Category: DR Congo

Honoring God through Change 4 Life

September 1, 2016 by Diana Coombs

SOP Email Banner - Honor God

VBS Change 4 Life

As we wrap up the summer, I want to leave you with an awesome highlight. Children around the country were able to make an impact through our Change 4 Life project through their VBS programs. Through Change 4 Life, thousands of children around the U.S. honored God through their giving, by collecting change to help provide school supplies for our kids in the D.R. Congo. Churches collected anywhere between $200-$2000 dollars!

One Children’s Ministry Director shared, “Each night they were challenged to bring home a plastic container to fill with spare change. We showed the video about ‘Change 4 Life’ and it inspired the kids to help others needing an education and supplies.” The children really connected with the idea that their money was going to go across the world to help another child in need. By the end of the week, the children collectively brought in 333 pounds of spare change, more than $1500!

What a joy to see and hear about children who are positively impacting lives and honoring God, as well as the impact it made on their own lives. Together, these children became change agents from right here in the U.S.

We are so very grateful for all who participated in ELI’s Change 4 Life project!

If you are interested in partnering with ELI for your VBS program, please send us an email or call the office!

Elizabeth Serrano 
Development Coordinator Intern
Empowering Lives International

Fire in DR Congo

May 12, 2016 by Diana Coombs

SOP Email Banner - The Poor

SOP Poor Flames 5-9-2016

The fire raged, a huge orange flame lighting up the sky. By the time it was contained, it had consumed 40 homes. For a slum in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it was a miracle there were no casualties.

The Keredi slum is located in a valley between two hillsides, and the poorest live at the bottom. All of our students at the ELI Christian Academy live here. Homes are packed tightly together, made mostly of wood, mud, and tin roofs. They are propped on stilts for when the rains flood the floor of the slum. When it is rainy season, the ground becomes a trap of sticky mud, very difficult to walk in, especially when all you own is a pair of flip flops or nothing at all. Sewage winds between the homes, and makeshift bridges made from planks of wood allow you to cross over. Trash litters the ground. Life is harsh and every morning means you survived one more day.

We received an email from our ELI DRC Director confirming news of the fire. Four of our students had lost their homes. The origin of the fire is still unknown and the government is doing nothing to investigate or assist the families affected. We thank God that no one was physically hurt and only material items were damaged. But for families who barely survive on $1 a day, this was devastating.

SOP Poor Burnt Homes 5-9-2016

Understanding the great need, our staff in DRC, teachers, and students collected as much as they were able ($64) to purchase clothes, books, shoes, cups, plates, pots and pans to give to the four families in our school who lost their homes. Groups visited the families and prayed with them, offering comfort in the midst of great loss.

When tragedy hits the poor, the ramifications are severe. There are no insurance policies to fall back on. The dollar you earn a day cannot replace the home you built or repurchase clothes and supplies that burned. You rely on your community to help out.

And we are their community.

This is an opportunity for you, me and the ELI School to shine the light of Christ to the thousands in the Keredi slum. We are setting a goal to raise $20,000 by the end of May to help the families of our students who lost their homes and to provide for children coming to our school. The ELI school offers quality education and food for over 650 children in the Keredi slum – 650 children equipped to conquer the cycle of poverty and share the hope of Christ to their community.

Join us as together, as we are empowering lives!

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Diana Coombs

Vulnerable Children Program Manager

Empowering Lives International

Journey of a Congolese Child: A University Experience

April 20, 2016 by Diana Coombs

Brought to you by dedicated students and leaders at East Stroudsburg University, PA.


IMG_0465A child in the D.R. Congo…

Born into a land of great natural beauty, a farm, a home.

Yet the child’s path winds quickly through dangerous and unexpected turns.

Through war and the death of a father,

Sickness and the death of a mother,

Poverty and the loss of her home.

She makes her way to an urban slum.


Her path continues downward.

Her siblings split up among relatives,

IMG_1027Her uncle and caretaker is the most abusive.

Perhaps it is better to live on the streets?


It is a scary, uncertain, and treacherous path,

Yet it is all too common in the D.R. Congo.

Can these children find hope again?


