In many cities in Ghana, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), children sleep on the street even when it rains. After a heavy rain, gutters overflow, and street children drown in the filthy sewage water. The sack or mat on which they sleep is their only bed and their only protection from the cold, damp ground. During the day, they hide it and hope it will not be stolen before nightfall. Some, living with their homeless mothers, sleep under "tents" made by stringing up a sheet of plastic from the front of a store after closing hours. But it doesn't have to be this way....
With the help of many partners, Every Child Ministries is bringing new hope to some of the neediest children in Ghana, DR Congo, and the Karimojong beggar children of Uganda. These are children who were sleeping in the streets and going to bed hungry almost every night. In Ghana and DR Congo, the gifts of our partners are now providing vitamins and a hot, nutritious meal following each street fellowship meeting. These are children whose only possessions other than the most basic clothing is a simple bamboo mat or raggedy plastic sack. Our partners are now enabling us to distribute decent clothing to the children, to help them get to the hospital when they are sick, and to help them with other basic needs.
Children end up on the streets for many reasons. (see Congo Street Youth) When such a child becomes a teen, he is often thrown out to fend for himself, and ends up sleeping on the city streets. He may find partial shelter after hours under a store awning or under a makeshift booth in one of the filthy outdoor markets.
There he might find work enough to feed himself on "good" days by selling bags or carrying boxes to cars for shoppers, begging, or maybe stealing. Children who are able to walk spend long, hot days carting cardboard displays of goods for sale between cars at intersections. They make enough to eat most days. Street children never make enough to rent a room or visit the doctor.
Street children are almost never welcome in society. For the most part, these young people spend their whole lives knowing nothing but rejection. They are also objects of rape and sexual attack. People know that street children will not and cannot bring charges against them. So they are often used and abused, but seldom loved or valued.
Girls on the street are easy prey to any man who offers them a dollar or a good meal. They usually end up turning to prostitution, frequently end up contracting AIDS, giving birth to children who have no home and no responsible father in their lives and who are forced to wander the streets with their mothers. Street girls feel trapped and worthless. We meet street children who are third and fourth generation on the streets! So, generation after generation, the misery just goes on and on.
Christians have a powerful message for street children. They may be despised and rejected by the world, but they are deeply loved by God. Every Child Ministries' street workers are showing them God's love by showing them that we love them, too. It is evident to all that the children are thrilled to have their very own teacher. It gives them a feeling of identity, importance, and belonging. Our faithful street workers offer wise Biblical counsel and teaching, coupled with personal caring that touches the most hardened hearts.
How Every Child Ministries is Helping Street Children
ECM's Fellowships for Street Children meet weekly, sometimes more, at a time most convenient for the children. Most street children are illiterate, but they cling eagerly to the reading and teaching of the Word. And do they sing with enthusiasm!
For many months, the children were cautious, holding street workers at a distance. But gradually they warmed to expressions of caring. Now we are seeing many of them respond to the Gospel. Of course, they come with no spiritual training, no parental guidance, and many sinful and hurtful habits picked up on the streets. They need more than an average amount of prayer, perseverance, teaching and love. Every Child Ministries is committed to helping street children become fruitful disciples of Jesus, no matter how hard it may be or how long it may take.