The roots of Every Child Ministries go back to 1981, when John and Lorella Rouster went to Congo (then Zaire) as missionaries with another agency, and quickly realized the desperate and widespread need of the churches for help in learning to teach the children. In 1985, with the help of Christian friends, they helped found Every Child Ministries (ECM) to meet that specific need. For the next five years, ECM sent teacher training teams each summer to hold Sunday school training seminars in many locations throughout the Bandundu Province of Congo. These teams trained Sunday school teachers directly and assisted churches wanting to get a Sunday school for children started. During this time, Lorella realized the need for a written manual that would allow those trained to review the principles they had learned, and to teach others. She began developing a teacher training manual, revising it each year with input from African staff.
The vision for the children of every village
One day Lorella was sharing her vision with a wise old African pastor for a vision of a Bible-teaching ministry for children in every village of the Bandundu Province of Congo. (That's an area roughly the size of Michigan and Indiana combined (about 72,000 villages). Pastor Mawele was amazed at first, but after reflection, he said two things would be necessary to achieve the goals she described. One was to work cooperatively with many church groups in the different areas. The other was to develop many others and enable them to do the same kind of teacher training Lorella and her teams had been doing. We felt his advice was from God. In 1990 the Rousters returned to live again in Congo to develop an African Leadership Training Center, an intensive nine-month residential training program.
The vision for African leadership
From 1992 to the present, the African Leadership Training Center (ALTC) has graduated 6 to 12 teacher trainers a year, each qualified to conduct Sunday school training seminars. Some of these ECM has taken on staff, some have returned to develop Christian education departments in their denominations, and some are pastors and teachers working part time to train Sunday school teachers. Through their combined efforts, over 3,000 new Sunday schools have been established. They vary in size from 5 kids in our most resistant village to several hundred in the cities, but about 80 per school is an average attendance in most. Countless thousands have come to Christ, including many adults who either listened in on the Sunday school teaching or were won through the testimonies of children whose lives were changed. Many churches have begun to realize their responsibility to teach the children, and are putting new emphasis in that direction. The Sunday schools established are not free standing units, but belong to local churches that oversee them. Every Child Ministries provides encouragement, training, and access to teaching materials.
Staff changes to increase effectiveness and multiply ministry
An important step was taken in 1997 when ECM put on staff a full time "Inspector." The inspector's job is to travel to areas where training seminars have been done to verify the accuracy of reports, encourage the workers there, add further teaching and report potential problems. Our present inspector is Muke Balikane, and his ministry has been very well received, helping isolated teachers to know that they are not alone, but that others know of their work and care for them. In 1997 ECM founders, John and Lorella Rouster, agreed to move to a support role as International Directors, allowing our capable African staff to continue and expand the work. They continue involvement in literature projects and travel to Africa once or more each year to check on progress and plan together with the African staff.
Where is ECM now reaching children in Congo?
Geographically, ECM is now reaching much of the Bandundu and Kasai Provinces of Congo along with the capital city, Kinshasa, and some efforts in Kananga. We have also made a start in the neighboring countries, Congo-Brazzaville and Angola. Over 3,100 Sunday schools have been started, but many more are still needed.
ECM enters Ghana, West Africa
ECM responded to calls for help from Ghana, West Africa. The Ghana ministry includes teacher training and Sunday school development, but emphasizes mercy ministries like ministry to street children, the establishment of "Haven of Hope" for children rescued from desperate situations, and the liberation and rehabilitation of trokosi slave girls from idol shrines. As of 2006, ECM has well-established work in Accra City, Greater Accra North, Greater Accra East, the Eastern Region, and the Volta Region, with work to stop child trafficking in the Central Region beginning later.
ECM develops website to reach all of Africa
In 1999, Every Child Ministries developed a second website, Teaching for Africa, devoted to offering teaching and training materials in all the major languages of Africa. Through this website, ECM reaches major African cities that have access to the internet. This has resulted in contacts with numerous African countries.
ECM Starts Ministry to Street Children
In 2000, ECM responded to the needs of street children in Ghana by beginning a weekly open-air fellowship on Sunday afternoons. Since then, hot meals have been added following the teaching, we have sponsored several clothing distributions, and many children have been helped with medical needs. The work has been expanded to include a central market area. Two children have been reconciled to their parents, one HIV girl was helped with medicine and schooling, and several older youth have now graduated from vocational training. A similar street ministry was started in Congo in 2002. There young men and women have completed a vocational apprenticeship and are now off the street with gainful employment and following Jesus.
ECM establishes Haven of Hope
In 2001, 8 acres of property were purchased, and in 2002 the first buildings were constructed for Haven of Hope for children outside Accra in Ghana. The first children from the streets entered Haven of Hope on November 23, 2002. Since then, a kitchen/dining room, second dormitory, activity center, two staff/missionary housing duplex units, elementary & junior high school buildings, (Haven of Hope Academy), a garage, a guard tower, a goat house, library, educational intervention classroom, and guest housing unit have all been built. Haven of Hope is now home to many children who formerly lived on the streets or as slaves in idol shrines. Haven of Hope Academy opened in January 2005 to help these and other educationally deprived children. It now operates preschool through eighth grade. Secondary school children live off campus in various boarding schools in different parts of Ghana.
ECM starts ministry to victims of ritual servitude
In 2001, Every Child Ministries responded to needs of trokosi slave children suffering in idol shrines of the Volta Region in Ghana. ECM joined in a partnership with a Ghanaian human rights organization to liberate three shrines of the Agave area. In January 2003 the liberation took place in cooperation with International Needs Ghana. The next year, Every Child Ministries liberated the Aklidokpo shrine in cooperation with the Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement, a Ghanaian group. In 2005, Every Child Ministries facilitated the liberation of women and children from the Sovigbenor shrine, expanding its help to other victims of ritual servitude. In 2010, the priest of the Kadza Yeve (thunder god) shrine gave his life to Christ and liberated his shrine. Although many of the remaining shrines are resistant to the idea of liberation, we believe that through fervent prayer God will show His power and that by His grace He will enable ECM to liberate yet other shrines where innocent girls still suffer in terrible bondage. We continue to work on behalf of the trokosi and others affected in any way by ritual servitude and abuse.
ECM enters Uganda
In 2006, ECM expanded its ministry to the east African country of Uganda. Work began there in the war torn city of Gulu, in Northern Uganda. The work quickly expanded to include ministry in and outside of Kampala, in Masaka and Tororo, and in the Karamajong city of Napak. These child sponsorship projects invest in the lives of children both spiritually and physically. Bible study is emphasized, as is education, both traditional and vocational.
ECM plans for the future
Plans for the future include translating ECM training materials into all the major languages of Africa and expanding our teacher training into other African countries. ECM's ultimate objective is to show the love of Jesus, teach the Gospel of Jesus, and help African churches learn to reach the children and youth in every village of Africa, and in every neighborhood of the cities, so that all may have an opportunity to know Jesus Christ.