Earlier this year, our family of five traveled around the world to visit our dear friends at New Life Homes. Swaziland (now called Eswatini) has held an important place in our hearts since we first visited as college students more than 15 years ago. In 2012, we returned to Eswatini to serve alongside Peter and Mary Jean Kopp for four years. Now, we serve on the U.S. Board for African Leadership Partners.
Much has changed since that first visit in 2005. Most notably, the preschoolers that kept us busy with their curiosity and occasional cheekiness have now matured into young adults with skills, knowledge, dreams, and desires.
While there, Tommy worked closely with the farm management team, which now includes three former New Life Homes “kids” who are now adults contributing their creativity, wisdom, and leadership to make sure the next generation of New Life kids are well taken care of. What a joy it was to work alongside these friends as they asked great questions and demonstrated their interest in continuous improvement.
A highlight for Mandi was meeting with the teenage girls for a night of crafts and a Lectio Divina study on Ephesians 1. This group includes many of the girls Mandi taught at New Life School, and the evening was encouraging. Many of the girls shared their gratitude for God divinely bringing them to New Life Homes, and His care and compassion in giving them a family. “Sometimes we act like we don’t care,” said one of the girls, “But we all can see what God has done and can trust he will keep doing it.”
It was hard to leave these friends after two weeks. It was a joy reconnecting with the children and the housemothers, and it was also a pleasure to reintroduce them to our three girls (now 3, 6 and 7) who have grown so much since our last visit. We enjoyed evening meals with Mary Jean and some of the “big” kids as we continued to dream, plan, and pray for the future of New Life Homes. Here are some things you can be praying about:
- Mary Jean Kopp, who carries much of the responsibility of New Life Homes (not easy), while traveling back and forth from the U.S. several times a year (definitely not easy). I know she would appreciate regular prayer.
- Dreams delayed. Most students received their final examination results early in the year, and it seems like the entire country is in an educational crisis. Mary Jean continues to work hard to enroll students in colleges and universities. Thank you for being a friend and supporter of New Life Homes. Your support is making a big difference in the spiritual, educational, and physical development of these children. They are learning to love Jesus, and your generosity is a beautiful testimony to the love and care of Christ!
Tommy and Mandi Bottoms
African Leadership Partners Board Members
Dear Friends and Supporters,
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our friend and colleague Peter Kopp, founder of African Leadership Partners and New Life Homes. Peter died on February 1, 2021 of COVID 19 complications in Eswatini where he had lived and worked for 30 years.
The loss has been heartbreaking to many. His love for people and his ministry has created far-reaching connections with people around the world. The loss has been particularly acute for his family, and the entire New Life Homes community.
We served alongside Peter and his wife Mary Jean for four years in Eswatini (formerly Eswatini). Peter went to Southern Africa to do leadership training, which he enjoyed so much. Along the way he and Mary Jean designed and built New Life Homes from the ground up including the homes, the farm, and the school. It was an eternal engineering project. The heart behind everything they built was to facilitate the restoration and development of people’s lives, especially the children, staff, and community surrounding New Life Homes.
Peter was a husband, father, pastor, teacher, electrician, a general contractor, a vet, an author, and inventor. He wore so many hats, that his beloved to-do lists regularly included upwards of fifty tasks. However, he always had time for people and gave his time generously, listening, sharing wisdom, and always including an anecdote or two. Regardless of how difficult or pressing the situation at hand: sick animals, human resource issues, or meeting his own basic eating needs (Peter often had to be coerced to stop and eat lunch); he always found time to give the children hugs, housemothers an encouraging word, and even the dogs a scratch behind the ear. We will all cherish memories of Peter as the wonderful, creative, inventive, and joyful person that he was.
Peter may have lost his battle to COVID-19 on earth, but we are grateful to know how joyous his heart is in the presence of our Savior. Peter passionately loved Jesus, and dedicated his life to following Jesus with obedience and joy. The work Peter began with New Life Homes will continue, under the leadership of Mary Jean, the U.S. ALP Board, and the Eswatini New Life Homes Board. Over the next few weeks and months we want to share with you how you can continue to pray and support the children and leadership of the farm.
