'They have no education, no skills and very low self-esteem'

Este has been working in Panama on a Freedom-Challenge supported project for the last four years. Here she shares why she felt called to serve God in Panama and how this project is giving women back their dignity


My husband and I are from South Africa. Our very first short-term mission trip was to Iran. There the Lord changed our hearts to serve Him full-time as missionaries. A couple of years later, in 2008, I went on a short-term mission trip to Afghanistan. There I saw the widows of Afghanistan, living in poverty, without food, with no education and no skills. And there I engaged with a ministry that teaches women to sew and to support themselves. There the Lord changed my heart for the unprivileged, women with no skills, women lost without Jesus.

The Lord prepared my heart for a ministry with women, for one day, somewhere and that day happened when He called us to Panama in 2013. We live in Volcan among the indigenous tribe, the Ngobe Bugle Indians. Poverty, alcohol abuse, drugs and teenage pregnancies are part of their daily lives.

Children as young as 12 or 13 years old with their own little babies is a common scene. They have no education, no skills and very low self-esteem. So Joya de Esperanza – Jewel of Hope – was born.


I didn’t actually like sewing at all until after I came back from Afghanistan. All of a sudden, I just wanted to make quilts. Starting with baby quilts. And that is exactly what I do and where we start with each new lady that joins Joya. All of them start by making a baby quilt by hand. Most of them don’t have sewing machines. I want to teach them how to do it properly by hand, so that they can go back to their community and teach others to do the same.

The first quilt they make, they can keep for themselves. After they complete their first quilt, I give them a certificate. Then, I teach them how to use a sewing machine. Then little by little we start making aprons from men’s shirts. I want to teach them that you can make things from ordinary items, instead of buying fabric.

We then sell our items – mostly to visiting mission groups – where 60 per cent of the selling price goes to the lady and 40 per cent goes back into the ministry.

And of course, along with all the sewing we have devotion time every day, which involves chatting, building friendships, sharing women’s love, joys and sorrows, and where we can share God’s love, mercy and truth.


Sonia said:

“I like Joya de Esperanza for the way Este treat us. Este is a kindly person that treats people with love and she is friendly. She reminds me a lot of my mom, my mom used to treat us the same way that she does. I started to come to Joya de Esperanza because I was lonely at home. Coming to this ministry I met new friends, but more important I gave my life to Christ.

First I went alone to church. I invited my husband to come with me, first he don't want to, but later he joined me and also gave his heart to Christ.”

Now, both of them are fully involved at the church.  Sonia's husband, Jacobo is part of a soccer ministry at the church, with the youth."

Stephanie said:

“Coming to Joya de Esperanza my health improved significantly. I have toxoplasmosis; some of the symptoms include constant headaches, cough and blurred vision. I was home alone, and very anxious about my sickness and my situation. I met Este and all the other ladies, who are very loving.

While sewing, I got so distracted from my symptoms that my headache, cough and anxiety faded away. I like to come every day to learn about quilting but, at the same time, I like the fact that I have a group of ladies that I can talk to and have friendship with.”


For sure the most challenging is commitment. Commitment by the ladies. Our ministry is growing, little by little. Nearly every week a new lady turns up who wants to join Joya de Esperanza. We have interviews with each one and have certain criteria and we ask that they attend for at least three months.

To encourage the ladies to attend regularly, we give an incentive every other month for the lady who has attended classes the most regularly and on time. We rent an apartment that is spacious, airy and light, and a safe place (in not such a safe area). We also have a kindergarten for the little ones while the mammas do their sewing. A challenge is the monthly rent of $350. As well as more sewing machines, quilting fabric, scissors etc.



Give thanks to the Lord for this ministry and pray that He will use Joya de Esperanza to bring Hope where there is no hope, that He will make Jewels out of women who see themselves as of no value and who have little self-esteem.

Together we can make a difference. Together we can take hands, together we can be His hands and feet, together we can serve Him – the King of Kings!

I thank you.

Este de Nysschen
OM Panama

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom

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Changing lives in Madagascar

Many of us only know about Madagascar from the kids’ movie, but did you know that in this beautiful country – the fourth largest island in the world – 92 per cent of people live on less than $2 a day?


Half the population is under 14 years old. And 41 per cent of girls are married before their 18th birthday. There is so much need.

Yet your support is helping The Perla project in Madagascar to bring restoration, hope and new opportunities to young girls and women. The project restores women who’ve escaped from sex trafficking and provides skills training to vulnerable young women.


One of those young women is Lohambosie, a 21-year-old mother to four children. When she was just 14, her parents, following age-old tradition, made an agreement with a man in their village – they gave Lohambosie to him in marriage and he, in return, gave her parents an oxen.

Once married, Lohambosie had to leave school. She now lives in a village 15km from the nearest town with no running water, no school, no church. But all was not lost.

A project team supported by The Freedom Challenge visited her village last year. They told her about the hope she could find in Jesus. As Lohambosie learned more about God, she felt passionate about helping girls and women in situations like hers.


The project team have enrolled her on a course so that she can learn skills to become a literacy teacher.  She longs to run a literacy program in her village, and to lead a women’s Bible study group. What an inspiration she is!

“Girls here get married as young as 12 against their will,” said Lohambosie. “They need to know that Jesus loves them.”

Thanks to your support Lohambosie’s life has been transformed. And now she is determined to pass on that hope for a better life to other women and girls.


We would love to see more young women like Lohambosie experiencing freedom and realizing their potential. But we can only do that with your help!

$150 sets one woman or child on a path to freedom. But any gift you give will change lives. Thank you.

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INDIA: Ending Slavery

Sunitha is a 26-year-old Indian woman who belongs to the lowest rung of the Dalit Community, the manual scavengers, those who clean human excrement from public latrines. Sunitha’s mother and father are daily wage laborers and have not been able to escape their poverty-stricken existence. She and her parents live in a small hut, along with her two brothers and sister-in-law. Sunitha went to school until seventh grade, but then had to drop out. To try to help her family, she began attending one of OM India’s tailoring schools. She learned how to make Indian Sari dresses. She could not afford a sewing machine on her own, so through OM’s Economic Development Micro-Finance program, she took a loan to buy a sewing machine. She began earning more money through her trade and has already paid back her loans. She is one of the most famous tailors in the area and is helping her family tremendously. She is thankful to the OM staff members for the way that they have helped her, through this effective program, build a new life.

In India, the Dalit people are victims of centuries-long, socially-sanctioned slavery. Numbering 250-300 million, they are those in the Hindu caste system who are designated as “low” or “backward” caste. Consequently, they are shackled to a social and religious system that removes all personal freedom and human dignity. Dalit women are twice oppressed by gender and caste. In India, OM has 50 women’s tailoring training centers serving 1200 women. Once the woman is skilled, she is offered the opportunity for employment, which drastically improves her income, future and the prospects for the next generations. It literally breaks the cycle of poverty and caste-based slavery--one family at a time.

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