International (MNN) — We often hear of mentorship and discipleship programs in the U.S. But are those programs effective in developing nations, where women and children face strong oppression and neglect? And is there hope for real change?
Kris Palosaari of GEMS Girls’ Clubs believes change is possible because of what she sees happening in one African nation through their ministry.
“In the GEMS Girls’ Clubs, we really value the uniqueness of the culture in which that woman that steps forward – who wants to start a club – lives in. We don’t want to be prescriptive; we want to come alongside and equip. And so within a country outside of North America, the curriculum that we provide is well-adapted for them to be able to teach their girls about the Bible, to let those girls understand within the context of their culture who Jesus created them to be.”
GEMS has created a special curriculum for developing countries that is adapted to the cultural needs of not only the girls and young women who attend the program, but the women who serve as trained mentors and counselors. The benefits have been great.
“In a lot of cases, God has taken the ministry and has done amazing things that we never even imagined would happen. In Zambia, for example, where we’ve been for ten years, the women have discovered that their children are not just a commodity or piece of property but they’re actually loved by Jesus. These women that have been trained as counselors in Zambia understand how much God loves them, and now they’re starting to change culturally to love their children.”
Palosaari says GEMS Girls’ Clubs is now looking for partners so they can expand their program into Kenya and the Philippines. “We do believe wholeheartedly in partnerships, and we rely heavily on partnerships. We want to come alongside established ministries and provide the toolkit that they can use to reach out into the community. That’s the beauty of GEMS: it’s a real outreach ministry just by nature of what we teach and what we inspire the girls to do.”