We believe that they can! This is the work of the ELI school in the slum of Bukavu, D.R. Congo – to provide hope, food, health, and opportunities to those who thought they had lost it all.


Thanks to wonderful partners in the United States, the reality of life in the D.R. Congo is being shared. The photos you see here were created for a demonstration at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Students in the art class of Dr. Darlene Farris-Labarr and in the Social work with Communities and Organizations class of Dr. Laurene Clossey worked together to help spread awareness on their campus. Together, these students decided to take a stand for justice and for hope in the D.R. Congo by supporting Empowering Lives and sharing with their community. Thank you, ESU!


Share the stories, support leaders who are making a difference in communities on the ground, learn more, and stand up for justice and hope in our world. These are ways you can be a part of the ELI Community today!


Also, check out our Kids’ Program for 2016, where kids here can help send kids in the D.R. Congo to school!

Ishara’s Journey

October 22, 2015 by Diana Coombs

Christbridge 01
ELI International Director Don Rogers presents Ishara’s Journey at Christbridge Academy on October 14, 2015.

Text and photos by Tori Greaves, ELI U.S.

Ishara lives with her brothers and sister in a rural village in the Congo. After their mother passed away due to the violence of raiding militias, Ishara became the main decision-maker of the family. Will she sell everything to take her siblings to the city? Perhaps there, she will find some support. Or will she try to farm their land on her own? What challenges will she face on the road ahead?

Now, imagine you are Ishara. What decisions will you make?

Ishara’s Journey is a choose-your-own-adventure story that reflects the real lives and decisions of children who have come to Empowering Lives’ school in the slums of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. In schools, classrooms and church programs, we present Ishara’s Journey so that children in the U.S. can learn what it is like for kids living in countries that suffer from poverty and violence. It is a significant way to engage the younger generation in the lives of others, as well as to invite them to be part of God’s transforming work in East Africa.

Christbridge 02Christbridge Academy’s guiding verse for the year.

One school, Christbridge Academy in Azusa, California, has partnered with Empowering Lives for over nine years now. Students, teachers and administrators at Christbridge Academy seek to reflect God through spirit, knowledge and service. For the past several years, Christbridge students have created their own projects to raise awareness and funds for the ministry of Empowering Lives. Their hard work empowers their community and our ministry to continue participating in God’s incredible work. Thank you for welcoming us, Christbridge, and for your courage to lead although you are young!

Through partnership with Christbridge Academy and others, we are privileged to offer a safe place and opportunity for Congolese children on a very difficult journey. Making the decision to enroll in our school in Bukavu may be the one easy decision that Ishara has to make, but it is a decision that will equip and support her through the rest of her life.

If your school or classroom would like to partner with Empowering Lives, let us know at We would love to present or equip you with Ishara’s Journey and other resources to help your students learn and grow in service and generosity. Your kids can make a difference in the lives of children in DR Congo!

Photo of the Day

January 14, 2015 by Angela Vincent

A warm welcome at our school in the Keredi slum in Bukavu, DRC. (photo: Micah Albert)

Educate a Community: God our Rescuer

November 14, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Riziki and Chantal stand in front of their home

Riziki and Chantal stand in front of their home

She answered our questions with no hint of emotion. It was almost as if she was numb to the pain and poverty that is the reality of her life, so, I was surprised when her answers were filled with hope.

“Do you sometimes feel God’s Love?”


“How do you feel God’s love?”

“He takes care of me and rescues me from my problems.”

Chantal has hope even though her circumstances speak otherwise.

She rents a six foot by six foot wooden shack in the middle of a slum in Bukavu, D.R. Congo. (more…)

Educate a Community: History of D.R. Congo

October 3, 2013 by Diana Coombs

I learned this saying in history classes throughout my school days as a child and into college: “Those who don’t learn the past are doomed to repeat it.” There are some great events and people in the past we learn about and want to repeat or emulate, but, there are also events and people we learn of that we don’t want to be influenced by. It wasn’t until I stood on the very soil where millions of people were killed that the wise saying I learned sank in.

