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07/08/2024 (International Christian Concern) – In many countries where they are the minority religion, Christians are considered second-class citizens. Christian children are denied a quality education. Hope House provides Christian students with supplemental classes like literature, social studies, mathematics, discipleship, and Bible classes.

In a culture that tells them that they will forever be second-class citizens, Hope House provides an opportunity for a better life.

“I had to go to work at 10 years old. I want to see Hana educated and reach his dreams — to have the chance I didn’t have,” said Yousef, father to Hana, a Hope House student in the Middle East.

ICC’s Hope House program is the only one of our major programs that is found in each region we work in. Students from across the world are accessing quality education in the hopes of transforming their futures. But persecution looks different in each region of the world, so we adjust our strategy to make sure our programs are effective.

Middle East

Hope House first started in Egypt as education centers in poor villages with families pressured by persecution from the surrounding society. They are located in local churches, and establish programs to assist Christian families in these contexts.

Children in Egypt struggle to obtain an education in overcrowded, poorly resourced Egyptian schools. Children face discrimination for being Christians in these school systems and continue to face discrimination in the job market and community when they grow older.

Hope House helps Christian children learn through personalized afterschool education, Bible lessons, and personalized care and attention through nutrition and medical support for impoverished families. This impacts the children through better grades in school, deeper spiritual discipleship through Bible classes and Scripture memory, and stronger connection to the local church.

Christian women face many unique challenges as well, including sexual harassment from Muslim men, attempted forceful conversions to Islam, and economic vulnerability as widows. Hope House helps Christian women through literacy classes, income generating projects, and awareness and Bible study/support groups.

Africa

Hope Houses throughout Africa engage families with local churches through children’s ministry. Churches hosting Hope Houses have seen attendance grow, with families previously not attending the local church coming since they see the change in their children’s learning and character. The pastors and the families have grown closer, and most of the churches have begun family discipleship meetings, springing from the Hope Houses.

In one way or the other, each Hope House in Africa has started with just that — hope. Every one of our homes can be traced back to an individual or group who dared to hope on God’s provision when no resources were in sight.

The first Hope House we started in Africa was at an IDP camp in Nigeria, where Jihadists have forced millions of Christians out of their ancestral farmlands. Having been raised on the outskirts of one of these camps, Amos, a young Christian man, noticed that an entire generation of Christian children were growing up lacking an education. Without any school supplies, classrooms, or even chairs for the students to sit in, Amos gathered a few of his friends and together they went to the camp each week to teach the children.

Eventually, what began as a small group of good Samaritans was blessed by the resources given to ICC.

After meeting the volunteers, we empowered them with items such as whiteboards, markers, desks, pencils, and workbooks. Within a year we completely renovated weak structures on the property into solid schoolhouses, provided training and full-time salaries to each volunteer, and created an additional 20 teaching jobs. We were even able to hire women living in the IDP camp, who had previously been teachers before having to give up everything to flee jihadist violence.

Today, the project has turned into a full-fledged Hope House and has even expanded to include a second Hope House at a similar camp down the road. Children who once spent their days as beggars now receive free lunch every day. They enjoy fieldtrips, debate club, Bible studies, sports teams, computer classes, school celebrations, and free healthcare.

But God hasn’t stopped there. Further north in Nigeria we found a similar situation in that of Madame T, who gave up her profession as a lawyer to start a school for children orphaned by Fulani militants.

And then there was Dorcas whom we met in the DRC, a woman who obeyed God’s calling to take care of children orphaned by the ISIS-affiliated ADF.

In each of these cases God put a calling on the hearts of His people and asked them to act in faith. And in each instance, ICC was able to join them in their journeys by providing the resources needed to offer these children food, clothing, education, and a safe place to grow.

South Asia

Continuing our journey East, Hope Houses in South Asia also are unique to the situations in India and Pakistan.

The Christian community in India is spread out. Unlike neighboring Pakistan, which has Christian districts, India’s churches are often house churches in small villages — a handful of families mixed in with the majority Hindus, often far away from a major city.

Because of the low concentration of Christians in each area, a typical school is not efficient. What we have done instead is partner with local churches in these villages to establish a learning center on the grounds. The average learning center will have 30 to 40 children and one to two teachers. This model is cost-efficient, as it costs roughly a fourth of what a regular tuition center would cost and a fraction of a dedicated school.

Instead of one school that few Christian children can attend, we have 10 learning centers that tailor to the spread out community. Additionally, we have found that having the children attend class in the church has also increased the attendance for worship services as well, meaning as the children grow and learn, the church grows with them.

“We love our children like God loves His children. We want the absolute best for them, for their future. In the developing world, that means education. Founded on His teaching and love, we will pour into this next generation of Christians so they may grow up healthy, wiser, and know peace,” said an ICC staffer in charge of the program in the region.

Christians in Pakistan are often concentrated in specific areas of a city. These Christian districts have dedicated church buildings, but often lack schools or have poor education programs.

Working with local partners, we have committed to opening schools that will address the specific challenges this community faces. Tailoring the education to their needs and ensuring they are primed to take their roles as competent Christian workers.

Unlike government schools, we are driven to do well by faith. While we primarily serve the larger Christian community, we’ve decided to take on Muslim students in similar dire straits as the Christians. We have had instances where Muslim neighbors will attend church with their Christian neighbors because the community of a neighborhood is tighter and more influential. While the primary goal is to educate the next generation of Chirstian children, we hope to spread the love of Christ through inclusion of Muslim children as well. Our prayer is that they see and experience that true joy, learning, peace, and prosperity comes with a relationship with Christ.

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, ICC will start its first Hope House this summer! The program will revolve around supporting children ages 5 to 9 from a Muslim background who have converted to Christianity.

Unlike Hope Houses in the other three regions, education will look different because the countries ICC is operating in are often Muslim-majority, and converts from Islam are under massive threat. Children in these countries will receive their education secretly in a home or local church.

Because Christians in Southeast Asia are under immense pressure from extremist groups and government authorities, many believers operate underground. Our prayer is for these children to have access to quality education and biblical teaching, so they can grow strong in their faith in an environment hostile toward their beliefs.

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