ATLANTA – At 15 years old, Motima is already a wife and a mother. She’s grieved the loss of her parents, who were killed in the Liberian civil war. She’s made it through "sande," the tribal bush school where seclusion from society and female circumcision is common. But something she never got the opportunity to do was go to school – until now.
Because of the new Balama Elementary School, Motima is getting a formal education, which is available to few women in rural Liberia. Along with hundreds of other villagers, she’s learning to read and write – one way Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Calandra and Jessy Togba-Doya are empowering a community and being the presence of Christ.
"It is just not enough to preach ‘Jesus saves’ throughout the villages we serve," Jessy said. "People need to meet the gospel being lived out in our lives. We seek to be the presence of Christ through our work by leading lives that point to Christ, being his hands and feet in hopeless situations."
In 2006, the Togba-Doyas helped open the elementary school as one of their first ministry projects in Liberia. Funding for teachers and staff come from Fellowship partner churches and other churches that support the Togba-Doyas’ ministry.
Appointed as field personnel in June 2006, the Togba-Doyas minister primarily in Bong County, where Jessy was born and remains the only person from the region that has completed high school and college. With the opening of the Balama school, he hopes that will eventually change.
It’s hard for that to change if villagers are worried about having enough food to eat or money to survive, so the Togba-Doyas started a micro-loan project to help break the cycle of poverty.
"Micro-loans offer hope to communities … by providing a sustainable approach to community building and empowerment," Jessy said. "Loans allow local residents to break the cycle of poverty and violence."
More than 600 people attended an initial workshop about the program, and 40 families have received $100 in start-up funds for businesses and gardens. Motima and her family received funds and started trading salt, soap and other products to support themselves.
"The courage and determination of Motima and other students at Balama Elementary School, as well as other villagers, continues to inspire us to do what we do," Jessy said.
Businesses have grown 15 percent, which has allowed parents to feed their children at least two meals a day.
"Their smiles tell it all," Jessy said.
Interest levied from the loans goes to provide nutritious meals for Balama Elementary students, giving villagers greater ownership of the school.
With all the development work they do, the Togba-Doyas haven’t lost sight of the reason they came to Liberia – to share Christ. Nearly 20 villagers – including Jessy’s mother – have accepted Christ through watching the Jesus Film. Beyond that, there is need for spiritual and emotional healing after more than 10 years of civil war, where many children were soldiers and many civilians were scarred.
It’s one of the reasons Jessy wanted to return to his homeland and one of the reasons Calandra, a native of Macon, Ga., felt called to minister there, too.
"I fell in love with Liberia through meeting my husband," she said. "He always knew that he would return home, and I began see how my years in ministry and social and employment services could be used in Liberia."
Individuals and churches can support the Togba-Doyas through prayer, financial contributions to their ministry and by serving alongside side them in a short-term missions experience in Liberia.
The Togba-Doyas are CBF affiliates, who serve through the Fellowship’s ministry network but raise their own financial support for their ministry. If you are interested in serving through the Fellowship, contact Matt Norman at (770) 220-1609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.