By Jennifer Meers Jones ’08
Darbi Winsman Tidwell ’01 was a 7th grader when she first felt God’s calling to missions. Little did she know then the big plans He had in store for her would include establishing an orphanage in Mapanza, Zambia. As newlyweds after college, Darbi and her husband Blu felt drawn to Africa—specifically Zambia. They committed to a two-year assignment working in Zambian youth ministry with the International Mission Board. Once their assignment ended, they returned home so Blu could attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We thought we were back for good, but we just kept thinking about Zambia,” Darbi said. “It was in our hearts, especially the kids. We really felt if we could reach them when they are young it would make a difference. In our time there, we would see people come to Christ, but then problems came and they reverted back to what they had always known, which is witchcraft and promiscuity. Those cultural beliefs are deeply ingrained in them.”
This led to the idea of planting an orphanage in Zambia that would provide children with a quality education from a Christian perspective. Upon sharing this vision with their families, Blu’s brother offered to donate the money to get the orphanage started. Soon, plans were set in motion that moved New Day Orphanage from dream to reality.
The Tidwells spent a year in the States coordinating plans and raising money. During a survey trip, Blu received 40 acres of land from a Zambian chief to use for the orphanage. In January 2010, the Tidwells and their three children made the permanent move to Zambia and began building the orphanage.
Darbi said the vision for New Day is different from a typical orphanage. Instead of the goal being to adopt children out, they take orphans in and raise them to adulthood.
“We have three tenets to what we are doing,” she explained. “A Christian worldview is the first priority. The basic premise of everything we do is to teach them about Jesus so that when they grow up and encounter problems, instead of reverting to witchcraft, they will fall back on Christ. Number two is providing them with quality education. We have a school on our property, and they are taught by Zambian and American teachers. The third aspect is retaining their Zambian culture. They live in a house with a Zambian house mother, so they still wash their own socks and learn to eat Zambian food. Our intent is not to raise little Americans; we want them to grow up and reach their own countrymen for Christ.”
Eight orphans currently live at New Day. A second building is currently being built on the property, which will house eight more students. The Tidwells hope one day they will have the capacity to house 80 to 100 children on the property.
All of this, Darbi said, wouldn’t have been possible without the foundation she established as a college student.
“I think UMHB was a turning point for me; it is where God became real and I made Him my own. I was raised in a Christian home; after graduating from high school, I had to make a decision about whether this faith was real to me—am I going to choose this for myself or not? UMHB was where I decided I was going to follow Christ. In our lives, that has taken the shape of going overseas. Everybody’s life is different, but for us, that is what following Christ has looked like.”