By Bryan Hughes
On September 30, just a few days after the Westgate Mall shootings that killed sixty-seven in Kenya, a team of adult leaders and two high school students from Spread the Word left Chicago, bound for the country where this incident occurred. This team would be training leaders from Kima International School of Theology (KIST), yet they would soon become students themselves.
“We were concerned with security issues,” recalls Andy Stephenson, leader of youth ministries at Church of God Ministries. “Yet on the plane ride, confirming words spoke through my Bible reading. ‘Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack or harm you, for many people in this city belong to me’ (Acts 18:9–10 NLT).”
As part of their journey, the team visited the Church of God in Kibera. Over one million people live in what is believed to be the largest slum in the world. The average dwelling is ten feet by ten feet made of scavenged wood and tin. There is no sewage or garbage service. Daily life is about survival as most of those who live there battle to avoid violence and disease and struggle to find food.
Chris Spitter, who was part of the Spread the Word team, was overwhelmed by the conditions that he witnessed. “The most disturbing sight is the people; their hopeless eyes. Some seem ashamed and look away as we pass by.” But not all who reside within Kibera are hopeless. Chris remembers entering the Church of God grounds where a school for two hundred of the neediest children is located. “Right in the middle of this slum city we arrive at the Kibera Church of God. The gates open and we are flooded with faces of hope and joy.”
Harold Bradshaw, also on the team, agrees with Chris’s assessment of hope. “As I visited with them, there was no obsession with their poverty or difficulty of circumstances,” Harold shares. “There was only appreciation of their opportunities and that we were there to visit them. I was encouraged that youth are youth and that the hope found in Christ favors no nationalities.”
The team shared the 5 Principle Training with the Mariakani Church in Nairobi and with more than two hundred leaders at KIST. They attended worship with twelve hundred girls who lifted enthusiastic praises to God, and they even experienced a close encounter with a leopard as they camped in the midst of God’s picturesque creation before leaving for home.
God is at work in Africa. Harold describes the impact the visit had on him. “There were many moments of God’s felt presence during this adventure. I am very grateful to have had this time and most certainly am a better servant for God having done so.”
Spread the Word is a teen missions endeavor that helps students give financially to provide tools for evangelism around the world. What started at IYC 2002 in Denver with a $100,000 offering has since raised over $650,000. Thousands of individuals have been affected on six continents, and in thirty-four countries.
The 5 Principle Training was designed in partnership with the SHAPE initiative of the Church of God. It was developed to aid church leaders around the world in teaching the five critical and cross-cultural principles of ministry: Vision, Leadership, Knowledge/Culture, Spirituality, and Relational Connectivity. Members of the Youth Ministry Team and Youth Network Team have taught this system to leaders around the world since 2008.