- Neelley Hicks
“Giving Hope to the Hopeless”: The Mama Lynn Center for Congolese Women
Written by Quinn Needham, Neelley Hicks, ed. Special thanks to Lynn McAlilly, Bishop Gabriel Yemba and Judith Osongo.
Turning a Dream into a Reality
In June of 2016, the East Congo Episcopal Area officially teamed up with the Tennessee, Memphis, and California Pacific Annual Conferences and began developing the Mama Lynn Center for Congolese Women. Now, just two years later, the three annual conferences have raised enough money to surpass the center’s initial fundraising goal of $350,000. These funds will finance programming for the center’s residents and the building’s construction.
A Call to Compassion
By providing shelter, healthcare, Bible classes, counseling, and training in income-generating trades like sewing, The Mama Lynn Center will be a strong and nurturing community for rape survivors who have been labelled as outcasts by society. McAlilly explains, her “vision is that God will use the people of United Methodist Church to restore hope and help these women and girls claim their true identity as beloved and wonderfully made by God.” McAlilly’s passion for female survivors is evident as she adds, “It brings me great joy to be a part of a church that is playing a role in helping build a new life for these women and girls… [They] will have a chance to arise from despair and stigma. It is truly an honor to be associated with this Center and with this ministry to care for vulnerable women.”
Rev. Neelley Hicks and Rev. Bill Lovell served as co-fundraising chairs for the project. Hicks is ecstatic with the overflowing support the center has received: “Bill and I are overjoyed at the enthusiastic response to the Mama Lynn Center, and invite all supporters to keep following Congo Women Arise through Facebook. This is a global effort that will continue to bring light to the lives of women and children for years to come.”
Setting the Example
Leaders like Lynn McAlilly and Bishop Yemba have championed the cause of these female survivors because they believe in empowering and educating women. By giving rape survivors a safe haven to rebuild their lives, the Mama Lynn Center is effectively investing in not only the futures of the women who seek council there, but their entire communities by setting a compassionate example for others to live by. This center will amplify the voices of sexual assault survivors, advocate for the human rights of women, and continue to fight against stigma and adversity.