My colleagues and I had a layover in Kigali, Rwanda, on our way to Bukavu, D.R. Congo, to visit ELI’s school. Micah and I decided to take the short drive to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. To be honest, I didn’t know much about what had happened in Rwanda and why so many people were massacred in 1994. As I stood looking at the mass graves below, I couldn’t believe that it all happened when I was 11 years old! Genocide happens in my lifetime? I was shocked! I thought that was something of the past like when I learned about the Holocaust in world history classes. Even that seemed far removed even though it happened during the time period when my grandparents were born.

Mass graves located at the Rwandan Genocide Memorial

Mass graves located at the Rwandan Genocide Memorial

What caused this modern day genocide and why was it hitting me so hard? (more…)

Educate a Community: Strategically in a Slum

September 5, 2013 by Diana Coombs


Map of DRC Bukavu

Bukavu is a city in the Southern Kivu province in D.R. Congo (DRC). It shares a border with Rwanda and has been plagued by war for many years; a war caused by various groups trying to gain power, territory and protect its own interests. To this day there is still instability within the country and tensions run high. Within Bukavu, there are several zones; one of those zones is Keredi, and that is where ELI’s school is located. (more…)

Back To School

August 30, 2013 by Diana Coombs


We are looking for more sponsors to support the children in our schools in Africa. We are about half-way there to fully sponsor the children. As families across the nation and world start shopping to go back to school, please remember the children in our schools who are also going back to school.

$30 will pay for 3 children in a slum in DR Congo or village in South Sudan to attend ELI’s schools for one month.

Educating children will educate the community. These children take what they have learned back home and teach their families. Receiving an education also increases their future earning potential by 10-20% thus helping their future and their future family. Worldwide it is proven that education helps break the cycle of poverty within generations as children learn about hygiene and how to better take care of themselves, girls learn about motherhood and other life skills are learned.


Meet another child in DRC: Munyere Arhalimba Mudosa

January 21, 2013 by Diana Coombs

We’re called to care for orphans and widows; it says that multiple times in the Bible. How do we practically do that? Maybe you don’t know any widows or orphans. One way is through supporting ELI’s school in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Our school educates over 650 children in grades 1-12. Many of these children come from families of widows or are orphans themselves. With the lack of income and resources available to them, they would not be able to attend school and receive a good education if our school did not exist.

About 10% of the children who attend our school are orphans and 12% are children who come from very vulnerable living situations where their families are extremely poor. These children are not able to pay school fees.

Munyere is one of the orphans who attends our school. She is 7 years old and in the second grade. Her father passed away a long time ago and her mother passed away 3 years ago, leaving Munyere and her two siblings orphaned. Munyere and her brother were adopted by an aunt who has 10 other children she takes care of, three of which are also orphans. Her sister was adopted by a Good Samaritan.

With limited resources, Munyere may only receive one meal a day at home. The one consistent meal she receives during the week is at school where we serve porridge that is full of nutrition. The meal is not the only thing Munyere is thankful for. She appreciates being able to attend school and receive a great education, something that would not be possible without donations from many people across the world.

Munyere loves school and has become especially sociable with other children who are in similar situations. She has a heart for the orphans because she knows first-hand what it is like to be an orphan.

When we asked Munyere what she would like to share with those who support her and all the children in her school, she said, “Please remember Jesus’ words that say if you welcome a child you welcome God and make known the Kingdom of God.” Munyere is referencing the verse Luke 9:48. She understands that the least will be the first in the Kingdom of God. Many times we see children as least, but, in fact, they are great in God’s sight. Let us never forget the children, especially those who are orphaned and living in poor conditions.

Thank you for not forgetting these children and remembering Jesus’ words.

We are still in need of monthly sponsors for our school in DRC.

$30/month for a year will help 3 children attend school!

CLICK HERE to sponsor children in one of our classes.

Meet Genifa Seka

January 19, 2013 by Diana Coombs

Genifa is one of the students in ELI’s school in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She is 9 years old and is in our first grade class. You may be wondering why she is 9 years old and in the first grade. Well, for many of our students, they start school later in life because their families never had the money to pay school fees. The average cost to attend school in the DRC is $10 per month per student for primary school and $20 for secondary school. It makes it difficult, and even impossible, for children to pay for school when their families can barely earn $1 a day, especially when that $1 needs to stretch to feed, clothe, and care for multiple children in a family.



