How it all 
Elim was started in 1987 as a project for persons with disabilities by Sister J.S. (Coby) van Rossum. Having worked for the ZZG (Mission Reformed Congregations) in Igede for over 20 years as a nurse, bible school teacher and evangelist, she concerned herself about the plight of persons with disabilities. The very first beginning of Elim lies even a number of years before.

In her own words she tells about the origin of Elim: In my thoughts I go back to that village in Adum-West,  where I had never been before. We were there with a group of students of the bible school to evangelise. While they were going from house to house in the village to speak with the people, I sat under a mango tree near the river and was reading in my Bible. Suddenly there was this text speaking to me, Isaiah 58:7: “Is it not to divide your bread with the
hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?” I did not understand and said in my thoughts:”But Lord, I have been doing so for years, receiving sick children in my house and giving shelter to orphans , what now?”

A short while later one of the students came and said: “Do you know that on the other side of the river there live those girls who are disabled, of whom my wife spoke during the lesson?” No, I did not know that. “Can we go there?” He said that was not possible for their village had no boat. An hour late he came back. He had fetched a boat and so I stepped in. I drew a lot of attention being the first white person who visited that village! I asked for the girls and in the
meantime we told a bible story. When these girls came I was shocked. They moved about like frogs, having very small deformed legs. I asked if they had ever seen a doctor. The mother said:”No, this is a hopeless situation.”

When I left I said that she should let me know if she wanted to see a doctor. On my way home I thought of that text in connection with these girls, but what to do with it? What could a surgeon do in such a case? Did it make sense to take them to a doctor? I t would probably have stopped here if God had stopped too! But when about four weeks later the hospital-car of lto (medical team that visited the various remote clinics) returned and delivered the girls at my doorstep, I had to do something. First of all teach them some civilisation: they had never sat on a chair, never slept in a bed, never held a fork. I was thankful that I had Priscilla, Maria and Ruth in my house, who could teach them something in their own language. Before we took them to the orthopaedic clinic in M’kar. M’kar lies about 100 km from Igede. That happened a few weeks later. The orthopaedic surgeon thought that some improvement was possible after several operations, but not in M’kar. It had to be done in Jos, 350 km from Igede, and somebody had to go with them to look after them. We could not find anybody for this purpose!

So I remained inactive. I did not know any other persons with disabilities.

About a year later - I think it was meanwhile 1979 – the doctor who had seen those girls came to visit us. He came with his father, who worked as a doctor in Holland. During the conversation he inquired after those girls, but I said it
was impossible. Nobody wanted to accompany them to Jos. The father wanted to try and ask an orthopaedic surgeon, to come from Jos to M’kar for these operations, and he did so. Both girls were operated four times. After much physiotherapy they could both walk after one and a half year! When they returned celebrations were held in their village. There was thanksgiving, whereby all villagers were present. As a result other persons with disabilities
came to ask for help. At the end of my contract period in 1987, I became 6o then, something had to happen with the ten persons with disabilities who were then under my care. There lies the origin of Elim. I do not see myself as the
founder. It was God Himself in the first place, Who continued His plans where I stopped, but then I also think of the visitor, of the surgeon, who, in my eyes undertook such an impossible task. I was only a link in all this. What do you
call that? A tool in God’s Hand?