Erlik’s commitment to children doesn’t stop when she leaves the church. She and her husband don’t have their own biological children, but they have taken in three kids who had been abandoned or neglected. Her motivation to care for children stems from her own childhood without parents — she grew up in an orphanage. But life there wasn’t all bad, she says. “I grew up there learning about Jesus and accepting Him as my savior and experiencing His love. I want other people to experience the same thing as me.”
The sponsored children who come to the church center enjoy food, tutoring, Scripture lessons, playtime and personal attention. Vocational training gives them skills necessary for stable jobs as adults, Erlik says. “We try to find the children’s interests at an early age here. For those who like to cook, those children will be taught more cooking skills at the project. For those who like teaching, we will [help them] learn to teach more.”
Erlik says parents of sponsored children trust that when their children are at the church, they are safe. In a community where poverty makes children even more vulnerable, the church-run Compassion center is a haven. This is a huge relief for parents who can’t be home with their children as much as they’d like to because they’re working to keep their families alive.
A LIGHTER LOAD
For mothers like Elly, Erlik and the church help lessen the stress of life in poverty. Elly is still paying down debt incurred during her husband’s futile dialysis treatment. In addition to sewing beads and sequins on clothes for a local tailor, the widow sells coffee, toiletries and snacks from a stand she sets up outside the nearby hotel. How much she earns varies depending on the frequency and fullness of a tourist bus that stops at the hotel.