and, in some cases, the guests have become supporters of GSM and Swazi children, even helping to promote the ministry.
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