Partners works with two key leaders at ECG. Pastor Matt is the former president of ECG and the leader of ECG’s Omega Church. Since accepting Christ as a teenager, Pastor Matt has spent his life sharing about Christ. He worked with university students for many years and has a heart to see a new generation of believers emerge in The Gambia. Pastor Malik is a believer from the Fulani tribe. After his conversion, he became concerned by how many believers would return to Islam due to community pressure and the inability to make a living. Having a similar upbringing, Malik has a special burden to encourage the faith of new believers. Pastor Malik oversees ECG’s ministry through the House of Wisdom.
The Evangelical Church of the Gambia began almost 30 years ago and today has eight ministry branches around the country. Its vision is to plant churches in every district of The Gambia. House of Wisdom is an outreach arm of ECG that works to build up and equip new believers with vocational skills and to provide a strong support base for missions.
Kota works in the forest cutting firewood and making coal. One day he was working with two other men when “the Christian God spoke to us,” Kota later reported. Kota said God prompted him and the two other men to seek out a pastor to learn more. At first they could not find a pastor who could speak their tribal language, but finally they learned of Pastor Malik. He answered all their questions, and the men put their faith in Christ. Kota had three wives and ten children. When they heard of his new faith, his wives left him. He went to Pastor Malik and asked,“You will not desert me too?” Pastor Malik said he would stand by him, so Kota stood firm in his faith. Over time, Kota’s family saw how the church cared for him. Two of his wives died. The remaining wife was the only one he had children with. She returned to him, intrigued by how deeply believers cared for one another. Now she is also a believer, and Kota has built a church on their property.
The smallest country in Africa, The Gambia is surrounded on three sides by the nation of Senegal and borders the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The Gambia River runs through the middle of the country dividing it into two halves that are just 15 miles wide on each side. Like its neighbor Senegal, the local culture is dominated by Islam. Only about four percent of The Gambia’s 1.8 million people are Christian. There are very few indigenous ministries serving in the country.
Gambia prides itself as being a “peaceful” country. The government strives to promote tolerance between Muslims and Christians and publicly guards this distinctive jealously. Unfortunately, for Muslims who have converted to Christianity, there are still predictable hardships ranging from moderate to severe persecution.
The people of The Gambia are made up of a medley of unreached Muslim people groups including the Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola, Serahuli, and others.
Because the country has no confirmed natural resource deposits and a limited agricultural base, unemployment is extremely high. About 75 percent of the population depend on crops and livestock for their livelihood, but these activities keep the people at only a subsistence level due to severe annual droughts. The average income per Gambian is just $497 which is just one percent of the average for Americans. The need for both economic development and spiritual ministry in The Gambia is tremendous.
Omega Training & Self Development, ECG
With a young population and just a 38 percent literacy rate, skills training and education are key national priorities. Many young Gambians have the false notion that they can succeed only if they go abroad. Many are attracted to quick ways of making money and get caught up in crime and drugs. Because they cannot afford an education, young girls are often married to much older men so they can be supported by their husbands.
At their Omega Training Institute (OTI), ECG provides an opportunity for people to be trained in a vocational skill, helping them move away from the culture of begging and dependence and equip them to start sustainable businesses that support their families and communities.
Over the next four years, OTI hopes to provide vocational training to 100 people in five regions of The Gambia where there is an established ECG church. The trainees determine the types of businesses they want to engage in. These businesses could include food stalls, bread making, fish stalls, vegetable stalls, hand woven textiles, and cosmetics shops. Once their business idea is chosen, OTI provides a three-month training course in business administration and computer skills.
At the end of the program and as funds are available, OTI provide trainees with a micro-credit loan to help them launch their businesses. Trainees are required to submit business proposals before a micro-credit loan is approved. A small percentage of interest is required so that other trainees can benefit. OTI is a registered Technical Vocational and Educational Training Institution governed by the National Training Authority of The Gambia.
Throughout the training, the students are exposed to Bible-based teaching and discipleship and are encouraged to take part in student ministries. For Christians, running a small business garners respect and offers an effective platform for friendship evangelism. This year, ECG hopes to provide training scholarships ($435 each) and micro-credit loans ($260 each) to 25 trainees.
