We had the amazing privilege of watching 50 people from 4 different villages around us choose to publicly announce their faith in Christ on Easter. The icing on the cake was to see our oldest son, Micah, choose to be a part of that Jesus-following crowd! Continue to pray for Micah as he grows in his walk. Pray that God would continue to give us wisdom in how to raise him as gets closer to becoming a teenager! Yikes! And pray for our new brothers and sisters in Christ who are just starting on their journey of faith. Pray that stand firm in the midst of persecution and temptation. May God receive all the glory!
This is a video of the older kids saying Hebrews 11:1. So much of the culture here is based on the visible. Most believe that we can hide our actions from God. So, you’re not really guilty unless you’re caught. You can’t even accuse someone of stealing unless you catch them redhanded! So we had them memorize this verse about faith…believing without seeing.
Every Saturday I either teach or help teach God’s Word to a mix of church kids and neighborhood kids. I love teaching kids…especially when it’s evangelizing. This club however has presented me with new, and at times, discouraging challenges. I’ll list a few:
1) It’s hard to do a chronological study of the Bible when kids’ attendance is random.
- During planting and harvesting season, we basically have to stop teaching or decide not to introduce anything new because attendance drops off so drastically.
- Some kids are threatened by their family or friends so they don’t participate regularly or some stop altogether.
- Depending on the day and the teacher, some kids may not get out of school on time (They attend school on Saturday.) so by the time they walk all the way to the church, they’ve missed the lesson.
2) It’s challenging when the lesson is done in Jula (the trade language) and the Bible passages are in Jula, but the kids’ native language isn’t Jula. So most of the kids can’t read Jula for themselves. This is one of the reasons we do verse memorization.
- The other Saturday, after several comprehension-seeking questions, I realized that these children did not understand the word “love” in the trade language. How long have they been hearing this word without understanding it?! I was floored. Then we came to an equivalent in their language which amounted to: Your way (behavior) pleases me. Well, that’s not LOVE! And then of course, more explaining ensued. But can any of us truly understand all that’s wrapped up in God’s love in one lesson? No!
- Since most can’t read, we can’t just give them a Bible or Scripture passage to take home and read later. For some of them, being caught with Scripture at home could be detrimental.
3) The learning style here in Africa is a mix of French and Arabic (Muslim) methods. The children aren’t taught in school to think for themselves and analyze situations. They memorize and recite. That’s it. And at an early age, for those who are privileged to go to school, they are still learning French. So much of what they memorize makes no sense to them. There is no meaning or life in the words.
- So we focus on Bible stories that have a beginning, middle, and end. Storeis are more easily understood and can be memorized and retold. The challenge is to get the kids to go beyond memorizing a sequence of events and how to pronounce hard Bible names they’ve never heard before. We want them to hear a story and dig in to see how that story reflects God’s character. How can they relate to the characters? How can they apply the lesson learned in the story to their own lives? What choices can they make to follow God’s path? What choices are they making currently that are leading them away from God’s path? This type of reflective thinking is not common. Most folks here don’t ask the “why” questions. Again…this method takes time.
4) Finally, church is easily seen as a social event. Many come to church because they don’t go to the mosque. At some point someone in their family started going to church and thereby opened the door for them to choose “church” as well. This creates a lot of nominal Christians.
- It’s a challenge to get these kids to see any personal responsibility in choosing to follow Jesus themselves. For a Muslim, kids don’t choose their religion. Their parents do. So for us to ask a kid if he wants to trust Jesus as Savior is like asking him to pay for his own schooling. Not normal.
- In the same way, personal responsibility for sin is a huge issue. For adults and children alike, if they don’t see themselves as sinners, how can there be true repentance? Without true repentance, how can their be a true salvation experience? All this leads to folks putting on the “Christian” garb and heading to church on Sundays, not because they’re convinced that Jesus died for their sins, but because they’re not putting on the Muslim garb and heading to pray at the mosque. And I haven’t even mentioned the animistic rituals that are often involved in everyday life regardless of the higher religion that they claim to be a part of. Ugh.
My point in listing some of the challenges we face over here with the kids (and many overlap with the adults as well) is so that you will be better equipped to pray for us. So many of our recent disappointments and frustrations that cause stress and anxiety come from a lack of a true encounter with Jesus. Trying to change and conform the outward man while the inner man still thinks the old way he always did, is nothing but law-abiding living. God has been smacking me in the face lately with His GRACE and how it is so misunderstood here. Honestly, it’s rarely even talked about. I look around and see so many trying to “be” Christian when they’ve never truly understood God’s love and have no idea how His grace can truly set them free.
Pray for us as we seek to teach these kids to look at themselves and at God’s Word in a new way. Pray for the Holy Spirit to draw these children in. Pray for clarity in speech as God gives me (Stef.) opportunities to teach. Pray for seeds to be planted in their hearts!
The top 2 pictures are of the kids acting out the story of the Good Samaritan. The bottom picture shows Ecclesiastes 12:1. We’ve been talking to the kids about how important it is to get to know who God is NOW while they’re young.