Bangladesh (MNN) — For now, the hope of Christ shines brightly in Bangladeshi slums. But a lack of resources is threatening to blow that candle out.
International Mission Board says two Southern Baptist workers started the Light of Hope Learning Center in 2006. Geri Hennerman*, one of the center's founders, says a main goal has always been to see lives transformed.
The center's theme verse, Zechariah 9:16-17a, reflects this desire: "The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people, for they are like jewels in a crown, sparkling over His land" (HCSB).
Over the center's lifetime, dozens of young beggar girls have found refuge there. Along with learning about Jesus, girls receive an education that includes economic, social, mental, physical, and emotional skills.
They stand as a contrast to their peers. Most young girls are raised by beggars to be beggars, while others have mothers who work as prostitutes. Selling their bodies often becomes a second step for Bangladeshi girls after begging.
Some of the older girls, who have been with the center since it started, manage the center's day-to-day operations. This allows Geri and husband Mickey* Hennerman to step into directors' roles.
Today, the center is still sharing the Gospel and teaching job skills to vulnerable young girls and their families. The Light of Hope accommodates 14 girls between the ages of 13 and 18 who attend the center five days a week. The center gives these girls a place to shower, change into clean uniforms, and eat two healthy meals.
They're also taught to embroider handicrafts and are paid a small amount for their work. This allows them to continue their studies and not have to join Bangladesh's 700,000 beggars on the streets.
While the center is making a tremendous difference in the lives of these girls, there are some challenges. Girls under the age of 13 used to attend on a daily basis but now come only for Wednesday Bible study.
Their program was suspended due to a lack of funding, staff, and resources. Young girls like Minara*, who attended the center for a year, were forced to stop and resume a beggar's life.
Please pray that Minara and other young girls will be allowed to come back on a daily basis. Ask God to provide the resources needed to keep this project going.
"When someone comes to faith in Christ, it's not because of us," says Mickey Hennerman. "It's because of God first, but then [Southern Baptists are] also a part of that; they're a partner in that by giving to Lottie Moon and Cooperative Program."
Southern Baptist projects supporting the Light of Hope Learning Center include the One Life's "One Girl's Shelter" project, the World Hunger Fund, and the Baptist Global Response (BGR) Child and Youth Education Fund.
You can find more Light of Hope photos, related video and audio, prayer requests, and additional ways to get involved at commissionstories.com.
* names changed for security