My name is Angelique and I’m 12 years old. I live in a small fishing village in the Zawara area in the Central African Republic. My parents are fishermen and because of their fishing activities, we arrived and settled in this village. We did not go to church because we were animists. We were born and raised in a culture that taught us certain practices that do not honor the great God.
When a church was established in our village, our parents forbade us to attend. (Editors’s note: It was established by an OMS church planter.) But soon after, the pastor started a free literacy program and this attracted many children. Without informing my parents I participated in this learning.
We were taught to read and memorize the Bible verses, to write them. Count the numbers from zero to nine. To do prayer. The pastor who was training us, encouraged us to take this training to our brothers and sisters and each night to repeat learned verses and prayer in each respective family.
I started to train my siblings and my parents could do nothing because it is the only school in the village. In the evening, my brothers and sisters and I began to repeat the verses and prayers at home and in front of our parents.
Sometime later, my father and mother who never went to church, began to follow us to church, they gave their lives to Jesus Christ and the pastors baptized them. After their baptisms, they burned their fetishes and practiced no more monthly sacrifices. Our family life has gradually changed. We can now read, write and count little by little. Thank you first to God and then to our Pastor.
The man in orange shirt is Guy. He’s 60 years old, a married father of 10 children, who had never attended school and could neither read nor write.
When a church was planted in the Central African Republic village of Gbahaho, the implanter initiated the Bridge to Reading. Guy and other adults were interested in this training. After a few training sessions, Guy started reading and writing little by little.
He wants to continue his training and plans one day to become a tutor to teach adults to read and write.
In the village Bobissa, located 200 km from Bangui in the Central African Republic, a church has just been established. The village has more than 500 inhabitants. There is no school. In an effort to combat illiteracy, the church planter began to offer the Bridge to Reading program. He started with just two learners under ten years of age. This led to a spiritual awakening in the village, and ten people came to the Lord, seven of whom have been baptized in water. Many people in the village are now interested in learning to read. Here is the testimony of these first two young learners who have never been to school in their lives:
Stanislas Mbole: I am the seventh child in my family. I am nine years old. None of the children of my family have ever been to school because we live very far away (90 km) and my parents can’t afford the transportation. I did not think I would ever learn to read and write like other children whose parents are able to send them to school. I thank God for the church that has been planted in our village which offered Bridge to Reading. I’ve been attending the literacy classes for three months, and I am learning to read, write and count by myself. I will deepen my knowledge in this area in order to become a tutor and help the children of my generation in the surrounding villages to learn to read, write and count.
Richard Ouapoutou: I’m seven years old, I live 5 km from Bobissa village. I am an orphan. After the death of my father, my extended family decided to take me and my siblings back to the village and left us on our own. The nearest school is 90 km from our village. Only parents who have the means to pay for transportation can enroll their children in school. When I learned that a literacy program was starting in my village, I enrolled and started participating in all the classes. Now I can read, write and count, better and better each day. I thank God with all my heart for giving us the opportunity to learn for free.
Nyassa is a woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo whose church began to offer literacy classes. She studied in a small group of Bridge to Reading adult students for three years. Nyassa’s husband was very glad to have a wife who could read and write. So he gave her money to buy materials to make totes and handbags,
She opened a small shop where she and other women weave the baskets and handbags called Vikapo Kikapo in Swahili.
In that part of Africa children can go to school if their families buy uniforms and can pay for tuition and books. These women use their profits to send seven children to school (three of Nyassa’s own and four from other families).
Since she learned to read, Nyassa continues to grow as a Christian. She can now read the Bible with others in her church.
In Matthew 10:17 and 27 Jesus said, “Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues… Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.”
Though John had been an evangelist in the Congo for many years, he didn’t learn to read until three years ago when Bridge to Reading volunteers began tutoring in his village.
“I live next to a military camp in my village. One day I wished to reach the soldiers because one of them was my friend. He told me they didn’t have a chaplain. The first time I went to the camp the commander asked me to read Matthew 10:17, but I could not. I used to walk around with my Bible but I didn’t know how to read. That day the leader chased me away, saying that I was a spy.
“When I learned there was a literacy program at the church, I decided to go. Three years later I was able to read and then I went back to the camp. Fortunately, the same commander was still there. I tried to remind him of my previous visit but he couldn’t recall.
“I told him that I had come to pay the full price, to be beaten, before I preached to him. He told me that he wanted to first hear the good news and after that he would beat me. I preached to him. Four months ago he got baptized and every Monday he invites me to preach to the troops.”
Jack had been humiliated by his illiteracy for many years. Here’s his story.
“Three years ago I could not approach a girl. They laughed whenever I tried to build a friendship with anyone who knew my life story. I had never been to school because my parents were very poor so I could not read or write. I attended the literacy program for two years. Now, I can read and write a letter in Swahili.
“I decided to challenge the local girls and went to one of them asking for a sheet of paper and a pen. She was surprised and began to laugh until she saw me write a short letter to Evelyne, my fiancée. I asked the girl to correct it since she had been to secondary school. I told her my story and since then she has been respectful toward me.”
Sister Nzigire is the mother of five children whose life changed when the church brought Bridge to Reading to her village.
“A lady used to let her goats in my field where they destroyed my crops. One day she saw me with my Bible, an exercise book, and a pen. She was surprised and declared that she did not know I was educated. When my neighbor learned that I could read and write she respected me and wanted to be my friend.”
This is the translation of the story Nzigire dictated to her tutor (in Swahili) and then learned to read:
Yvonne is a young mother in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. When she was a girl her parents sent her to school for just two years. Then she stopped to take care of her younger sisters and brothers. Yvonne married Rutikanga, a pastor who became a Bridge to Reading trainer. They had six children when Rutikanga died unexpectedly in 2011.
Though a single mother who struggles to support her children, Yvonne decided to give her time to the church and to tutor other women. With the goal of learning to read well enough to become a tutor, Yvonne went back to the local primary school for two years. She met her goal and was trained in the local training center to become a literacy tutor.
Today she tutors eight women in her home. “I felt always marginalized because I could not even help my kids to do their homework or even read a simple announcement. I also felt dismayed to see that many women were sidelined because they could not do simple arithmetic when they go to the market. Sometimes they were robbed. Then I decided to help in the way that I could afford.”
Matayo’s father died when he was just a nine year old child. From then on he and his mother lived alone. In 2010 Matthieu went to the Mujumba, DRC literacy center where he studied for three years. He then went to the Imani Bible school. Today he is Pastor Matayo (Matthew) of the Sinai ka Lambo Church.
Besides preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, he is a strong advocate of literacy and is leading the effort to build a literacy center on the church property. Bridge to Reading director Dr. James Kigamwa and founder Connie Schwein visited the center in August.
Furahisha, in the eastern DRC, was married to a man who studied; but she was not able to either read or to write. When the literacy ministry was implanted here; she said that she’d have to ask advice from the pastor about it.
The pastor invited her husband to agree that his wife could learn at the literacy center. Three years and nine months after, she was able to read the Bible and write correctly. Here are the woman’s words – “When we left LUSHEKE for KALANGWE, the pastor of the church chose me to teach others in the literacy center. Now I’m a tutor in Kalangwe center. Glory to the LORD who sent us the literacy ministry.”