Hope in an Unexpected Place

Ezra runs the ball in for a goal. He hears his teammates whoop victoriously behind him, and a small smile breaks out on his face. He turns and runs towards his team and coach. They high five him, bringing him close to the huddle as their soccer coach nods knowingly.

Ezra is a young man with flourishing promise.

Smooth, black rocks surround the land. They serve a multitude of purposes – protection from the elements, a resting place for travelers, a natural jungle gym for children to climb and conquer.  Amidst the rocks and occasional bursts of greenery, lies a haven of education and encouragement.

The Igmin Kibe Education Center was opened in 2011 and pursues children spiritually, physically, educationally, emotionally, and socially. Serving orphans and at-risk youth from the Kisayhip Village, dedicated staff, care givers, and educators address the growing struggle to educate Nigerian children within an inconsistent educational system.

The education center offers supplemental after-school assistance for the children in reading, math, English, and Christian studies. The children arrive at the center each morning, eat breakfast, and are transported to school. After their school day ends, they receive a meal, have time to play, work on homework with tutors on-site, and then return to their homes in the village. This carries the nutritional and educational burden that often breaks the backs of single and widowed mothers, who struggle without a spouse to even provide basic housing.

In community development, Back2Back believes in the Galatians 6 model of building relationship. In verse 2, believers are instructed to “carry each other’s burdens. . .” while verse 5 states, “for each one should carry his own load.” Load versus burden. Burden, in Greek, is meant as something one is incapable of carrying himself; a load is singularly manageable. Single and widowed mothers are faced with the task of providing shelter for their children along with consistent meals and educational opportunities under circumstances that often make these very things difficult to obtain. The education center steps into this strain and assists in shouldering the burden, allowing growth and opportunity where stress to provide once existed. As a result of the shared burden, vulnerable children like Ezra, who attends the center, are learning their future hopes, and daily needs, are worthy of investment.

Ezra began attending Igmin Kibe in August of 2011. He and his six younger siblings are raised by their widowed mother – a hardworking woman who does her best to provide meals and care for her seven children. As the eldest, and having lost his father at a young age, Ezra long lacked the consistent presence of a male role model in his life. He was met with overwhelming support from his two teachers and a coach at the education center, who pour into his story both in and outside of his time there.

“Ezra is an active young man,” shares Dori McCormick, Back2Back Nigeria staff member. “He was asked to join the soccer team through Meshiah Academy and he is growing physically, socially, and emotionally. The consistent support and guidance Ezra is receiving is evident in his growth. He is a supportive teammate, he is forming relationships with his peers, and he is becoming a positive example for his younger siblings.”

As Ezra attends a challenging school, he is learning just what he is capable of. His marks in school are on the rise and he receives encouragement to strive for more, to push himself higher. Ezra is learning what he is able to accomplish because he is surrounded by voices insisting he can.

The team huddles around the coach, listening intently for what comes next. Ezra breathes deeply and wipes perspiration off his face. He is focused and ready for the new play – he knows he has the support he needs to tackle whatever comes next.