The Hunger for Empowerment

MARCH 12, 2012


The passion in the Kenyan pastor’s voice and the look in his eyes captured my full attention. “I hunger for ideas like a man under water hungers for oxygen! I will gladly receive a hand out and support, but my prayer is to be able to support myself – in ministry and in life.”

Over the past 20 years, I have met countless pastors in Africa who have shared this same challenge. They preach on Sunday to inspire and encourage the sheep in their fold, yet struggle to feed their own children. Poverty captures lives and villages. It drowns out the dreams of as many as will surrender. The cry for ideas and sustainable help has fueled my own life and the ministry of Empowering Lives International (ELI) in Africa for almost two decades. Something should and can be done.

It is this passion and calling to “teach a man to fish” that has moved our ministry team of Christian nationals, missionaries and interns to bring ideas, training and business ventures to hopeful lives throughout East Africa in both small and large ventures. Many small-scale farmers hunger for ways to multiply what they already own. In Tanzania ELI emphasizes raising local chickens through a strategic extension, a “train them where they are” strategy. By the end of this year (2011), we will have had an impact on more than 4,000 needy families. In addition to the training, we distribute the Gospel of John and a correspondence course – all in partnership with local village churches.

On a larger scale, thousands of small-scale dairy farmers daily bring 1 to 100 liters of their precious milk by foot, bicycle or tractor trailer to a dairy cooler plant near Eldoret, Kenya, that we helped launch several years ago. Start-up capital and technical ideas were invested to help start the business that now provides daily income to more than 4,000 families – including pastors and widows who previously struggled to find a market for their milk.

Pastor Pius of Bungoma, Kenya, came to our training center to gain ideas and is now starting his own milk shop. He supports several orphans and widows in his church, and this new business will provide employment to several of the youth. It will also generate additional income to help the church care for the needy – including his own family. ELI recently sold a majority of the shares of the milk collection business to Christian businessmen who are continuing to buy from the local community and resell the milk to a processor (and small shop owners). They have also agreed to give a portion of the profits back to our ministry so we can continue to empower others and spread the good news. God is good.

It gives me great joy to see how businessmen and women are rising to partner with us and other kingdom ministries in creative ways to reflect the love of Christ through practical projects and business ventures – both small and large. Our aim is to provide the “oxygen” of ideas and God’s kingdom message to empower the poor and to strengthen the church and its leaders as they take steps towards self-sustainability. It is our prayer as a ministry that God will also inspire you to consider how your own skills and talents can be used to bring transformation to our needy world – one life at a time. Together we can make a world of difference, empowering the perishing out of poverty and spiritual darkness into a sustainable life that is filled with hope and the amazing love of Christ! Together we are empowering lives!

Don Rogers is an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church (Southern California Conference). Don and his wife, Amy, were struck by the poverty of pastors in Africa and felt a call to bring empowerment to Christian leaders, vulnerable families and children there. In 1994 they founded Empowering Lives International (ELI), which is now a partner organization with FMWM and affects thousands (including Free Methodists) in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan and Tanzania. You can partner with Don and Amy and ELI through financial support and personal involvement on short-term teams and through business advice and resources. Don is an associate missionary with FMWM and lives at the ELI Training Center in Eldoret, Kenya, with Amy and their two sons (Joshua and Nathaniel).