One of our Gospel for Asia (GFA)-supported pastors said something both sad and ironic several years ago: “Nobody cares about the children of this village.”
While, in his eyes, his statement seemed to be true, the irony is that it was not entirely so. The mere fact that he said it indicated that he cared. In fact, he admitted, “I have a great burden for this village.” The reason he cared is that he knew that Jesus cares.
The village of which he spoke is home to 2,000 impoverished families whose daily need is survival. Their entire life is consumed with laboring to feed themselves and their families. Their fight for survival means their children are forced to work in laborious and tedious tasks to generate adequate resources.
Many of these families live in one-room huts, often made with only sticks and plastic. They have no nearby sources of clean water. They lack proper sanitation facilities. What food they are able to acquire does not always provide adequate nutrition. And there doesn’t seem to be a way out.
A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute found that there is a substantial difference in poverty levels beyond what we comprehend. There is a poverty level at which people can “achieve a decent standard of living,” but these villagers and their children live below that level in the realm of “bare subsistence” where hope and a way out appear non-existent.
Food, clothing and medical care are honorable and necessary charitable acts that demonstrate the love of Christ. They are gifts and services that sustain life. However, they do not, in and of themselves, create a bridge to a better life.
Food can make a destitute person less hungry, but they are still impoverished. Clothing can help provide a sense of dignity, but it does not change a person’s circumstances. Medical care can prevent disease, but it cannot break the bondage of abject poverty.
Creating a Bridge of Hope
This village is an example of how Gospel for Asia (GFA)-supported Bridge of Hope (BOH) centers make a difference.
Bridge of Hope centers provide an educational experience for school-age children in which they learn the practical skills that can be the bridge to a better life. Each school day, students practice reading, writing and math in an environment of Christian love where staff members guide them to the hope for a better tomorrow by teaching them life skills that will become their bridge out of the generational curse into which they were born.
Education is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Each evening when a child goes home from a Bridge of Hope center, they return to the same existential scenario. But each evening they go with a little more hope for the future.
The centers offer each child with daily, nutritious meals to give them the energy they need to learn and grow. Regular medical checkups are also part of the program. BOH centers even provide the students’ school supplies.
Gospel for Asia (GFA) has helped touched the lives of more than 75,000 children through Bridge of Hope centers. What these children have learned and are learning gives them a bridge they can cross to pass over “the hurdles of tragedy and poverty and press on to a future bright with promises.”The program helps the children with their education so they can one day get a good job and afford sufficient food, decent clothing, medical supplies and other necessities of life for themselves and for their families. Beyond this, Bridge of Hope provides the children with opportunities to pursue and excel in their God-given skills and interests.
Bridge of Hope staff members become the hands and feet of Christ to the students and their families, serving them with genuine love, compassion and respect. Staff members maintain relationships with the parents and children and offer them counsel, encouragement and, ultimately, give them hope.
What does a child receive at the Bridge of Hope centers?
Education. This includes tuition, books and uniforms. But even more significant is that they will get tutoring in reading and writing, which means a future of hope is guaranteed.
Nutrition. During the school day, each child receives a healthy, balanced meal.
Medical care. The Bridge of Hope leaders who care for children also monitor their health and provide care as needed. Extra attention is given in areas where malaria or tuberculosis is prevalent. In addition to periodic checkups and medical treatment, children also learn basic habits of good hygiene, such as washing hands, trimming fingernails and bathing regularly.
Development of social skills and self-confidence. From the earliest ages in kindergarten, children are given opportunities to play games and practice basic rules of courtesy.
Hope Becomes Real on the Other Side of the Bridge
While the short-term focus is on helping the children now, the long-term perspective is to enable them to become all they possibly can be as a useful servant to their community, and to one day be a blessing to many others throughout Asia.
Bridge of Hope centers are not limited to remote villages. Many are located in the slum areas of major Asian cities, where roaming through and living on top of trash heaps is a way of life and their only hope for tomorrow.
Paul encouraged Timothy to share what he had taught him with others who would then be able to show many more (2 Timothy 2:2). Following that model, the character development and social impact at work in Bridge of Hope centers is being passed on to many others throughout the community.
Bridge of Hope is not just a name for a project. It is a ministry that actually produces a product. That product is the potential for a hopeful future for children who are trapped by circumstances they did not create, in a situation they cannot escape and who would, otherwise, have no hope.
Parents and grandparents recognize the changes in their children and grandchildren, causing them not only rejoice in their hope for the future but also to realize the love of Christ in their own lives.
Even local leaders praise the work of Bridge of Hope centers for their impact on the community at large. One leader said, “I am really happy to see a social network coming up to this level of taking care of the future of children.”
The father of one of the children at the same center said, “This only can be possible through Christians. The love of Christians is great. My children are going to become well-prepared for their future. I am overwhelmed with their concern for us.”
To learn more about Bridge of Hope read “What Bridge of Hope Gives Children.”
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