Redeem



In years past when sharing with visitors to Agape about the 4 Rs, I always discussed our operating model in a linear manner:

 

“Agape works to RESCUE children from the street. At every opportunity, we share with children the Good News of Jesus Christ (REDEEM). We REHABILITATE children in the areas of their deepest needs with the ultimate goal of reuniting children with their families (REINTEGRATE).”

 

Last year, I began to refine the way I share Agape’s 4 Rs with visitors to more closely match how Agape truly operates. My goal was to better emphasize and elevate the primacy of our mission: To share the Good News of Jesus Christ at every opportunity with the children God has placed into our care. Visitors always hear when they visit Agape, “Our desire is for these children to come to know Jesus as their Savior. That is why we are here.” REDEEM is not just a step in Agape’s operating model. The mission to share the Gospel permeates everything that Agape does, whether on the street, at Agape’s campus, or at a child’s home. Today, when a visitor comes to Agape, I sketch this diagram on a post-it note to help illustrate how Agape operates.

 

four Rs graphic

 

RESCUE, REHABILITATE, and REINTEGRATE are what we do. REDEEM is how and why we do it.

 

The Problem

At first glance, the problem of street children in Kenya seems insurmountable. Daily at Agape, we hear stories of children who have left home due to severe physical abuse, parental neglect, sexual abuse, rape, and poverty. We rescue some children that have become perpetrators of the same abuse and sins that were committed against them. The myriad of social problems these children face and the sins that they commit stagger our American mindsets. If we are not careful as missionaries, the injustice and depravity that exists as a daily reality in Kenya can easily blind us to the core problem in Kenya. Kenya’s problem is America’s problem. Kenya needs Jesus Christ.

 

Some will assert that Kenya is a Christian nation. In fact, Wikipedia states that Kenya is 82.5% Christian, but sadly we would estimate that less than 10% of Kenyans know Jesus as their Savior. But, aren’t there churches everywhere in Kenya? Isn’t Christianity taught in both public and private schools in Kenya? Aren’t government meetings started with prayer in Jesus’ name? The answer is “yes” to all of these questions, but most Kenyans know nothing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, the children that God sends to Agape are no different.

 

Christianity in Kenya has a problem in its definition. Most Kenyans identify as Christian because they don’t want to identify as Muslim or Hindu. Of those that do attend churches in Kenya, many attend cultic offshoots of orthodox Christianity. Agape’s Children’s Pastors shared that in rural Kenya, one will find 10 cultic churches before finding an Anglican, Baptist, or Pentecostal church, and a family in rural Kenya might have to travel as far as 10 to 20 kilometers on foot to find what we in the U.S. would call a Christian church. Rural Kenya is a Christian desert.

When a child first enters Agape’s campus, Agape’s Children’s Pastors spend time to get to know each child, assessing their understanding of Jesus, the Bible, and the basics of the Christian faith. Dixon Mahero, one of Agape’s pastors, shared, “In a month, you could welcome 50 new children to campus, but none have a relationship with Jesus.” When asking children who have just arrived at Agape, “Who is Jesus?” Agape’s pastors receive a variety of answers: “Jesus is in my church.” “Jesus is the pastor in my church.” “Jesus is the statue in my church.” And most commonly, “I don’t know” or “I’ve never heard of Jesus.” When a child is asked, “How can a person go to heaven?” Agape’s pastors receive equally troubling responses: “People are saved by going to church.” “People are saved by believing in the pastor in my church.” “People are saved through attending a confirmation class.” “People are saved by confessing their sins to the pastor.” And most commonly, “People are saved by baptism.”

 

Churches in Kenya are strongholds of Satan’s deceptions. Many of the cults that crowd Kenya’s rural villages are offshoots of orthodox Christianity. The Legio Maria, the Lost Israelites, Africa B, and Israel Ninevah all believe in separate African messiahs. The Repentance and Holiness Movement believe that their leader, Prophet Awuor, is the Holy Spirit. The Roho ascribe to a type of modalism, believing that Jesus is the Holy Spirit. Kenya is also seeing the emergence of American cults, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, throughout the country. Many Kenyans still also hold strongly to traditional African beliefs concerning the spiritual world, and Agape sees many “Christian” families and pastors who still follow traditional rites and superstitions, especially when it comes to the death of a family member or funerals. Some of our children also come from families who still actively practice witchcraft and adhere very closely to beliefs along those lines.

 

Kenya needs Jesus. I had an American pastor tell me once that his church only supported organizations ministering to unreached people groups. I’ve realized after four years serving here that Kenya is full of unreached people groups! Agape’s children and their families desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

The Solution

RESCUE, REHABILITATE, and REINTEGRATE are what we do. REDEEM is how and why we do it. The diagram you saw earlier identified three different steps that Agape follows in ministry, and each of these steps occur in different locations.

