October 22, 2015 by Diana Coombs
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
September 18, 2015 by Diana Coombs
Photo and text by Dan Masengeli, ELI Kenya
Raphael Ovesi is a former student of Empowering Lives’ Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program (SACDP) from 2011 to 2012. He comes from a family of eight siblings, plus his father and mother. He came to know the Kipkaren River Training and Development Center through his sister Lilian, also a former SACDP student of class 2010 to 2011, who spoke to him about how someone is empowered socially, religiously and economically if he joins the institution.
In 2011, he joined the institution as one of the students. From the beginning, he displayed the qualities of working hard both in class and in the field. Against this backdrop of empowerment and success at the institution, it was amazing to discover how he used to raise fees to fund his education to ease the burden from his parents, who were educating his younger siblings. Raphael decided to help shoulder the burden of school fees by doing manual jobs like weeding people’s farms; harvesting and shelling maize; and feeding people’s livestock during school holidays. Despite the challenge of fees, he managed to graduate from SACDP in 2012.
He continued to believe in God, whom he came to know here at the Training Center, and was blessed with a job at Nebert Ventures in Kipkaren as a farm manager. Upon visiting him on the farm, I discovered that he was in charge of crop and vegetable production and marketing. With the gifting of being a good mobilizer and a skilled farmer, he has managed to attract customers from the surrounding local community, schools and nearby market. On average, he supplies a total of 200 kilograms of vegetables a week with 10 different customers visiting the farm every day, each making an order of between 50 to 100 Kenyan shillings (approximately 48 to 95 cents). This translates into enormous economic transformation for both the company and himself. This economic transformation is seen through him where he is supporting his young brother by paying fees for Kisii University in Eldoret, where his young brother is pursuing a degree in education.
Also from the little savings from his monthly salary of 8,000 Kenyan shillings ($76.11), he has managed to start a mini bakery to make mandazi (doughnuts) with the knowledge acquired from the center taught by the late Theresa Ngetich Bett. The business is at infant stage but doing well in the nearby Kipkaren market. He has employed three youths to assist with the production process, and he believes one day, he is going to have a full time bakery as well as be able to go back to school to further his education.
Raphael said, “God had a purpose of placing me in the hands of training center, which transformed my life and made me believe in myself.”
January 20, 2015 by Diana Coombs
It’s January, which means children all over Kenya have now returned to their schools. Over the past few weeks, the kids at our Ilula and Kipkaren Children’s Homes have been making their way back to the classroom.
Our staff worked hard at seeing that our kids—over 200 of them in total—were well prepared to go, making sure registration was complete, school fees were paid and supplies were purchased.
In the coming few weeks, our Class 8 graduates—11 from Ilula and 16 from Kipkaren—will be receiving their acceptance letters for secondary schools (high schools). We invite you to join us in praise of all that God has done in their lives so far and to pray over this next chapter. Please pray also for our Children’s Home staff as they steward and advocate for our kids to be admitted into good secondary schools.
Last week, our 2014 secondary school graduates (10 from Ilula and six from Kipkaren) began the Business Start-up Training, a three-week course that introduces students to the basic principles of operating a small business. It also features research and field practicals out in the students’ communities. The BST is a fascinating and interactive course, helping students to think critically and creatively about how to be entrepreneurs.
Gladys Cherono of the Kipkaren Children’s Home had this to say about the training:
“The business course is really helping us in shaping and internalizing the ideas and skills that we learn. It has also helped us in making good use of the time that we have at home. I am really happy and delighted in being in such a business class, and also, we learn more about the experiences that our trainers have gone through, and it enables us to develop a dynamic mindset about the expectations and experiences in business.”
We at Empowering Lives want to thank you for your support, encouragement and faithfulness over the years as we help to care for and raise these children into men and women of bold faith. The task is great, and we could not do this without friends like you alongside us.
October 27, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Starting next Monday, 8th grade students across Kenya will be taking an important four-day exam that will determine what high school they will be accepted into. Testing begins on Monday, November 3 and ends on Thursday, November 6. Students study long hours in order to score high grades and be accepted into good high schools. Our sponsored children would appreciate prayers as they prepare for the exams and as they take them next week.
