A few years back one of my co-workers (after noticing the fascination of the local children with books which are a rarely held item here) had a vision to reach kids through literacy and opened a small library at the mission. They collected donations of several thousand children’s books, but due to other unexpected needs arising they weren’t able to fully develop the project.
In June, the Lord led me to take over this project from a co-worker who was leaving the field. After spending several weeks organizing the library and labelling books, along with the help of one of our summer interns Abby, we opened the library and kicked off our afterschool youth programs.
On the first day, there was a moderate number of kids but I realized that although I had prayed through what staff to hire, what programs to do, and how to organize the library—I hadn’t specifically prayed and asked God to bring the right children! I stopped and prayed asking God to bring children. Since then we have been busting at the seams with new children and youth coming every day. On Friday it was literally standing-room-only with kids sitting on both sides of the library, sitting on top of the shelves-tables-and one another! I counted 140 kids and then lost track. I decided to take advantage of the kids sitting on top of the center shelves and had them act our Bible story on forgiveness. I figured they were right in the middle and up high where everyone could see them! We are already starting to talk about moving the Bible club to the community centre room.
The library is open every day after school with a 30-minute Bible club before close, and is open all day Saturday with Lubwisi Bible reading club at 2pm. A place where children can enjoy learning and imagining; a place of joy, rest, and fun—and most of all a place where they can hear and learn about Jesus. The library hardly resembles the quiet serenity of a North-American library, but is more commonly bustling with happy excited chaos! Some of the children are still learning how to read a book (which way is up?) and we are patiently coaching them on learning how to return their books to the shelves. I have been fascinated with how the children prefer looking and exploring books with a group of friends—perhaps an expression of the community part of this culture?
It’s getting more and more challenging to know the children with numbers increasing, but I hope that it’s a place where despite what may be going on at their homes—a place where they will know they are loved and valued and noticed, even if it’s just a pat on the head that says we’re happy they’re here.
And these kids are thinking deeply about what they’re hearing—this last week a few of their questions icluded: “Why did God create Adam before Eve?” and “what makes us different from Gorillas... followed by—but don’t animals have a spirit?” These kiddos keep us on our toes!
I have been blessed to have local friends Yosefu & Rachel working alongside me at the library helping with the different programs. Each are gifted in different ways and passionate about different things. I’ve committed to develop these programs along with them for the next year, and I hope that they along with the support of their churches will continue to invest in the lives of the youth here for years to come! Pray that God would continue to bring the children He wants to the library and that their hearts and minds would be soft soil for the seed of His Word.
We also launched a rewards program where the kids can memorize Bible verses to earn school supplies. One boy told me 4 days after we launched the memory verse program, “I have only memorized 15 verses so far.” Their first pack of verses (27 of them) are the supporting scriptures to the fundamentals of the faith curriculum that Yosefu is teaching the children after school. As the kids excitedly examined the things they could earn in our rewards store, I saw some of them reignite with a spark of hope and excitement in their eyes—they CAN get the things they need to be able to go to school!
Phase two of the library programs will launch this Fall with focused outreach to local women.Yosefu wants to teach the older women to read Lubwisi, and Rachel wants to teach the young women who (perhaps had to drop out of school) how to read English. I have also been approached by multiple pastors in this area to teach a women’s Bible study, and I have decided to do a community Bible study gathering the women from the various denominations. I hope to invest in a few specific women from these churches who can take over teaching the community ladies Bible study when I leave on furlough next Fall in 2018.
We are also praying about and hoping to launch short 6-week outreach programs to women on Monday mornings teaching them different life-skills and sharing the gospel with them. Continue to pray through all the details with us.
These last couple months I have experienced the faithful sustaining grace of Jesus. I’m thankful for His faithfulness as we seek to serve him and endure “all things” (2 Tim 2:10) for the sake of His calling and purpose. I miss everyone at home but I look forward to the day when we all will no longer be separated by continents, countries, cultures, and distance and will be together forever with our Jesus.
Thank you—once again—for your faithful prayers and support. I hope each of you are having a wonderful summer with your families and friends!
Lots of love and hugs,