skip to Main Content
Questions about Global Missions?

Empowering Orphaned Teens in West Africa

By Maggie Watts  ·  4 minute read
Learning Center  »  Empowering Orphaned Teens in West Africa

Gay Lynn first visited West Africa when she completed her seminary degree. She was seeking medical and children’s ministry opportunities, and a missionary friend invited her to visit a West African nation with them.

“The doors were just blown wide open for all the needs and opportunities there,” Gay Lynn said.

When she returned from that trip, she applied to serve in West Africa. Since then, Gay Lynn has served with SIM USA in West Africa for over 20 years. She primarily ministers to orphaned teenagers. Orphans have a great need when they graduate high school—with no family, who will help them adjust to the adult world?

“We try to reconcile them back to their families, but a lot of the children don’t have any family to be reconciled back to,” she explained. “So, what do we have for them? How do we help them?”

This question led the ministry to create a Life Experience Home for girls four years ago. Since orphaned boys already had a Life Experience Home, this new project focused on the girls.

The Life Experience Home serves as a halfway house for orphans when they graduate high school. Gay Lynn and her partners house the teenagers here, where they prepare them for the workforce and the adult world with various courses.

“Whichever skill they’re interested in, we can train and connect them with an apprenticeship. Or, we have a workshop with skills training,” Gay Lynn said. “While they’re in the home, they do all the cooking, all the shopping, all the cleaning, wash their clothes—they do everything. We’re preparing them for when they are on their own.”

At first, the Life Experience Home was in a rental house. Within four years, they had to move locations three times. Gay Lynn felt like they were constantly moving, and she said it was very tiring.

She wanted to find a permanent site for the house. Ultimately, she wanted a Life Experience Home in the city, where the girls could access more job opportunities.

In His great faithfulness, God provided a house! The ministry began renovations last year.

“We got enough donations that, in addition to buying the house, we could buy new furniture and pay for all the renovations,” she said. “We plastered, painted, and fixed everything.”

The first set of girls moved into the home in September, and Gay Lynn said the program has been going very well. In addition to having skills training, the girls planted a garden in the backyard and are learning how to grow their food. There is room in the Life Experience Home for 12 girls: five live there now.

Gay Lynn is also starting new programs for the girls. These programs include business management, budgeting, and a course about dating.

“What is it that you would like to learn? What questions do you have? What fears are you facing?” Gay Lynn asks these questions as she discovers what new programs to introduce for the girls.

She added that many girls who finished the Life Experience Home program have started home businesses and successfully joined the workforce.

“They’re out working, trying their best,” she said. “We’ve given them basic tools so they can get started in whatever job or skill they’ve trained in.”

Gay Lynn’s current prayer request is for more staff and volunteers. She prays for staff and volunteers who are passionate about helping the girls, even in difficult situations.

“It’s not easy to work with orphans and vulnerable children. They all come from traumatic backgrounds and a slew of different situations,” she said. “For many of our staff, it’s a 24/7 job. If they are house parents, they live with these children all day long, every day. And we have counselors and trauma healers. If you’re doing that, you’re invested.”

Through prayer and financial support, the Life Experience Home was purchased and fully renovated. The program is constantly growing with more courses, staff, volunteers, and opportunities for these children whom God loves.

Back To Top