Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) — What follows is a heartbreaking story and a common one in the Congo, but one that has a positive ending.
Every Child Ministries' Lorella Rouster says the Ntotila (n-toe-teela) family is trying to heal after their two teenaged daughters ran away from home and began living on the streets of Kinshasa.
The girls, aged 12 and 13, were among five children in a Christian family. Like many other families in the area, their father had no job. Food was hard to come by, and tempers were short. One day, the girls' stepmother accused them of being witches and blamed the family's misfortunes on them.
The girls decided to leave home but soon found themselves without jobs, money, or shelter. They were like many other street children living in the Congo's streets–accused of being witches by their families, so they were abandoned or forcibly evicted by the very parents who should have loved and supported them.
The girls faced danger from sexual predators, abuse, and public insult (accusations of witchery) because they were begging. And they were without the basic needs and without social structure to support them.
Many girls in this situation fall prey to anyone who offers them a dollar or a good meal. Often they turn to prostitution. Frequently they end up contracting AIDS, or they may give birth to children with no home and no responsible father in their lives and are forced to wander the streets with their mothers. Rouster says street girls feel trapped and worthless.
ECM has been ministering to street children around a market area across from the Teachers' Training University. There's been a regular Fellowship for Street Children with Bible teaching and worship services established. Some are getting vocational training so they can earn a living.
The kids then go to churches, tell their stories, and talk about ECM's work. The purpose of this is to help ECM raise awareness of the responsibility of the church and to share the load with other believers. Their survival often brings hope to others, explains Rouster. "In our programs…with street children, we do share the Gospel. So the children that are sharing their stories are children who have come to Christ through Every Child Ministries' Street Kid program."
She goes on to say it was the testimony of the street kids in a church program that prompted Papa Ntotila to find his girls. He was in a service where street kids were sharing their testimonies, and many of their stories were startlingly familiar to his daughters' own.
He eventually tracked down his girls and begged them to come home. While they were still very angry and hurt over the harsh words that had driven them away, the family has since reunited.
There's still a lot to overcome, and ECM is providing help. Rouster says they're still developing their relationship with the family. And she notes that the family is "still struggling with problems of poverty. Every Child Ministries could help them with sponsorships, which would help get the girls back in school and also help with their nutritional needs."
Please pray that ECM will bridge that gap soon, and that families like theirs can get the help and compassion they need from believers. Click here if you can help, too.