In the meantime, we invite you to join us in this prayer:
Lord, we thank you for the life of Peter Mark Kopp. In the midst of pain, we give great thanks. You have gifted so many of us with the friendship and love of Peter. We thank you, Lord, for all the wonderful ways you’ve used Peter in the lives of many around the world–let us rejoice knowing that his life was a life well-lived. Bring peace and comfort to Peter’s family as they cope with the loss of a great man, husband, and father. Be their strength. We pray for the children and staff at New Life Homes. They have already faced much loss, and Peter was so loved by them. May they see the beauty of Peter’s legacy; despite the pain they’re feeling today. Amen.
Tommy and Mandi Bottoms
Board Members, African Leadership Partners
We are on our way!!! Five teenagers from New Life Childrens’ Homes have received all that’s necessary for them to attend the premiere of “Liyana,” the stunning film they made happen. Never out of Eswatini before, they are traveling through Dubai to the Los Angeles Film Festival, –as invited guests.
The past four weeks have been grueling, confusing, and exciting all at the same time. Peter has been up and down to the capital city multiple times, pushing every button we could, trying to learn and accomplish what many said could not be done in the time available. A number of people have stepped up to expedite the process. Now we’re all but in the car, leaving Tuesday, 13 June.
We’re still nervous about traveling through South Africa with their excruciating rules applied to youth traveling with other than their biological parents. Please pray this will go well!
Check out this first look from Entertainment Weekly.
In fact, our first term is almost over. I can’t believe it! This school year has been different than others. The biggest difference is having a tiny sidekick. For a couple hours each day, Avery joins me at school. She gets absolutely giddy when I strap her into the baby carrier and we head toward school. She brings much joy to all the students and teachers.
Before school starts she plays a few games of peek-a-boo, is jostled and bounced, and of course her outfit is thoroughly inspected by all of her friends.
Another positive change is the addition of a competent, cheerful, and loving teaching assistant. Her name is Goodness. She has been such a blessing to me! She encourages and works with struggling students throughout the day. She marks almost ALL my papers. She stays after school to clean up, close up, or meet with students when I have to run home. She has made my transition to a working mommy SO much easier, and I am so thankful for Goodness!
Although she’s not formally trained as a primary school teacher, I’m praying that Goodness will feel confidant enough to take my place next year. She has all the qualities of a good teacher, and I’m working with her on adopting additional techniques and teaching strategies. Please pray with me!
I have 14 students this year, and a wide range of talents and abilities. Thank you for praying for their growth: academically, spiritually, and socially.
I leave Eswatini today, Sunday, 27 September, for a week in
Zambia. I will be facilitating two, two-day modules to 40 pastors in a Training of Trainers context. These church leaders will come from several parts of the country, and a spectrum of differing denominational groupings.
I will be teaching “Quality Servant Leadership,” a course that focuses on the revolutionary leadership style of Jesus and other early
Christian leaders. It’s not a popular concept among leaders, but desperately needed to get us away from the self-centered, power-based models common in political, business, and church structures. Then we’ll cover “Money Matters: God’s Answers to Poverty,” a course that continues to have significant impact across the region.
Pray for safety in travel, a huge dose of strength and energy, as well as effectiveness that serves God’s glory and purposes.
Please pray for Mary Jean, she continues to carry a “way too heavy” load of responsibilities as classroom teacher (Grade 1 & 2), director of New Life Children’s Homes, and financial administration for New Life Homes.
Last week we were preparing for a trip to South Africa to purchase some farm equipment. I (Tommy) went into town to get some cash for the purchase. I withdrew approximately $1,500 US dollars from the bank. In South African rand, this amount of money stacks up to be a few inches thick, making it quite difficult to get around unnoticed. I locked the bills in the glove compartment of our truck as I ran inside a restaurant to get lunch. By the time I returned, all of the money was gone. As you can imagine, this was quite a shocking, disheartening, and disorienting experience. I went back to the bank with the police to look at the security video and saw that I had been followed by a group of men from the minute I walked into the bank. Though the money is gone, we have so much to be thankful for in terms of what did not happen. No physical confrontation, no damage to the truck (they likely used a “blocking device” to keep the truck from locking), and no one following me home. Please pray for justice moving forward as we continue to work with the police to resolve the case. Pray for us—that we will not become cynical towards the people here, and that our hearts would remain soft towards those we live with, minister to, and work with.
