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Beyond the Office: Butcher makes a difference around the world

Attorney also an influence on others looking to lend a hand

Steve Butcher Sr. poses with children of Malawi in December 2012. Courtesy Steve Butcher Sr.

Steve Butcher Sr. poses with children of Malawi in December 2012. Courtesy Steve Butcher Sr.

Steve Butcher Sr., a long-time local real estate attorney, is not the guy he used to be.

He suggests that some people reading this article may be surprised at how much he’s changed as he explains his mission work in both Brazil and Africa that has taken him south of the equator 12 times now.

At the end of the article, if you are still doubtful it’s the same Butcher you used to know, check YouTube for “Amazon River Churches.” You’ll learn more about his pursuits in Brazil that have already resulted in the building of six churches in Amazon River villages by teams of American volunteers, including Steve and his wife, Dianna, on every build.

Amazon River Churches

Butcher explained that in 2004, the Lord instructed him to bring teams of Americans to build village churches along the Amazon. Since he’d never been to Brazil, didn’t speak Portuguese or know anything about building, it took a good bit of effort to get organized for the first church, built in October 2007.

As Butcher talked with leaders of Project Amazon, most deemed his sketchy proposal of coming to Brazil to build churches in a week “simply impossible.” When he traveled to Brazil in 2007, he himself wondered about blueprints and process. But once he was among the people who so sincerely love God, he said the details of God’s plan came together, and within 6 months, the first team of volunteers celebrated the first service in a building that was built in five days.

“With the assistance of a variety of Christian churches, money is raised and volunteers are secured for a one-week trip to Brazil,” Butcher shared. “The Americans going to build the churches get to experience Christianity in a whole new way. And God is good about finding teams interested in the Brazil missions — as well as the African projects.”

Off to Africa

“There’s a call from Africa,” Butcher’s office assistant announced one day in 2010.

“Just as I was called to Brazil a few years earlier to organize short-term mission teams to build churches, I was called to Africa, without a lot of details, so a call from an African pastor who very much wanted permission to come meet with me seemed to be a natural sign,” Butcher explained.

The church and pews in Hesed Village, built by H.I.M. volunteers, including Jason Tones. Here residents are gathering for the first church service, celebrated outside to accommodate a larger crowd. Courtesy Steve Butcher Sr.

The church and pews in Hesed Village, built by H.I.M. volunteers, including Jason Tones. Here residents are gathering for the first church service, celebrated outside to accommodate a larger crowd. Courtesy Steve Butcher Sr.

He went on to say the “man of God” never asked for money, and, unbeknownst to Butcher at the time, the pastor sold most of his dairy cattle to buy an airplane ticket to come to the United States.

“That first visit by Bishop Samuel Mkisi was in June 2011, and it turned into a seven-week brainstorming and planning session,” Butcher said.

The pastor had four acres in the northern region of Malawi and wished to build an orphanage. Rather than create an institution, it was decided they would establish a village of smaller homes, each housing 12 orphans and a mother to re-form a family. In Africa, your identity is tied to family and village and this what the children needed as much as anything else, he said.

Butcher and his daughter Angela, co-founded Hesed International Missions in 2011.  Butcher has now led four American volunteer teams to Malawi.

The Republic of Malawi is a fairly peaceful country bordering on Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. It is one of the world’s least-developed countries with extreme poverty, high infant mortality rates and low life expectancy.

Hesed International Missions (H.I.M.) has built a Central Building in Hesed Village, providing accommodations for visiting volunteers. Butcher has led four teams that completed two residences (one for boys, one for girls) with two more under construction; built a swing-set and jungle gym; completed a church building including 33 wooden benches; and started a building that will house a corn mill.

Jason and Nicole Tones

During the course of a real estate transaction involving Tones, Vaisey PC, Butcher was introduced to Jason Tones, a younger real estate attorney with a wife and four kids. Tones was intrigued by the work Butcher was doing in Africa. Since then, Tones’ wife Nicole has been on four missions to Malawi and Jason just returned from his Malawi experience in March.

Tones was eager to talk about his recent trip, which included handing out bars of soap and small bags of sugar to 450 prisoners, taking part in a three-day crusade to announce the opening of a new church, and building 33 church pews with just hammers, a bucket of mixed-sized nails and plant lumber.

“There were no screws available, so you use what you have. You can’t just go to Home Depot,” Tones laughed. “And Hesed Village is not an easy place to get to. After 24 hours of flying, there is a six-hour bus ride from the airport to Lilongwe to Hesed Village in Mzuz, less than ideal road conditions.”

“But there is so much you can do once you get there,” he said. “It’s a life changing experience. It’s definitely worth going all that way.”

Looking ahead

H.I.M. has a goal of completing 15 residences for 12 kids each.

This is the first residence built in Malawi to house young female orphans. Courtesy Steve Butcher Sr.

This is the first residence built in Malawi to house young female orphans. Courtesy Steve Butcher Sr.

“In addition to teams of volunteers to do the work, we need monthly support to feed and care for the kids,” Butcher said. “We are improving their health via better water sources, providing better clothing than the few scraps of rags they wear in some cases, and assuring nutrition.

To learn more about H.I.M. and some very hard work just south of the equator, visit www.hesidmissions.org. Teams usually consist of 10 to 14 volunteers, ranging in age from 13 to 89.

In preparation for each mission, volunteers attend six preparatory meetings so they better know what to expect, what to take with them and the cultural observations that may help a new volunteer meeting Malawi’s natives for the first time.

Regular trips to Brazil are also planned to build additional churches along the Amazon River.

A final word

“People in the legal community who have seen the change in me over the last 10 years tell me frankly how ‘horrible’ I used to be,” Butcher admitted. “It’s true, I tried to win by intimidation but I’ve learned a lot about grace and patience in recent years. And so I would like to this this opportunity to apologize for those years. As they say, I’m feeling much better now.”