October 12, 2012 by Diana Coombs
Diana and Stephen Reech

Hallow?… Hallow?

Hello, Stephen?

Ah, yes, Diana.

Hi Stephen!

How are you?

I’m doing well, how are you?

I am fine, thank you.

This is how every phone call I receive from Stephen Reech starts off. Stephen calls into our office and as soon as I hear the voice on the other end, I immediately know it is him. His accent is thick, very difficult to understand, especially over the phone. The delay is bad, often causing us to talk over each other. You see, he is calling from South Sudan and he is Sudanese, from the Dinka tribe. He is the director of ELI South Sudan. He travels miles in order to have access to a phone that will work, and sometimes that phone doesn’t work. This time, he said he was not sure if he would be able to call again because he needed to leave and it looked like it was going to rain, which would make the roads difficult to drive through because they get very muddy. He asks me, “Please, can you have Don call me back?”I try to tell him I will. (more…)

Ischara- A lament written by Living Spring youth

September 19, 2012 by Angela Vincent

This summer I had the amazing privilege to share at Living Spring Church in Garden Grove. I told the story of a girl named Ishara, who through a series of hard circumstances, was led to attend the ELI school in the middle of a slum in Bukavu, D.R. Congo. This church youth group not only spent all summer raising incredible resources to partner with our school in Congo, but took it a step further.

They wrote a song.

A lament that tells the story of Ishara, as well as our own culture here in America. It is an incredible reminder of what others go through worldwide, and how our own hearts can be so distracted from what really matters. (more…)

Big Little Box

August 19, 2012 by Diana Coombs

When I was visiting our school in DR Congo, I was introduced to this little box:

Written on the box in French is:

Welfare for the students of the ELI School

Inside the box were pieces of paper folded up. On each piece of paper is the name of a child in our school who is unable to pay school fees. Our teachers and any visitors who come to the school are able to draw a name from the box and contribute fees for that particular child. (more…)

Roaring like a Lion- VBS at the The Bridge

July 11, 2012 by Angela Vincent

“My God is not dead! He’s surely alive! He’s living on the inside. Roaring like a lion!” These very words were shouted in worship from the lips of 300+ kids and volunteers almost every day during Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer at The Bridge (church) in Chino, CA. To be able to plant that truth in their minds to a beat and rhythm is almost guaranteed success for remembering it days, weeks and months later. The reason we do VBS? To plant truths like this and to watch God move! And move He did! Like a lion! I’m quite positive each kid walked off the campus with a contented heart full of love and fond memories every day.

I’m humbled to have this opportunity to testify of God’s amazing love and faithfulness that overflowed on and from our campus the last week in June. I’m Kay Hilt, the Director of Children’s Ministries and the Director of Mission at The Bridge in Chino. And I have had the amazing privilege of partnering with ELI over the past several years which include sponsoring two girls from Ilula, leading two teams to Ilula in 2007 & 2009 as well as interning in Ilula for a month in July 2010. I am truly blessed to be in relationship with everyone at ELI. (more…)

Final Exams in our School in DR Congo

June 4, 2012 by Diana Coombs

Please keep our 12th grade students in our school in DR Congo in your prayers. They will be taking their final exams this month on June 22-26. These exams will determine if they pass high school and graduate. Please pray for them as they prepare for the exams. Thank you!

Change For Life at Living Springs Church

May 15, 2012 by Angela Vincent

Last week I had the privilege of sharing at Living Springs Church in Garden Grove. This church was extremely special for me to share at, as it was the “birth place” of Empowering Lives International.  ELI’s founder, Don Rogers, served at this church when God called him to start the organization, and Living Springs continues to remain a strong supporter of ELI’s work in Africa.

