Visiting Africa

Every time I visit Africa I am told tragic stories about children and young people not able to get to school, mainly for economic reasons. It’s a major issue and very complicated. 

Linda is a school teacher; a good school teacher. Her pastor noticed many children in the church neighbourhood were not going to school. Research he undertook suggested that many older children did not go to school because heir parents could not afford to send them. To address this, the pastor asked Linda to start a school in the church building. Less than a year later the pastor and his wife were killed in a car accident. Linda now has thirty teenagers to educate. She feels she simply cannot walk away from them. 

In a nearby community, Robert has discovered similar issues. As he went about his daily life he noticed many kids in the streets, some as young as three or four. They had nothing to do and inevitably drifted into trouble. Robert spent time with them, heard their stories and realised that many of them were homeless. With the help of his pastor and a couple of retired school teachers he started a small school. A year later the school is bursting at the seam with 180 kids turning up every day.

There are a thousand stories like this throughout Africa. The issues are endemic and they are not going away any time soon. Projections show that by the year 2050 Africa’s population will be more than 1 billion people greater than it is today.  What will Africa look like in 32 years with 1 billion additional young people; mainly poor and depending on someone else to meet their needs?

Progressing with the same external funding approach is not an option. The solutions and resources have to come from within Africa, not outside. The solutions are there and the resources are there, and they must be locally initiated and sustainable. Churches can have a role in this development, but governments and NGOs are not motivated or structured in ways that produce sustainable outcomes. But, to be honest, few churches are committed to radical transformation. They have other agendas and have largely become part of the problem.

 ne of our partners in Zimbabwe is modelling something truly inspiring.
Gideon and Jennifer laboured for many years in their village before there was any sort of breakthrough. Recognition came only after ten years of authentic, protracted action and hard work. They moved in with their family and modelled something very powerful and different.

They have remained and maintained their focus for the long haul, and have risen many times after being knocked down. They have invested deeply in relationships and, slowly, changes have emerged. 

The arid land began to produce as they introduced new methods of farming. Water wells were dug, dams were built, old cattle dips were refurbished, gardens began to flourish and their barns filled with maize. Their dream to see the dry ands turn green is becoming a reality. Recently the Vice President came and recognised the community as a model for the country.

Families are being restored. Village headmen and local chiefs are getting married after years of living in illegal marriages. One woman proudly showed off the plates she was able to buy while her husband was in prison. She attributes this to the gospel and the goats and gardens she has been able to develop. 

Communities are working together in harmony. It is very moving to hear groups of villagers tell of the change that came when their churches began to invest in them economically, agriculturally and relationally rather than just preach at them. Barriers between denominations dissolved and local churches began leading the community transformation. Churches are growing for the first time in decades as people recognise the transforming power of the message and the genuine love being demonstrated. 

Requests from many other communities are piling up, however this work moves slowly as God’s Spirit penetrates deep into the hearts and minds of people. Mindsets have to be confronted and replaced. Old ways have to be challenged and shown to be futile. New teaching has to be modelled and demonstrated. Hope and positivity in the participating villages is palpable as people share about the impact in their lives. It prompts me to reflect on the verses in 1 Thessalonians 1 where “the gospel came to them with power, deep conviction and the Holy Spirit.”

Children are going to school and achieving great results. As the value of education lifts and as family incomes improve, the need for Western sponsors declines. Schools are performing well as parents get involved, and school morale is rising. A girl from a local school came second in national exams. The education ministry visited to see what had caused this. Another local girl recently went to university in Europe on a scholarship. Another has been selected in the national athletics team. Five local young men have been trained and have formed a building company. They now make a good living in a sustainable business. None of this would have occurred if Gideon and Jennifer had not come. 

Young people now stay in the community instead of going to the city or neighbouring countries to find employment. Some young people have just received a loan to install a maize grinding mill to fund the development of a youth club. The purpose is to develop sports teams so young people will stay in the village, work in their gardens and keep faithful to God. They are overproducing and dream about starting a business to process and market all the vegetables they produce! 

The Police have shelved plans to build a new station in one community because they rarely need to visit now. The local economy has changed dramatically. People have money to spend but they don’t waste it on drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. 

Here I see a gospel that is truly, deeply, comprehensively transforming the lives of desperate people. It is a gospel that is powerful, penetrating and gracious. It is not merely a sermon preached rom a pulpit or taught in a classroom. It is a message unleashed that is invading every aspect of human life in these communities. It is releasing and restoring the emotions, minds, relationships, attitudes, values, beliefs, economics, politics and cultural norms. It is confronting the dead and deceptive idols embedded at the core of these local communities and bringing life and truth.

Again, I am confronted by verses at the end of the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians. “… you turned to God from idols to serve the living a true God …”

Africa doesn’t need more mission-stations or more short term trips to repaint the building that was painted last year. It doesn’t need more sponsorship programmes that breed dependency, nor Western plans or agendas. People like Gideon and Jennifer need to connect with humble clear-thinking churches who will serve their vision and projects. 

The role of Bright Hope World is to connect you or your church to people like Gideon and Jennifer. But beware, this is not a journey for the impatient or faint hearted.

Kevin Honore | Day 24 GC3 Daily Prayer Guide