Around 57 B.C., the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome saying, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12 ESV). In this fallen world, one affliction often leads to another. For the widows and orphans of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the death of a spouse or both parents is often a slippery step into multi-faceted suffering, a life splintered by grief, trauma, and poverty.
Since 2007, Elikya Center has beamed as a twinkle of hope in the heart of this suffering. “Elikya is a vocational training center for older GlobalFingerprints sponsored orphans ages seventeen to twenty-three and for widows” explains Nancy Hibma, co-site coordinator of the center with her husband, Jerry. “The vocational skills that are taught at the Elikya Center during the ten months that the students are there are sewing, carpentry, masonry, mechanics, hair care, agriculture, and soap-making.” Jerry adds, “Since purchasing soap at a local store for most people in Congo is not possible, soap-making is a very important skill that you can bring back to your local village, then make soap, and sell it to provide income for yourself and your family.”
For widows and orphans needing to support themselves and perhaps family members as well, this training not only offers marketable skills but also paves the way to financial independence, valuable labor investments in their own communities, and new relationships. “Being an orphan or widow in Congo can be very lonely and discouraging, giving you a sense of hopelessness,” Nancy continues. “Elikya means ‘hope’ in the local Lingala language…[and] at Elikya, there is a sense of family that many may never have experienced before.” “Monique,” a graduate from the training program, shared this testimony of hope with her sponsor:
Dear Mom, we have just completed a total of 10 months of training at the Elikya Center. This is because of the love that the Lord has placed in your heart to help me. May the Lord bless you for your generosity and compassion for me. I was a very sad widow, but your assistance consoled me because this training brought me closer to the love of the living God. I discovered other widows in the middle of this training. It is important for me to remind you that I am a widow of seven children and ten grandchildren, and it has been three years since I have lost my husband. You are now in my heart and a member of my biological family. I will continue to pray for you so you will do as much for other people who will come after me for other training. Pray for my journey back to my village. Your sister in Christ, Monique.In addition to the vocational training, Elikya Center also offers robust Bible and life skill classes. This Bible teaching is particularly important as “Christ’s love and grace for each student is the foundation of everything at Elikya,”
Nancy emphasizes. Of the thirty-one GlobalFingerprints children and seventeen widows at the center this past school year, twenty-five chose to be baptized.
The heart of the ministry, Nancy says, is spiritual transformation. “[This] is why the center is called ‘hope’!” One of the children whose faith is nurtured by this ministry is “Timothy.” An orphan with no extended family to take him in, Timothy sought out the center on foot, where he was brought in by the resident pastor and his family and was later sponsored by a stateside couple. When his sponsors had the unique opportunity to visit him in Congo, they shared this about the experience: It was such a joy to talk to him, to hear what he was doing, and to hear about his faith. The morning we left, he had tears rolling down his cheeks, as did we. It just reminds us of what we’re all doing. We’re blessing these children with sponsorship, and yet they bless us so much more.
Jerry asks for prayer for the “deep and lasting spiritual transformation through the love of Christ” for everyone involved in and blessed by the ministry; for the students’ new skills to serve them well; and for each student to develop “God-honoring, loving, and healthy relationships” upon graduation. He prays as well for continued provision to support the ministry’s 180 acres of classrooms, orchards, gardens, and fields used both to feed the center and teach agricultural skills. Again in Romans 12, Paul exhorts his readers to use our “different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (vs. 6). He writes, “If it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously” (Romans 12:7-8).
If God is calling you to give, you can sponsor a child in Congo online or by texting “sponsor” to 22999. You can also donate to Elikya Center today.
“Thank you so much for letting us share with you about this beautiful place, Elikya or Hope,” Jerry concludes. “You are so transforming the lives of vulnerable orphans and widows in a place 8,000 miles away in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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