This event has caused a serious setback in our efforts to increase the efficiency and productivity of the farm, which is essential to support the orphans at New Life Homes. Would you consider giving a special gift to help recover this significant loss? Visit alp-wp.lndo.site/support to make a special contribution. Please direct your contributions to “Tommy and Mandi Bottoms Support.”
Your support has already made a huge difference here. Whether it’s purchasing farm equipment, donating books or teaching resources, sponsoring a child’s medical care, or launching a youth ministry–know that your gifts go far and we give thanks for you every day!
May the Lord continue to bless you and your family.
Tommy and Mandi
Thanks for praying!!
We are thanking God for his care surrounding us!
Our daughter, Lora, and her husband, Vuyani, were blessed with the safe arrival of their second child, another son. Cohen was born at 1:15am this past Sunday night.
Almost a week earlier than expected, labor pains started at about 11:30pm. By midnight things were clearly speeding up, so they did too. They arrived at the hospital with too little time to make it to the labor and delivery section. So he arrived in about 15 minutes at the ER, with no doctor there. Thankfully, everybody is recovering well, and came home yesterday, Thursday.
Three weeks ago, I was sandwiched on the freeway in Johannesburg, South Africa. At a point where lanes were suddenly reduced for construction a number of us were braking aggressively. About the time I had concluded that I was going to avoid knocking the vehicle in front of me I got slammed from behind. The force pushed me the rest of the way into the vehicle in front of me. No one hurt. All insured. After some minor surgery to my vehicle, I was able to drive on home to Eswatini when the police were finished. The guy behind me required towing.
Working through communication challenges and across national boundaries is proving to be “interesting” so no repairs have been started yet. We get stopped at every police checkpoint, required to explain what happened and why we don’t have a “Police Clearance,” a form that is non-negotiable here but unused in South Africa.
Then last week we got a punctured tire on the right vehicle (the same one) at the right time (5:30AM). More about that another time.
Just to say, we sense the shadow of the Almighty over and around us!
Thanks for praying,
Peter & Mary Jean Kopp
We’ve received some shocking and tragic news from our colleagues at New Life Childrens Homes. Please pray for them.
Winni is one of our house-mothers, a smart and wonderful person who gives more than her share to the efforts of the total operation of homes, farm, and school. She came with four children. Two sons are in their twenties, and two younger girls who live with her “added” family at New Life Homes.
Her second son, named Nkululeko (“freedom”) and about 20 years old, completed high school last year and has been living and working on the farm for most of these past two years. Last year he was selected by the students and staff of his school to hold the position of “Head Boy”, leading a group of prefects (both girls and boys) who are recognized as student leaders and assist in the operation of the school. He was most worthy; an honest, sensitive, and hard-working young man.
Apparently there was a problem related to a girlfriend that was unacceptable to some of her relatives, two of whom came to the residence in the community where Nkululeko was staying overnight. They attacked him, beat him badly, and he died alone sometime during the night.
For any mother to lose her son is a terrible blow. To lose a good son to such brutal and senseless violence is worse. To any mother in Africa where there are no social security structures, losing a son is also a huge economic blow, akin to losing all one’s retirement resources.
- For Winni, her son Bongani (an outstanding young man in his last year at university), and her daughters, Rita and Lynette.
- For the other 40 children, three other house-mothers, and all the farm staff. They also still remember the attack by four armed thugs some three years ago.
- For justice & mercy to be served. We understand two young men have been arrested, confessing to their actions.
- For Tommy & Mandi Bottoms, who shoulder the major leadership at New Life Homes in our absence. Tommy has spent a great deal of time mentoring Nkululeko, AND he had also been tutoring one of the alleged culprits in mathematics in preparation for his end-of-high school exams.
- For Tiersa Chaffin, who only arrived at NLH two weeks ago, to train our preschool teachers.
- For Rob & Jennifer Taylor, who work at the farm and schools, live a distance from the farm, but engage with children and staff each day through their ministry roles.
- For Mary Jean and me, who are trying to provide support, counsel, and some measure of leadership from afar, while continuing the ongoing travelling ministry to our support network which we are currently undertaking in the USA.
By God’s providence, two pastors, and their wives, from a supporting church of ours in California were visiting that weekend. While not the confluence of affairs we would choose, God’s wisdom had them on site.
Thanks for praying,