Our mission is to enable transformational development by investing in the dreams of the poor, so that they might be released from physical and spiritual poverty. The love of Jesus Christ being our primary motivation, we create opportunities for Evangelism, Education, Economic Empowerment, Infrastructure Restoration, and Leadership Development.
Our Founder - Jessy’s Story
Raise a Child, Raise a Village
by Jessy Togba-Doya
It takes a village to raise a child; but it also takes a committed child to raise a village. I am often asked, “Why do you make such a tremendous sacrifice for the ministry in Liberia?” My response is simple, “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel and my personal commitment to the people of Liberia.”
I was born on November 12, 1973, in an obscure village called Balama, in Liberia, West Africa, to a tribal family of one father, nine mothers, and twenty-six brothers and sisters. Though different from a traditional family by western standards, I was blessed to have nine loving mothers who nurtured my early development and growth. And who could complain about playing soccer with 26 brothers and sisters?
But my dream of being raised in a whole and loving family was shattered at the tender age of nine, when I was separated from my family and taken to Monrovia to serve as a domestic servant for those who considered themselves as upper-class Liberians. I was owned like a piece of property and passed from one household to another. During this time I endured all manner of hardships and abuses. I escaped my servitude from the seventh household, and later became a street child who scraped by, gathering food and finding shelter in market stalls and public places, hoping for a breakthrough.
My breakthrough came, sure enough, when I was rescued from the out-patient waiting area of John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, where I often sought shelter and slept on wooden benches at night. A kind Christian lady took me into her home and raised me as her own. She provided me with food, clothing, shelter, and my educational needs until I graduated from high school.
She took me to church every Sunday and made sure that I participated in church activities. Our family routine ran in a triangle between church, home, and school. At the time, going to church was just another activity that required my participation if I needed to remain a part of her household, and I did not have a personal relationship with Christ at the time, nor did I think that I needed one. In fact, I was upset with God and the people who misused and abused me.
Upon graduating from high school, I was excited about the possibility of going to college but was also fearful of leaving the only stable home and family I had ever known. Besides, my guardian did not have the financial resources to fund my college education. I managed to enroll at A.M.E. Zion University in 1995 by auctioning my graduation gifts to help pay for my first semester’s admission and registration fees. I had hoped that if I studied hard, I could earn an academic scholarship at the end of the first semester. Although I studied very hard, my dream of earning an academic scholarship did not materialize as I had hoped. I fell only three points short of the perfect GPA required for the scholarship.
I was devastated. My dream of earning a college education was at the verge of being dashed. The brokenness, the pain and vulnerability, the uncertainties of the future dropped me to my knees in the humble realization that I could not do it by myself. I was overwhelmed and I cried out to God. It was during that moment that I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart and take Lordship over my life. With God’s help, I managed to defray the costs of my college education through a combination of work-study and a partial academic scholarship funded by the Joseph Jenkins Roberts’ Educational Foundation of the United Methodist Church. Because of this, I was able to graduate college in 2002 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business.
My graduation ceremonies coincided with the raid and capture of Monrovia by rebel forces. Liberia at the time was in political turmoil and overrun by gunmen associated with several rebel groups. The 15-year civil war (1989 -2004) devastated the entire country and left its infrastructure in ruins—over 300,000 people were killed, more than 700, 000 fled the country into exile, and another 500,000 became internally displaced. During the raid, I fled for my life, seeking refuge at the Liberia Baptist Seminary, as I felt that the churches and hospitals were the safest place to hide.
This Seminary was far from only a refuge from danger, as I had been given the chance to intern there and made many friends. The Seminary environment—in addition to the spiritual nourishment I received from church—helped me grow in my knowledge of Scripture and in my personal walk with Christ. I became passionate about sharing my faith with others and my call and commitment to ministry became evident and was recognized by administrators at the Seminary.
I was one of three Liberians awarded scholarships and sent to study at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. We were awarded these scholarships with the understanding that upon graduation, we would return to our native homeland to serve. I entered the United States on a student visa, determined to study hard, get an education, and earn my share of the American dream.
I enrolled at McAfee in the fall of 2002 and graduated in the spring of 2005 with Master’s Degrees in Divinity, as well as Business Administration. My years at McAfee were both eventful and rewarding. I was dually enrolled at Mercer and pursuing a Master of Divinity Degree and MBA; while working full time at night with the City of Atlanta.
Upon graduating from McAfee, I was hired as a financial administrator for a church in Roswell, Georgia. With two master’s degrees, a well-paid job, an American wife, and United States citizenship, there were compelling reasons to make America home. I was well on the path to achieving my share of the American dream. Like my colleagues, I struggled with the decision to return to a war-torn Liberia. Rightfully so, I found every reason to justify why Liberia was unsafe and no longer a good fit.
And yet, as I struggled to make those difficult choices, I was often reminded of my humble beginnings and God’s faithfulness through my journey: from life as a child in the village to life as a domestic servant and street child in Monrovia, and finally as an educated, naturalized American on my way to achieving the “American dream”. It was nothing short of a miracle of God’s orchestration. I felt compelled to give back to Liberia and my home village, because, after all, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a child to raise a village.
Through much prayer and supplication, I embraced God’s call to missions in 2006 and went to Liberia and started Sustainable Liberia (formerly Balama Development Alliance, Inc.). I am humbled to be the Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Liberia, a faith-based nonprofit organization registered in the State of Georgia with programs and services in rural villages of Liberia, West Africa. Sustainable Liberia counters hopelessness by creating sustainable communities in Liberia through evangelism and discipleship, leadership development, education and job training, infrastructure development, and economic empowerment.
Sustainable Liberia shares Christ with villagers, builds schools and libraries for boys and girls in rural Liberia, grants scholarships to young people for college or vocational school, trains rural farmers how to grow sustainable gardens, and sets up small and medium enterprises that create jobs and income. These ministries are funded in partnership with churches, foundations, and individuals throughout the United States. The villagers also play a major role, working hard and planning their own development. Sustainable Liberia has had more than thirteen amazing years of Countering Hopelessness in rural Liberia. To God Be the Glory!
Liberia was founded 1847 by freed slaves from the Americas. The country enjoyed over one hundred years of economic prosperity under the oppressive rule imposed by minority Americo-Liberians until 1980; when Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, an indigenous Liberian staged a coup that executed then President William R. Tolbert and 13 members of his cabinet. The Samuel Doe regime ended in 1989 when Charles Taylor, led an uprising against the government. Liberia is still struggling to overcome the gruesome effects of the 14 year long civil war that devastated the entire country and left its infrastructures in ruins—over 300,000 people were killed, more than 700, 000 fled the country into exile, and another 500,000 were displaced. Today, Liberia remains without the basic necessities of life: running water, electricity, adequate healthcare, and access to education. With peace in Liberia under a democratically elected President, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberians are hopeful and desirous of overcoming a painful past.