In addition to the above, Partners hopes to raise $47,825 this year to assist ECG in constructing a permanent facility for training. The current training classes are held in one of ECG’s church buildings, however some people refuse to attend the training simply because it takes place in a Christian church. A new facility, separate from the church, would allow for better recruitment and expansion. In addition to ongoing training, the new facility would be used as a marketplace for the sale of goods and services offered by the trainees and graduates. The building will include an administration block, conference hall, kitchen, and training rooms. Once complete, the facility will generate income through rental fees for conferences and events. Gifts to this project will go toward the purchase of the land, permits, and a portion of the construction costs.
Women's Micro-Credit, ECG
Women are the breadwinners in many rural families in The Gambia. Many are uneducated or illiterate and rely on agriculture to survive and support their families. Despite the fact that they have missed out on a formal education, many are enterprising businesswomen. When given the opportunity and necessary capital, they are able to start and sustain small businesses that help them support their families. With an increased income, their children receive proper care and food and the chance to go to school. They also become more independent, earn respect, and gain a new level of influence in community decisions. Their voices are heard as they gain more financial power.
Your gift will allow ECG to provide micro-credit loans (approximately $435 each) to 30 women from the various ECG churches all over the country. Payment of minimal interest will enable a revolving loan system that will impact more and more women.
Agricultural Project, ECG
Persecution by family and neighbors makes it extremely difficult for some converts to find or keep profitable jobs. As a result, they struggle to support their families. For the churches in The Gambia to continue to grow, it is vital to demonstrate that new believers are not doomed to a life of devastating poverty.
For this reason, ECG would like to launch a community milling project. Using solar-powered milling machines, villagers would be able to bring their millet, peanuts, and other crops to the mill for processing. By grinding these crops by machine rather than by hand, farmers are able to get a strong price for their products in the market. Two mill operators and an ideal location have already been identified. ECG estimates a client base of 200-300 people which would generate about $500 of revenue per month.
This community milling project will create a new avenue for self-support and allow ECG to engage in direct relationship building with their Muslim community. Gifts to this project will provide two milling machines to get the project started.
Christian Literature and Media Ministry, EGC
The Gambia has a low literacy rate, yet even among the literate, many find reading a challenge or uninteresting. Gambians often prefer to learn by listening rather than reading. Taking advantage of this widespread interest in media, ECG broadcasts Gospel messages by radio and television in the local language. Through this medium, the local community is able to hear the Gospel in a way that is compelling, shareable, and memorable. The broadcasts include interviews, book reviews, and discussion about Christianity, the Bible, and other spiritual topics. Particular emphasis is made to gain listeners within local junior highs and high schools, encouraging Gambia’s youth to learn more about Jesus Christ.
Listeners are referred to a Christian bookshop which has an array of books, Bibles, audio Bibles, DVDs, and CDs available for sale. House of Wisdom has found that response rates to radio and television advertisements for Christian literature and Gospel witness are much higher than those placed in newspapers or written publications. In addition to evangelism and discipleship, the project aims to promote a reading culture through the provision of bookstalls and lending libraries. With your support for this project, ECG will be able to extend its Gospel witness to nearly the entire country in an effective and compelling format.
Education Scholarships, ECG
The ECG ministry receives dozens of requests each year from church members seeking educational assistance for their children. Because parents cannot afford to pay the required school fees, their children often drop out at a young age. This decision, though understandable, means that as adults they will be disqualified from higher education and competent for only the most menial, low-paying jobs. However, ECG hopes to see local believers go beyond mere survival to being equipped to impact their society at every level.
Thus, they are launching a new program that provides educational scholarships for children of believers to attend high school, vocational training schools, and even university. With your support, ECG will award scholarships to 25 high school students ($430 each), 25 vocational trainees ($725 each), and 4 university students ($3,600 each). Scholarships will provide tuition, books, supplies, and accommodations as needed. Long term, as more and more believers receive a quality education, they will garner greater influence in their communities and help bring transformation to their nation in fundamental sectors of development.