Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a city of nearly 12 million people, estimated by the UN to reach nearly 15 million by 2020. Each one of these people has a backstory of how they ended up where they are. One common story is that of the “street kids”. These children are but a small sector of those impacted by the 5 nightmares of most major African cities: 1) a large influx of unskilled workers; 2) poorly run but expensive educational options; 3) an import mentality that caters to the comparatively rich; 4) a relatively non-existent middle class and blue-collar jobs; 5) a self-serving government. Across the city, children are “thrown away” or aborted for fear of a predictable future.
Though people move to the cities to look for a better life, they are confronted with hopelessness. Young girls provide for themselves by making a game out of prostitution. The more one has sex, the more valuable they become. The greater the value they attain, the more they can ask for a trick. All the guys prefer the girls with a higher-value. This is how many tens of thousands of girls around the city buy clothing and food, have a place to stay, and sometimes even afford schooling. According to NGO’s, about one-third of these children are girls, and around 80% of these girls on the street make a living from sex.
In other cases, the young women may not be overtly selling their bodies, but instead they might have a string of “boyfriends” who will provide for them financially. Or they might make a hasty marriage to someone they barely know, just for the security.
The Tabitha Center gives young women in DR Congo an option to selling themselves or engaging in illegal activities for their livelihood. Teen-aged girls gather under the direction of women from their local church to discuss life's realities and to understand the Bible's answers to questions about life that are often left unanswered by parents. In this safe context, girls are taught skills like sewing, cooking, hair dressing, cosmetics and others that offer them an alternative to the assumption that they must sell themselves or rush into a relationship with a man in order to find financial security. The vision is to see the Tabitha ministry continue to expand to provide healthy alternatives for young women throughout the city of Kinshasa.
The Acts 19
In Kinshasa the focus is to meet the needs of large sectors of society through the ministries that are developed. The Tabitha Center has the potential to address the needs of 100's of thousands of young women who fall prey to circumstances largely out of their control - being trapped in a mega-city with no one to support them and no income to provide for their needs. This is one of several multiplication-ministries that will be launched through our Acts 19 - Kinshasa setting.
The vision of the ministry is to develop and equip 1000 Tabitha Centers by 2019. The first Tabitha Center was launched in 2013, as an experiment to see what it would take to open more. As of June 2015, 40 centers have been installed in various parts of Kinshasa, largely associated with and launched out of local churches. Each center is expected to contribute financially to the overall ministry. This will help with transportation for visits and installations by the leadership team as well as building up to help with opening new centers.
As the ministry began to grow, the leadership in Kinshasa came to the realization that there were some young women who struggled to enter the main Tabitha Center program, because they did not even have basic education. Taking measurements and reading the Bible were practically impossible for this group. As people began to pray about this problem, God clearly brought the right team together and opened the doors to be able to start a sponsorship and literacy program for young women. This program will sponsor the girls for four years. The first two years will be teaching them basic literacy skills, using a curriculum developed by a local pastor. The third year will sponsor them through training at a Tabitha Center in the skill that they choose. The fourth year will continue to sponsor them as they establish themselves.
Primary leadership of the Tabitha Center ministry is now shared by a team of four women who were chosen by Claudine Selenga. Pastor Selenga, the director of ReachAfrica, also plays a big role in the leadership of the Tabitha Centers. They are in direct contact with a ministry point-person/advisor in the U.S. to coordinate the logistics of working in the context of partnership with women and ministries from the U.S. They will be the ones involved in engaging churches in the Tabitha ministry, helping choose and develop the curriculum that will be taught at each location, training those who will be working with the women, and insure that each center is following the vision for the Tabitha Centers.
There are also three individuals who share the leadership for the GlobalFingerprints/Tabitha program. This group oversees the selection of the girls who will be in the program, the curriculum for teaching literacy, the finances, and insuring that everything runs correctly.
Each Tabitha Center has a specific curriculum that is used to assure that those receiving training all receive what is needed to serve them well in their work environment. Every Center trains the women in Bible and Business. Each Center however, has its area(s) of specialty, teaching sewing, cosmetics/hair dressing, computer skills, cooking, English and other relevant skills. After the students have had nine months of study in a center, they find a place to do an internship for three months. A full year after they begin their training, they go through testing to insure that they have learned everything they should have in their curriculum.
We will be challenging women’s groups and individuals to provide $1250 to help open each new Tabitha Center. This amount serves as a portion of the costs and is subsidized by the fact that every Center has an income-generating side to it by selling the products made at each Center. The sale of dresses, aprons, food, and the services of hair dressing and cosmetology all supplement and provide the resources necessary to grow and sustain each facility. The students are also expected to pay a low tuition. This helps them to value the education that they are receiving more. A percentage of these profits and tuition are set aside by each Center to assist with the launch of future Centers. We are also working on producing products, such as aprons, to be sent the U.S. to sell to buyers who already have a market for such goods. Funds that are received also assist in the printing of training booklets and the purchase of Bibles that are used in each location.
We would like women to go to Kinshasa to serve by observing, training and then becoming a voice for the ministry here in the U.S. Though individuals can go to Congo, we are encouraging groups of 2-4 to travel together. Those who participate in the ministry in Congo will be predominantly volunteers from various denominational backgrounds who have the same vision to see young women impacted by the Gospel and transformed for life.
Send a check made out to EFCA and designated Tabitha Center #2200-5414 to:
901 E 78th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55420
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