The girl pointed at one of the boys and yelled, “You can’t love Jesus. You worship the devil!” “Is this true?,” the teacher asked. The boy nodded and said, “On Saturdays my father takes us to a building downtown where we bow down to the devil.” The young boy backed away from the altar where the other children stood.
Syncretism, the blending of different religious beliefs, is just one of many challenges Reverend Margaret Kimuyu faces in running her orphanage. Reverend Kimuyu lives in Nairobi, among a million people in what’s known as the worst slum in Africa. She is a one-woman whirlwind overseeing 350 orphans. (Her goal is to tip the scales at 500 children.) The children hail from families rooted in abject poverty, substance abuse, and HIV /AIDS. According to a recent study, 12% of residents in Nairobi slums are HIV positive – adolescents are most at risk for contracting the virus.
Kenya’s largest Christian denominations are working closely with David C Cook staff to adopt its Children at Risk material. The program incorporates creative Christian discipleship, character development, and training in life skills (practical stuff from hand washing to avoiding sex traffickers). It’s designed for children who’ve experienced significant hardship and who face an uncertain future. It seeks to break damaging generational cycles using best practices in teaching and the latest in trauma research.
Reverend Kimuya is a family friend of Simeon Havyarimana, David C Cook’s program director in Africa. During a recent visit Havyarimana spoke of the ministry’s work and lent her a copy of the Children at Risk material used in a neighboring African country. Simeon was taken aback when he returned to Nairobi two weeks later to find the program in full swing. In response, Reverend Kimuya said,
We thirst for this teaching. It is an answer to many prayers. The children love it.
While many organizations supply food, clothing and even education to the world’s poorest children, David C Cook concentrates on feeding the other half of the child, his or her heart and soul.
What does this look like? At Reverend Kimuya’s orphanage, they deal with a multitude of strongholds including ingrained damaging belief systems (such as devil worship), generational poverty, broken relationships, criminality and abuse. The children lack a sense worth and self-awareness. They are vulnerable to prostitution, trafficking and lives cut short by disease. They lack the skills or wherewithal to deal with hardship.
But the Gospel changes everything. Jesus offers hope beyond measure, and healing for the most wounded heart. The Holy Spirit provides guidance, wisdom, and peace. Children move from despair to abundant life, regardless of circumstance. The Children At Risk program ushers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One unique aspect of this outreach is David C Cook’s ability to tailor or add additional material for a culture’s special needs, and for different sized groups of Christians including large denominations, house church networks, small village churches and individual orphanages. Staff is required to be trained and on going accountability and reporting is required.
Reverend Kimuya and her orphanage are a unique case. Desperation compelled them to take the initiative to translate each lesson by hand in the children’s language before it’s taught. There is a pressing need for this curriculum, especially given the obstacles that hinder the futures of millions of children.
If you visit Reverend Kimuya’s orphanage, as did Marlene LeFever, one of our David C Cook staff members, you’ll find a dirty, noisy home in the midst of a slum laden with trash, shacks, and a malaise of hopelessness in the air. Yet, this orphanage is an oasis filled with laughter and evidence of changed lives.
The child whose family worships Satan, still attends the club three days a week. As his teacher says,
He listens and learns. I can hardly imagine the battle going on inside of him. Will the young child follow the power of Satan? Or will he choose to follow the God of love?
Please pray for this particular situation – and for Reverend Kimuya and her team as they seek to raise these precious children. Consider a generous gift to keep this program catching more at risk kids across the world. David C Cook covers all administrative costs, including translation and oversight. Your contribution goes directly to the individual program, so that heroes like Reverend Kimuya can help children overcome and thrive.