A family to children at risk

05 Jun, 2017 | International
Rebecca Rempel
Volunteer school teacher of Syrian refugee children explains, We are here for a short time, and whenever God puts people like this in front of us, this is for Him.?  
Photo by Jordan Armstrong
From using art to reach street kids in North Africa, to offering education to Syrian refugees in the Near East, to setting up daycare centres in Moldova, God is using OM to care for and empower the next generation.

Education for everyone

In 2016, OM in the Philippines celebrated 15 years of reaching out to marginalised children. The ministry began when MV Doulos visited in 2001; crewmembers connected with children living on the streets of Cebu and shared the Word of God. Five young people, led by Sally Ababa, formerly on Doulos and now the Field Leader in the Philippines, ministered weekly to the children after the ship left. The ministry expanded to other areas of the city and island. 

In 2009, the team started the Alternative Learning System (ALS) in response to the high number of out-of-school youth they met. OM today is the only NGO to offer ALS in Cebu. Most students are from dysfunctional, poor or disinterested families who, without the additional input and support of OM staff, would not pass their final exams. 

Four days a week, classes are offered in maths, English, science and Filipino; every Friday, they hold a Bible study. Teachers make weekend visits to their students and build relationships with the families.

Genevieve dropped out of high school when her family was unable to pay the fees. Happily, people encouraged her to continue her education through ALS. In 2011, Genevieve received her high school diploma. OM continued to pay her college tuition fees as she pursued a degree in hotel and restaurant management. She dreams of owning and managing a business of her own. “I am blessed in my education, but I am even more blessed with people who continue to support my growth as a woman,” said Genevieve. 

Called to Africa

Called to work with homeless children in Africa yet initially turned down by a missions organisation and told she would never be sent to Africa because of chronic illness, Christine moved from England to Africa to work with OM.

In 1996, she and volunteers began construction of a centre for street boys in Sudan that grew to include four live-in centres, a drop-in programme and a halfway house—all to prepare boys, both in remedial work and appropriate behaviour, to re-join local schools. One centre was a vocational training school.

The goal was to rehabilitate boys from the streets and return them to their families or stay with them until they become adults. More than 300 boys were rescued and found hope in Christ through the centres.

“The greatest joy was seeing boys transformed from addictions and many problems to be happy, healthy boys who loved God and became wonderful members of the community,” said Christine.

When Sudan split into two countries in 2011, all foreign Christians had to leave, including Christine. Two centres continued despite this; one under the care of a partner mission and the other by some of the older boys with a local businessman sponsoring them. Boys from the two closed centres went to live with families.

Before the facilities were built, the team held drop-in afternoons every Friday where they met Karl*, a sick teenager with a cane. One day, the team took Karl to the hospital where he remained for six months in a TB ward. Upon discharge, Karl moved into the centre. He graduated at 21 and lived with three other graduates who worked at a factory.

One day, Karl disappeared. Six weeks later, the team discovered he was in prison and very sick. The police released Karl into the care of the centre. Diagnosed with multiple serious medical conditions, the doctors gave Karl three months to live. Sixteen years later, Karl is still at the centre.

When foreigners had to leave, Karl and another man who had grown up at the centre continued looking after the boys. Wheelchair bound and still struggling with health issues, Karl continues reaching out to street boys.

In 2013, Christine moved to Zambia to form Africa Area Hope on the Streets for Children, an OM ministry training people to make the African church aware of street children. “Our vision is that the African church will become a good family to street children and youth,” explained Christine. Projects springing from this training will be run by churches, giving ownership to locals and bringing transformation to communities.

Strong spiritual foundation

Mercy Teams International (MTI), established in 2002, is OM’s integral missions arm in South East Asia, partnering with other Christian entities and individuals to reach those living in poverty and oppression. Along the Thailand-Myanmar border, MTI operates the School of Mercy for 130 children from Mon and Karen people groups, mostly internally displaced. Due to ongoing unrest, education in the village and surrounding jungle region is difficult to access. Children at the school are given a nutritious meal once a week. More than 30 children live in a dormitory, receiving daily meals and a safe place to live.

In December 2016, OM worker Kalene Lua visited the school with a volunteer team, who packed 300 gift bags for children in the community at the Christmas party. “When Phaw Phaw Dar walked in, her radiant smile drew my attention,” said Kalene of the former School of Mercy student who came to know Christ there. Phaw Phaw Dar was 12 years old when she first realised that Christmas is not merely a time of partying and receiving gifts. “Before I knew Jesus, my life was filled with worries,” Phaw Phaw Dar told Kalene. “After understanding what Christmas really stands for, I now have reason to stand firm in Christ and hope for the future.”

The Christmas programme that evening started with worship that rang out into the village. Elijah Sim, an OM MTI board member, shared a message of hope in Jesus. “The message is poignant for many parents in the community living in abject poverty but desiring a better future for their children,” said Kalene. “Phaw Phaw Dar’s story is an encouragement to the school’s team, as they serve the children and community by providing quality education that gives the children a better future and strong spiritual foundation.”

Rebecca Rempel is a photojournalist from Canada. Serving on the Africa Area communications team, she travels Africa capturing the work God is doing around the continent with her camera and pen.

Credit: Rebecca Rempel · © 2017 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

OM exists to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.

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