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Missionary Spotlight – Child slavery in Africa

March 2007 | by Candice Arveson

Every Child Ministries (ECM) is one of many evangelical ministries across the world that ministers to slaves. This report was compiled by Candice Arveson of Action International Ministries (www.actionintl.org).

In June 1981 John and Lorella Rouster with their three children began serving as missionaries in Nkara, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).

It wasn’t long before they realised the needs of the many children there. Virtually none of the churches in the bush where they were located were reaching out to children in an organised way.

The Rousters began with a Sunday school. They then responded to calls from neighbouring villages who liked what they were doing at Nkara. Many children in the villages came to Christ and many adults were also drawn to the Saviour through listening to the Sunday school teaching.

As time went on, more and more churches asked for help with children’s and youth ministries. This eventually led John and Lorella, with the help of Christian friends, to found Every Child Ministries (ECM) in 1985 – a mission devoted to the needs of African children.

Sex slaves

ECM’s ministry has grown since its foundation. In the southern Volta region of Ghana, and in Togo and Benin, thousands of young girls of the Ewe tribe are held as slaves in unspeakable conditions.

ECM is cooperating with the Ghanaian authorities in a national effort to release these girls and help them start a new life. ECM also helps negotiate community-wide settlements to end slavery.

The Ewe girls are victims of ritual slavery associated with idol shrines (called fetish shrines in Ghana). Many are enslaved immediately prior to adolescence, others when they are as young as four years.

Although theoretically these girls are supposed to serve only a few years in the shrines, the financial cost of leaving these places is so high that most remain slaves for life or until the priest no longer finds them desirable.

The girls are called trokosi or ‘wives of the gods’ – a term that highlights the depravity of their bondage. In practical terms they are slaves of the priests who serve the idol gods of the shrines.

They work long hours without pay and often without their simplest life needs being met. They serve the priests sexually in any way demanded of them and are deprived of normal human affection.

Vocational training

After the girls have been liberated, various Christian missions offer them vocational training in such skills as dressmaking, tie-dying and batik, weaving traditional kente cloth, hairdressing, soap making, baking and catering.

This training is free of charge to former trokosi. The basic materials for getting started in their own small business are supplied on graduation. At the same time, ECM helps communities that have freed their slaves develop Christian education programs so that the girls can learn the Scriptures.

Many former trokosi slaves now operate flourishing businesses. ECM also operates a library which lends a wide variety of educational material to churches, schools and individual Christians in the heart of Ghana’s slave belt.
 

Further information can be found on
www.kidsyes.org

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Africa