Into Africa

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Meet one children’s minister
who’s making a profound difference sowing God’s Word in a continent
short on hope.

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Why South Africa? For me, it goes back to a story that gripped my
heart — and would eventually change the course of my life — a
story I heard about a young South African child. An adult had
casually asked the boy what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“I may be a gangster or a missionary,” the boy mused seriously.
“It depends on who gets to me first.”

Gangs are a major problem for children throughout the Cape Town
area, so this boy’s statement wasn’t for shock value; it was the
simple, telling truth that reflected the crossroads many young
children here face.

I was so impacted by this boy’s words that I decided to leave my
ministry position in North Carolina and move across the globe to
serve in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1998. In the years since, my
ministry has expanded and transformed; I’ve gone from ministering
directly to children to multiplying my efforts by equipping
children’s ministry leaders and teachers, as in the parable of the
sower (Mark 4:14-20). Directly and indirectly,
children play a vital part in my life and ministry.

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Teaching the Word

My ministry today includes lecturing at the Cape Town Baptist
Seminary. I helped the seminary develop and initiate a children’s
ministry educational plan — including courses ranging from
evangelism and discipleship to teaching and curriculum — that’s
designed to equip seminary students to minister to children
throughout South Africa and the world.

Currently the seminary has students from all over South Africa,
Nepal, the Netherlands, Italy, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia,
Mozambique, America, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola. It’s
truly become an international seminary equipping children’s
ministers.

Along with a course schedule of classes that equip future
children’s ministers to effectively reach their unique populations,
we also teach a strategy called storying. I share about 20 basic
events from the Bible with the seminary students-it’s a natural fit
since storytelling is a prevalent tradition among many of our
students’ cultures. We give the students multiple in-class
opportunities to practice retelling biblical events, and their
assignment is to go out and retell them to five others during the
week. We ask our students to debrief each time they retell an
event, asking their audience questions about what the event
says, what there is to obey from it, and what
there is to tell others about it. (For more on storying,
go to www.chronologicalbiblestorying.com.)

As educators, we realized during one evangelism and discipleship
class that our seminary students — all from varying backgrounds
and cultures — needed a dictionary they could share with their
children so they in turn would understand the meaning of key words
and phrases used in church. We searched and soon realized that no
such tool existed. So together with my students, we developed a
Children’s Bible Dictionary. The dictionary includes
definitions that enable a children’s leader to explain God’s Word
so a child can understand. The beauty of the dictionary is that
it’s in the children’s heart languages — English, Afrikaans, and
Xhosa — so all the churches in the Cape Town area can use it
effectively. 

Planting the Word

Another aspect of my ministry is training and equipping churches
that have little or no experience with children’s ministry, but who
recognize the importance of this ministry. Children’s ministry and
Sunday school are two key areas where churches in the Cape Town
area increasingly want and need training. Many churches don’t have
a Sunday school and need to know where to begin to organize,
prepare, enlist, and train leaders and implement a Sunday
school.

The growing needs for children’s ministry training have prompted
me to serve as a trainer in the Western Province Baptist
Association, as well as other Great Commission Churches, in church
leadership development and discipleship. I organize regional
training for churches. Many churches contact me with their
individual training needs, and I’m able to meet their specific
training needs with customized information and resources.

Throughout my nine years of ministry here, I’ve longed for the day
I’d have materials that are culturally relevant and in the heart
languages of the children. God answered this prayer a little more
than a year ago when South Africans worked with Gospel Light
Worldwide to develop iVangeli Materials (translated to mean
“Gospel”). The teacher’s book is in English, and the reproducible
children’s book is translated in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and
Zulu. So these cash-poor churches can buy one children’s book and
make as many copies as they need for each child to have a copy.
This is a true blessing because many churches simply can’t afford
materials. Many Sunday school teachers don’t even have a
Bible. 

At a regional meeting of churches some time ago, a pastor
approached me for assist- ance. He confided that he had a Sunday
school teacher who verbally abused their children. My heart stopped
as I listened to his story. He desperately wanted a manual to
assist his church leaders in selecting teachers and a guide to help
with classroom discipline. The pastor’s story brought yet another
need to light, and I felt compelled to begin work on a manual to
equip churches in this area.

The result of this pastor’s request was the manual Protecting
Today’s Children and Church
— a resource for churches
ministering to very poor and at-risk children. The manual has
guidelines for enlisting leaders and teachers, how to check for a
criminal record, discipline and behavior guidelines, safety and
security issues, explanations of all types of abuse, contact
details for organizations that can help when a leader discovers a
child has been abused, and forms to use in children’s ministry. The
manual is now distributed to the churches in the Cape Town area and
throughout the Baptist Union of South Africa.

     

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