Philanthropy & Stewardship at ECHO

celebrating the generosity & faithful legacies of our family and friends worldwide

Jim and Judy Kovalik grew up in Johnstown, PA, a small, conservative town east of Pittsburgh. Like most Eastern and Southern Europeans who settled in that area, the Kovaliks’ relatives worked in the steel making, railroading, and coal mining industries that characterized the region. 

Judy, her brother, and their parents were active in a Grace Brethren Church. Jim and his parents were faithful members of the Johnstown Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. In both churches there was a regular emphasis on worldwide missionary involvement. Their parents hosted missionaries in their homes and regularly supported missions projects. God also used missions courses and conferences to keep missions in the Kovaliks’ minds during their college years. Judy’s personal contacts were primarily with missionaries in the Central African Republic. Jim had church friends who would become C&MA missionaries. One of those friends was Jim Albright who, with his family, served in West Africa for many years. God would continue to use Jim A’s influence in Jim K’s life years later.

From 1973 to 1991, when the Kovaliks lived in Wheaton, IL, they were active in the local C&MA church, where Judy served on the Missions Committee and Jim provided hands-on help with all mission-related projects. The church enjoyed an added blessing each year as several different furloughing missionary families participated in the church’s activities, providing an ongoing reminder of worldwide missions activity and an exciting annual missions conference.

After eighteen years in Wheaton, the Kovaliks sensed that God was directing them to return to Johnstown, where, with His help, they were able to operate their home-based business and provide care for their four elderly parents for 17 years. In January 2008, the last two of their parents went to be with the Lord. That fall, Jim attended his first ECHO Annual Agricultural Conference along with his boyhood friend Jim Albright. It was at that conference that Jim K met Jim A’s son, Tim Albright, who was to become the Chief Operations Officer of ECHO. He also met Robert Sanou, a Burkina Faso national, who was the Director of ACCEDES, a church-sponsored relief-and-development organization there. Through these personal contacts, Jim and Judy were able to contribute to furnishing a women’s center and constructing a guest house in Burkina Faso, and to provide scholarship funds for attendees at the 2010 and 2012 West Africa Forums which ECHO sponsored in Burkina Faso.

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Having been impressed by the worldwide scope of ECHO’s vision and agricultural-based ministry, Jim and Judy subsequently attended two ECHO conferences. In 2012, the couple moved to a retirement community in central Florida, which has enabled them to spend time at ECHO learning more about its vision to establish regional impact centers in key locations around the world. When they learned of ECHO’s interest in establishing such a center in West Africa, they felt that the Lord had already prepared them to make a financial pledge. At a luncheon with Tim Albright and David Erickson, the Kovaliks made a four-year commitment that would enable ECHO to begin moving forward with strategic plans.

Jim and Judy have seen over their lifetime that God has provided wisdom and direction as they have sought His guidance. “We are stewards and managers, not owners, of the resources God has made available to us. We are more

 than grateful that God directed us to partner with ECHO in helping to make the West Africa Regional Impact Center a reality,” Jim shared.

They also realize that it has been through lasting personal relationships that God has worked in directing their steps, especially in relation to ECHO. At present, Tim Albright serves as ECHO’s COO, and Robert Sanou has recently been appointed to serve as the first Director of the newly-established West Africa Regional Impact Center. “We are so glad to be involved in this important effort and are trusting God to use ECHO to make a positive, lasting impact on an extremely needy region!”