The Birth of the “Girls of Promise” Scholarships (by Ray Ake)

Freida McMath with Girl of Promise Yamah Katerah and teacher Cora Ricks (002)

Cora Ricks, Yamah Katerah, and Freida McMath

On my first trip to Liberia I was asked to preach at St John UMC. It was a packed house, literally standing room only.  As the service was ending, they brought in about 50 kids who had not been able to fit in the Sanctuary for a blessing.  They had been listening outside through the windows. I was asked to lay hands on each child, offering a personal blessing for each one of them. As I began, I realized that the Bible in my hands was in the way and I needed to set it down somewhere.

Patience Laubaw, a young girl about 11 years old, was one of the children who happened to be in front of me at the time.  I handed the bible to her and asked if she would hold it for me. She held it, her arms crossed over it, with a look of awe on her face as if it was the most precious treasure ever entrusted to her.

As I was doing the blessings God started bugging me, “Give her the Bible.”  I’m arguing in my head, “God, I’m not giving it to her, that is the Bible my mom and dad gave me out of their joy when I first started ministry, leather cover,  embossed in gold letters – “Reverend Raymond E. Ake”, I can’t give away that Bible.”

“Give her the Bible”.  So I did, and she carried it around all day with that look of shocked awe on her face. Later I found out 2 things: it was one of only 4 Bibles in the whole church other than the Pastor’s, and . . . Patience can’t read.

Patience can’t read, because she didn’t go to school.  She didn’t go to school,because her mom is a single parent who can’t afford the expense of sending all her children to school. Patience, the oldest girl, stays home to help mom with the rest of the children while her brothers go to school.

God of course, being God, had only begun bugging me, and I vow in my heart that she WILL learn to read!  I learn from the principal of the Public School that it costs about $55 a year to cover all the expenses: uniform, pencils and paper, gym clothes, fees etc. By now, God has explained a couple of other things to my heart: I will pay for her education all the way through college if she chooses to go, and that there are LOTS of other girls who have tremendous potential, but unable to attend because of money and their sex.

This happened in 2013 and I told this story on the stage of our Annual Conference in Lakeside that year as part of the 3C’s mission report inviting others to join me.  As our time up front ended, and we went on break, a pastor rushed up to the stage, thrust $50 in my hand, and said “Here, take this for another girl. I have to give this to you.” That was the first gift for what we call “Girls of Promise” .

Currently we have 12 girls receiving ‘endowed’ scholarships. We don’t start a girl now until we have enough funds, or the pledges in place, to carry her all the way through the current Harrisburg system. I can’t imagine saying after a year or two, “Sorry, no more school for you, we are out of money.”  More people are offering scholarships and more girls are getting a chance to go to school.

We of course don’t know who has the potential and which families have the most need, so we empowered a local team consisting of the Pastor of St John UMC, a representative of the community, and the Principal of the school to identify the girls.  Our “Girls” attend the Harrisburg Public School, the Lutheran School, and the St John School.

Currently school goes through the 9th grade. Farmer-to-Farmer is working to facilitate the construction of an Ag/Tech High School in the community, and hope to extend the scholarship program to include not only High School, but University if possible.

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