Being with junior high and high school students is always encouraging, and we had an incredible time of discovering together what it means to be a “light” in a dark world. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls us the “light of the world”. Will we be a passive light, much like a nightlight, that just sits on the wall and shines dimly only for the comfort of ourselves? Or will we go out as a light-saber that actively brings light to dark places and courageously contends for the sake of Christ? (more…)

Teacher says…

April 27, 2012 by Diana Coombs

Mrs. Mushengenzi Zihalirwa with her second grade students

We asked our second grade teacher, Mrs. Mushengenzi Zihalirwa, from our school in DR Congo why she likes teaching at ELI’s School. Here are some of the things she said:

ELI gives the poorest of the poor children an opportunity to study.
We provide both intellectual and spiritual education
We hope that children and their families will know the love of God
Our school gives hope to the children, especially since the children come from poor backgrounds and many of their parents would not be able to pay for their school fees.
An education will help children be able to contribute to society in a useful way.
As teachers we receive training and attend regular seminars to ensure good quality education with results in the success of our children.
Our teaching methods create positive interaction between students and teachers which encourages students to participate in the lessons.
By providing food (porridge), ELI helps reinforce active participate of students during class because they are not tired.
We provide a good spiritual environment which is not only present in our school, but impacts the community and neighborhood; this makes parents want to send children to our school.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting our school!

Celebrate International Womans Day

March 8, 2012 by Angela Vincent

Rural women constitute one-fourth of the world’s population. They are leaders, decision-makers, producers, workers, entrepreneurs and service providers. Their contributions are vital to the well-being of families and communities, and of local and national economies.

Yet rural women’s rights, contributions and priorities have been largely overlooked. Rural women have also been hard hit by the economic and financial crisis, volatile food prices and export-driven agriculture. They need to be fully engaged in efforts to shape a response to these inter-connected crises and in decision-making at all levels.

Now Is the Time to Act

Rural women are key agents of change. Their leadership and participation are needed to shape responses to development challenges and recent crises.

Women are central to the development of rural areas: they account for a great proportion of the agricultural labour force, produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistence farming, and perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas. It is critical that their contributions be recognized and that their voices be heard in decision-making processes at all levels of governments, and within rural organizations.

Consider this story and learn how you can get involved today.

Here are a few photos from our Communications Director, Micah Albert, from over the last 5 years.


South Sudan



South Sudan


Bukavu, DRC

South Sudan


South Sudan

Global Data

70 percent of the developing world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor live in rural areas. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly one-third of these, while South Asia is now home to about half.

In 2010, 925 million people were chronically hungry, of whom 60 percent were women.

Agriculture provides a livelihood for 86 percent of rural women and men, and employment for about 1.3 billion smallholder farmers and landless workers, 43 percent of whom are women.
An estimated two-thirds of the 400 million poor livestock keepers worldwide are women.

The burden of unpaid care work is substantial. Globally there are 884 million people without safe drinking water, 1.6 billion people without reliable sources of energy, 1 billion people who lack access to roads, 2.6 billion people without satisfactory sanitation facilities, and 2.7 billion people who rely on open fires and traditional cooking stoves. Rural women carry most of the unpaid work burden due to lack of infrastructure and services.

In rural areas of the developing world, excluding China, 45 percent of women aged 20–24 were married or in union before the age of 18, compared to 22 percent of urban women.

    The Difference Five Cents Can Make

    January 30, 2012 by Angela Vincent

    Hillside pre-schoolers giving their offering.

    As the Community Engagement Coordinator for ELI, I have the privilege of encouraging others to play a part of God’s Kingdom work around the world. It is so beautiful to see the body of Christ at work, sharing each other’s burdens, and working to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  This past Fall I was able to share the story of a child at our ELI school in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the preschoolers at Hillside Community Church in Rancho Cucamonga.

    With pictures and stories, the kids and I journeyed through a day-in-the-life of Aganze Babike, as he walked to the ELI school, ate his lunch, played during PE, did his chores at home, and helped take care of his siblings. The Hillside kids learned that Aganze, like many children in the slum community in Bukavu, DR Congo, often suffer from malnutrition, as their parents have a hard time providing consistent food. A majority of them receive their only meal of the day at the ELI school.  According to our ELI DR Congo director, it costs five cents for each meal we serve to the kids. I encouraged these precious preschool children to know that even though they live far away from Africa, they can still make a genuine difference in the lives of children in DR Congo! I passed out cups, and invited them to collect change to support their friends like Aganze. Three months later, I was blown away to find that the preschool children at Hillside raised almost $1,000! Wow!