Please partner with our Kenyan friends TONIGHT as they gather to pray for the 8th grade students.
Want to join ELI’s prayer team? CLICK HERE to sign up!
July 15, 2014 by Diana Coombs
For most Americans (who think of it), Mombasa brings to mind political strife, hotly contested debates between Muslims and Christians, riots by youths, bombings, and tribal clashes that often result in injury and death. Being in Mombasa during two major events – Ramadan (the Muslim holy month of fasting) and Saba Saba (a political action day with a vicious past in Kenya) – we felt we experienced a small amount of the tension that exists in this coastal city.
Ministering in the Frere Town neighborhood of Kenya’s second largest city, we saw poverty, alcoholism, drugs and low paying jobs impacting the students attending the Free Methodist Academy. Most of the 242 students come from single parent homes, with many only able attend the school because of a sponsorship program funded by the church. A subsidized breakfast and lunch program, costing families only 20 Kenyan shillings per child (about 25 cents), is struggle for many to pay.
How can mentoring help in these situations? It is our belief that by touching the hearts and minds of children, change can take place in countries devastated by corruption, poverty, inequality and illness. Coming alongside teachers – those whom society has deemed as the carriers of societal values and knowledge – we challenge them to perform their job differently. Rather than viewing themselves as keepers of knowledge, we seek to turn their hearts and minds – and those of their students – to the ultimate place of wisdom, knowledge and character: Jesus! Using teacher training seminars and mentoring as our vehicle, we hope to touch lives in meaningful ways.
We’d like to say that this is easy, but that wouldn’t be the truth. It is hard to help people make mental shifts, to examine long-held cultural views and compare them to biblical truth. It is challenging to refocus a teacher’s efforts away from test scores to life beyond the test. Working with few resources, teachers struggle to apply innovative creative teaching when even having chalk and pencils in a challenge. Learning to welcome “errors,” “mistakes” and “wrong answers” as information to guide students to deeper thinking is a struggle for educators who are trained to believe that the world provides one right answer to everything.
Mentoring is a means to share, approximate and try new things. It opens the door to many heartbreaking discussions, but it also leads to many that are illuminating. When we are invited into schools, it is an opportunity to look at life in the classroom and seek a pathway that reveals the Creator. It is our goal to help every teacher know Christ and through that, help their students know Him too.
January 30, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Packed and looking “smart” in their uniforms, our girls are ready to make the drive to their new Secondary School, Liberty Girls, in Eldoret.
Our first group of Form 1 (9th grade) girls have officially left for school. By, “left for school”, I mean, packed their suitcases, a new mattress and all their necessities to head off to boarding school. They will return back home during their school holiday breaks in April, August and December. This is customary in Kenya where children entering into high school attend boarding school. Please keep these precious girls in your prayers as they study, grow, develop and shine the light of Jesus.
November 14, 2013 by Diana Coombs
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…)
November 7, 2013 by Diana Coombs
By Colleen Costigan, Professional Volunteer
Meet Sandra Cherop
Sandra and I bonded right away when I was in Kenya for one month last year. Why? I carried her on my back from the medical clinic to the Children’s Home. She was so ill with malaria she couldn’t make the two-kilometer walk.
From that point on, we were good friends. And I think we would both agree that saying goodbye last year was difficult.
October 17, 2013 by Diana Coombs
We drove out to an open field to see a war plane. I honestly didn’t know why we were doing that or what to expect. The car was parked on the dirt road and all of us climbed out. I followed our Sudanese friends through the dry field and started to recognize remnants of a plane in the distance. The colors it was painted camouflaged itself in the tall dry grass. When we got to the plane, we all began to examine it, climb on it and talk about it.
