Wednesday nights during the school year, we have a joyous time offering Jesus and English language tutoring to a bunch of refugee kids and other kids who were born here. Some of our most challenging kids are from the Karenni people group. There are a bunch of them. They are overwhelmingly boys, through and through. They like to be up front during the worship time. They jump up and down to the music and then summersault off the stage. They like to climb the walls behind the stage. They frequently drive the volunteers and other dinner guests we might have at church to distraction. Which isn’t surprising. Most of them have no contact with our society outside of school and Wednesday night church.
But they have come so far. The teachers at the local elementary tell me that many of them have started to pray before they eat their lunch. And, in His Infinite Wisdom and Mercy, the Almighty has laid these kids on my heart. They need Jesus. They need discipline. They need someone to care about them.
Wednesday nights are over for the summer. So is Sunday School. The Wednesday and Sunday volunteers have done an amazing job soldiering on with ever increasing numbers of kids. I am very, very grateful. But what will happen to these Karenni kids over the summer. Sure we have a few outreaches. Sure we have Bible School and Art Camp. But I can’t help feeling we’ll lose some of the amazing growth we’ve seen if we don’t keep at it.
A few weeks ago at church I shared my concerns with a dear lady. She told me that God undoubtedly wanted us to continue. But how?, I asked. After all, our volunteers have done a heroic job and need a rest and frankly, we can’t field a relief team right now. There just aren’t enough of us. She was quite sure we had to keep at it.
Keep in mind, please, that the Karenni kids are more than likely to be recipients of our Back Pack Buddies program where we supply food for the weekend to kids identified by the school as being in need over the weekend. They need food, too.
So three weekends ago, a solution presented itself. We were having a joint worship service at the 10:30 service with Pastor Gakunzi’s church and a big lunch afterwards. Why not invite the Karenni kids? No one I talked to about this really thought they’d show up. But they did. About 10 boys. I put them in the front row at the 10:30 service. They joined the kids on the stage for worship in English and when the Swahili songs started they still danced. Then the preaching started and my wife, seated at the other end of the row, turned deathly pale. She knew what could happen next. Kids swinging from the chandeliers. Kids summersaulting off the stage. Kids climbing over the back of the pews. Yet more people getting fed up with ill behaved kids. I found one other person willing to help. The preaching was in Swahili and translated. We all thought I’d have to take the kids out. But I didn’t. God showed up. (In church, imagine that!). The kids watched the preacher. After a while they started to imitate (but not in a mean way) his hand gestures. It was as if they’d never realized that the hands could be used in talking. The little boy next to me picked up my hands and started to form them in similar gestures to Pastor Gakunzi’s. It worked. We all made it to lunch and everyone ate as much as they could and ran off to play on the playground. God is good. All the time.
So the next week we invited them back. There was a guest preacher from South Sudan. He didn’t mind if I missed the 10:30 service so I could talk about Jesus with a bunch of kids. After all, his job is planting new churches. Miraculously, previously that week, during a board meeting, I discovered seven minute Bible studies online in the Kayah language. We sent the van. It came back with five kids and five adults for Sunday School. We stayed with the big group until the offering and then left when the Arabic Alpha folks leave for their Arabic teaching. We went to the cafeteria and watched a Bible Study in the Kayah Li language on the big screen. Then we talked about it. The adults asked for ESL classes. The kids heard about Adam and Eve and sin. One young boy, Tawh Rey, said, “Pastor John, Everything was good. Adam and Eve ate the apple and everything changed. It became bad. Can it ever be good again?” Oh. Let me tell you the Gospel. Thank you, Jesus. And they listened.
Last week they came back. Ten kids and 3 adults and one helper from the 1:00 Mizo service. Pastor Tina is preaching for the next three weeks so I’m free at 10:30. Let me tell you about that helper, Zuali, a young lady in High School, and my helper in this Sunday School venture. She is so good with the kids.
I am so pleased to tell you that we have ESL classes for the adults. The teacher would even like to go every day with the adults during the summer. The ten kids watched another lesson and then we did the salvation message with them. I know that later this summer there will be some baptisms. I’m so pleased, so amazed, so thankful. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Zuali. Thank you, Zion. Thank you, for your patience. Thank you for letting your pastor do missionary work over the summer. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ
For more about the Karenni people, please see: http://www.karennirefugees.com/
P.S. Would you like to help? I’m taking volunteers!