 

Almost every day Agape’s Outreach Team heads out to minister to the children and young men that call Kisumu’s streets home. In Kisumu, there are 21 different “bases” where street children live and operate, and the Outreach Team visits these locations to invite street children and youth to spend time together. Usually, the team makes its way to Jomo Kenyatta Sportsgrounds, a location in the middle of Kisumu’s central business district. Inside the Sportsgrounds, the Outreach Team plays games with the boys, gets to know them, and, most importantly, begins to share the Gospel with them. After sharing with the group, the Outreach Team invites anyone who would like to talk to meet with them afterward. Some boys share about their problems at home and on the street, others ask the Team Member to pray for them, and some express a desire to leave street life. But, our favorite response is when a child or young man approaches our staff member and says, “Uncle, I want to give my life to Jesus. I realize that I’m a sinner, and I need Jesus to save me.”

 

If the person who is giving his life to Jesus is not too old, our Outreach Team immediately invites the child to join us at Agape. But, sometimes, children want to go back home to ask forgiveness of their families for the wrongs they have committed. We also come across young men who profess faith in Jesus, and in both cases, Agape helps the child or young man to get back to his family in rural Kenya. We then add this individual to our reintegration follow-up visit plan through our Child Welfare team.

 

For the child that agrees to come back to campus, Agape begins in earnest its rehabilitative efforts in this child’s life. After conducting an initial spiritual assessment, Agape enrolls the child into Transition Class, a 4-week program that all Agape children attend. Transition Class is a mix of Life Skills training, group and individual counseling, team building, and most importantly, Agape’s Reasons to Believe class. A 20-lesson course, the Reasons to Believe class begins by laying a foundation about God the Father: How do we know He exists? Why did He create us? Where does God live, and who goes there? How big and powerful is God? The class also delves into the reliability of God’s Word: Is the Bible different from other holy books? Why did God give us the Law? One of the most important things taught in Reasons to Believe is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. The class introduces the children to Jesus Christ: How do I know God loves me? What did it cost God to rescue me? Does Jesus understand me? Why should I trust in Jesus? How can I be saved? Most importantly, children hear the truth of the Gospel in that they cannot be saved by good works, or by baptism, or by the pastor in the church. Saving grace is a free gift given by God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ!

 

Since introducing Reasons to Believe at Agape last year, we have been amazed at the response from Agape’s children to the Gospel message. After each of the classes, the teacher encourages children to find an Agape staff member if they have any questions about what they have heard in class. We intentionally avoid doing “altar calls” due to a cultural tendency in Kenya to honor the speaker by doing whatever is asked. Instead, children come on their own and ask, “Uncle, how can I give my life to Jesus?” What a blessing to see God working in these children’s hearts as they respond to the Gospel!

After a child has made a profession of faith in Jesus, they are enrolled in another 20-lesson course, Agape’s Discipleship Class. The primary goal of the Discipleship Class is to provide new believers with the fundamentals of the Christian faith to sustain them when they go back to live at home with their families. Agape teaches children what happened when they gave their lives to Jesus. We teach these children that they are now secure in Jesus Christ, and no one can snatch them from Jesus’ hand. Children learn about the “fruit” that they should begin to produce in their lives now that they have new life through the Holy Spirit. We teach children how and why to pray and to study God’s Word. Children learn about their spiritual enemies and how to prepare for the lifelong battle that they will fight with the flesh, the world, and the devil. Agape teaches about God’s forgiveness when we stumble in sin and how they can grow in Christ throughout their lives.

 

These two classes are not the only place where Agape’s children hear and learn God’s truth. At the start of every day, Agape’s children and staff members meet together to worship God and learn from God’s Word during Agape’s Chapel Time. On Sundays, Agape’s Children’s Pastors hold a church service on Agape’s campus, utilizing a Christian character curriculum teaching the children more about the good “fruit” they should begin bearing as God’s children. Throughout the week during the evenings, Agape’s House Parents do devotionals with the children, focusing upon what the children learned during the Sunday service and to practice Scripture memory verses for the week. As I shared before, the Gospel message permeates all of Agape’s programs; our goal is to saturate our children with the truth of God’s Word!

 

The Ongoing Challenge

After 22 years of ministering to street children in Kisumu, Kenya, we have learned that it is always in the best interest of former street children to return to live with their families after their time at Agape. Our primary goal in reintegration is to return a child to the best family situation possible. Sometimes that is a grandparent; sometimes that’s an aunt or uncle. In cases of abuse, we cannot reunite a child with the family member that they originally left, so our team of fifteen Child Welfare Officers have grown adept at finding the best family fit for each child.

The ongoing difficulty we face at Agape is how to continue to minister to these “babes in Christ” who are now living in the Christian desert of rural Kenya that I described previously. Over the years, we have attempted different discipleship models within our reintegration program, but our biggest challenge is how to effectively minister to a child that Agape may only see for one hour a month. Agape’s Child Welfare Team ministers to over 800 reintegrated families throughout Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. In one breath, we praise God for reuniting these children with their families, but in the next breath, we pray that God would protect and grow these new creations in Christ.

 

Please partner with us in prayer as we seek to know God’s will and direction on how best to minister to our reintegrated children. Please also pray for Agape as we continually refine our methods for presenting the Gospel on the streets, on Agape’s campus, and to families throughout eastern Africa. Thank you! We could not minister to these children and families without your prayers, love, and support!

-Chris Page, Kenyan Field Director