How did it get here? (more…)
October 10, 2013 by Diana Coombs
By, Colleen Costigan, Professional Volunteer
Meet Mercy Chelimo
I think God must have divinely inspired her mother and father when they selected a name for their daughter. I can’t think of a more fitting name. Mercy’s eyes exude just that, a spirit of mercy and compassion. And if you make eye contact with her or tell her a joke or do something to get her to smile, you will see her face light up the entire room. Chelimo is her Kalenjin tribal name which means “born when taking the cows from being fed”. (more…)
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
- What caused this modern day genocide and why was it hitting me so hard? (more…)
October 2, 2013 by Diana Coombs
By Colleen Costigan, Professional Volunteer
Meet Stellah Jepchirchir.
Stellah’s mom died when she was seven months old in a motor accident.
Her father’s identity is unknown so her Aunt Margaret took over her care. Stellah knew her Aunt Margaret as mom.
When Stellah was six, she was told to pack a bag for boarding school, which is very common in Kenya. She was excited for the opportunity to go to school! Stellah didn’t realize she was going to a Children’s Home until she saw all the kids welcome her at the gate. (more…)
September 19, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Our team of 8 boarded onto the small plane and took up every seat available to fly into South Sudan. We packed lightly as the plane could only hold a limited amount of weight. As the plane sped down the runway, I had no idea what was ahead of us. I was warned that it would be hot, but, I didn’t realize there would be no reprieve from the hot sun. As we flew over the land, I saw that it was flat, dry and held very few trees and plants. As the time went by and the more I looked out the window, I realized we were far from any comforts of modern civilization and in the middle of “nowhere”. (more…)
September 5, 2013 by Diana Coombs
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…)
June 21, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Our Ilula Children’s Home director, Laban, was phoned by another local Children’s Home in Kitale. They wanted to visit our Children’s Home and organize a debate with some of the children from each home. The topic to be debated would be, “Secondary School (High School) is the only way to success”. (more…)
May 27, 2013 by admin
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23
Empowering Lives International delights in pairing up ministry needs with ministry gifts. Each year as our Team, Professional Volunteer, and Intern season rolls around we pour over applications, praying about how God might use the talents of visitors to further His kingdom.
How can one minister with a paint brush? Currently ELI is hosting Sarah Ackerley, a Professional Volunteer who really knows how to use this tool beyond what most of us can do! As an illustrator of children’s books, Sarah has been integrating her love of art, children, and Jesus into her ministry activities in the village of Kipkaren, Kenya.
Educating orphans and vulnerable children is a special task and ELI’s Brook of Faith Academy staff wanted to transform the nursery school classroom into an inviting place, something that matched the enthusiasm and love that the teacher, Mrs. Chebii, lavishes on the children. Partnering with Sarah and her creative talents, this once drab classroom has become a place that invites the children into a learning adventure. With “Noah’s Ark” as a theme, Sarah has used her paintbrush to inspire kids to seek Him! The results are amazing….a true Colossians 3:23 expression of a talent!
How might God be asking you to apply your talents in Kingdom building activities? If you’d like to explore a service opportunity as a Professional Volunteer or Intern, click here for more details.
May 9, 2013 by Diana Coombs
9th grade students
It’s back to school for our children in Kipkaren and Ilula. It was great to have all the children home for the school holiday. In addition to playing and catching up with each other, the older children (8th grade and high school) went through additional school tutoring as well as participated in a vacation bible school that a short term team from Water of Life Church in Southern California hosted. (more…)
February 24, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Ilula Children’s Home Form 1 (Freshman) Boys
By Amy Rogers and Cathy Lessig
We are thrilled this year that Concord Boys High School in Eldoret, Kenya, has invited over twenty boys from ELI’s Children’s’ Homes in Ilula (15+) and Kipkaren (5) to attend their school. We are excited our boys have a great support system for each other! (more…)
February 7, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Linda, one of our children in the Ilula Children’s Home, just received news that she passed the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam. This is a huge feat! This means she is able to join high school. Along with the 20 other children in Ilula and 6 children in Kipkaren who passed the KCPE exams, Linda waits for the results of what high school will accept her. We’re hoping to hear from schools starting next week. This is a huge milestone for children who would never been able to go to school if it were not for the Children’s Homes. One life at a time we are caring for orphans and giving them a hope and a future.
Linda wanted to send a thank you to ELI and all the sponsors, a thank you that all of our children echo. (more…)
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.