Oak Grove United Methodist Church
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
Helping Youth in Liberia
Please note that we are no longer supporting the programs below as an organized churchwide effort, but individuals are still welcome to donate to them through The Advance (see link at bottom of page).
In September 2011 we added an international mission component to our church's outreach efforts when we began providing support on a regular basis to four related programs that were created to benefit youth in Liberia who'd been damaged by 14 years of civil war and poverty there. They include orphans forced to live on the streets and youth who were forced to be child soldiers, robbbed of a childhood and damaged by atrocities they witnessed and committed. What is a child soldier to become in life, when all they know is killing and war? How can they find their footing in this complicated world with no place and no education? These programs have helped them gain a constructive place in their communities and have supported them in their struggles with poverty, neglect and literacy.
Since 2013 the four programs have been overseen by Clarence Benson (pictured), who works under the supervision of the Liberia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. The programs have served a total of up to around 600 youth at any given time. In general the focus is on training, literacy, strong Christian mentoring, and helping the youth find themselves in relation to their community. The four programs differ in various ways, but their common goal is to find peace and wholeness for Liberia's children and train the upcoming generations for constructive, productive lives, confident in the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. To see where the programs are located, refer to the map of Liberia at the bottom of this page.
We chose to support these programs partly because the Liberia Annual Conference has long been considered the Oregon-Idaho Conference's "sister conference." We've supported these youth in new efforts such as the chicken-raising project they began in 2012. We provided funds to help repair damage to classrooms and equipment caused by a severe storm in May 2013. We've celebrated their successes as graduates have gone on to more successful lives, enabling them to integrate into their communities. Our dollars have been working hard and changing the lives of youth in Liberia! 
The four programs are:
1) THE BRIGHTER FUTURE CHILDREN RESCUE CENTER (BFC) in Buchanan provides training in work and literacy skills, currently serving 308 war-affected youth, children from poor backgrounds, orphans and street kids. Christian ethics are taught first, to be successful in family, society and study, followed by a wide variety of skills disciplines to foster independence that include:
      · Pastry/Baking
      · Tie/dye
      · Tailoring
      · Soap Making
      · Cosmetology
      · Carpentry
      · Music Arts
      · Poultry Management
2) THE CHILDREN EMPOWERED FOR SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM (CESPRO) in Kakata works with young women and teen girls who are exploited or struggling with poverty or the aftereffects of war. The girls are provided with literacy, numeracy and life skills training as well as Christian ethics essential for learning how to relate in community and to establish self esteem and recovery. They also learn about HIV and health issues, and most recently Ebola virus protection. The emphasis is on life skills and financial independence training, and micro-loans are available for starting small businesses. 
Clarence has told us that after one of the CESPRO students got married, her husband extended his thanks and appreciation to the United Methodist Church for transforming the life of his family. The man said that by training the lady who later became his wife, their family has become economically empowered. That former student is currently the sole provider of pastries to the largest government high school in Kakata. We see how the ripples grow wider, donor dollars multiplied in the futures of these families! 
Unfortunately, the following two programs had to be suspended in 2016 (or perhaps a bit earlier) due to inadequate funding, and to the best of our knowledge it hasn't been possible to restart them yet:
3) MY DAUGHTER'S PLACE (MDP), situated at Camphor Mission in Tubmanville, catered to village girls with early pregnancies. Some of their classes included soap making, tailoring, pastry and baking. They also offered animal programs similar to The Heifer Project, with a revolving donation process of livestock, and help in obtaining micro-loans to support home business start-ups.
4) FEED MY LAMB (FML) served street children (both boys and girls) in the Pipeline Community behind the Red Light Market Area in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. It began as a simple feeding program, but literacy and numeracy training were added after it was discovered that most of the children couldn't read or write. 
Feeding is one of the significant motivating factors in keeping students in vocational programs. According to the children, the food they receive through these programs is often their only meal for the day. Efforts to grow needed food through the animal husbandry and agriculture skills programs are essential to feeding youth as well as helping them learn to become economically self-sufficient. 
How to donate:
Donations may be made at any time through our church (checks payable to Oak Grove UMC should include either "Liberia" or "Advance #3020790" in the memo line), or by clicking here to visit the General Board of Global Ministries website and donate online to the Brighter Future Children Rescue Center (Advance #3020790). The BFC is the only one of these four programs that has its own Advance number. 
Another way to help is to respond to the following request from Clarence: "Please pray with us as we reach out to God's Children."