“To the North!” For some of us, these words ring familiar.
Jill Pole said them in The Silver Chair, one of the stories in The Chronicles of Narnia series, written by C.S. Lewis.
For those of us in Africa, the call is even more familiar and more compelling.
Living here we see the battlefront line drawn spiritually across Africa. Remarkably, this is the border into Northern Africa. And today it is more and more clear that children are in the middle of this battleground.
One to two decades ago this was not so intensely the case. But today, the principalities of darkness are raging for children’s hearts, minds, and bodies along this latitudinal corridor of Africa.
How? Along this corridor, for the past two to three years, K*/Q* schools have been quickly built up, and children are being forcibly lured and/or required to attend so they can learn the ways of this burgeoning religious system in Africa. “Get the younger children and you have the nation” is their strategy. Parents are being wooed by free bags of grain by M religious leaders, who are backed by financial support in other oil-rich continents; locals tell us in several West African countries a parent gets a free weekly bag of grain for enrolling their child in the school. In African nations water is always a challenge – and in many strategic places village chiefs are being offered free wells, as long as a K/Q school can be built up in their village. This month BBC reports that “children are increasingly becoming key suicide bombers” for B-H in Nigeria. (source: BBC News, “B-H crisis: Huge rise in ‘child suicide’ bombers” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36023444, April 12, 2016)
This isn’t just happening in Nigeria. It’s happening in many countries across the divide. Even in East Africa, the battle is intensifying. A few years back in Tanzania a camp of lured and deceived 4-14 year olds was discovered, where they were being trained in the arts of guerilla ter*rsm. Most of these stories don’t hit the press.
Whether it hits our daily newsfeed or not, the fastest-growing continent in the world is not neutral. And its dear children are intensely becoming the target.
Amazingly, though, the local African church has been a sleepy giant in the battle. Most local African churches don’t have special Bible-teaching programs for children. Pastors consider children ‘unimportant’ and less than an estimated 1% of African church budgets is dedicated to spiritual nurture, even though studies suggest more than 80% of believers become believers between the ages of 4-14. And even though 50% of the African population is made up of children, most African churches neglect ministering to children. Even with churches which have ‘children’s church’ often it just means putting kids in a side room or in the back of the church, with a ‘behavior monitor’ making sure they don’t make a noise or disturb the big, important people from the service. The cultural neglect of children is not a new thing. That’s why Jesus had to correct the disciples by saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
As Christians who have heard the call of the Great Commission and desire that none would perish but that all would have eternal life, it becomes a Kingdom imperative to help reach and mature children in the Word so that they may not be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, cunning, nor lured away by any deceitful scheme. The only way to prevent this is to help those children know their Heavenly Father loves them and gave His only Son to give them the gift of eternal life and hope. And to deeply disciple them in His Truth.
[Ephesians 4:14-16; John 3:16; 1; 2 Peter 3:9]
GIFTINGS AND TALENTS:
At the same time, like Jill and Eustace, often children are those the Lord equips and raises up to bring His love and truth into places that have been overwhelmed by darkness.
I risk making light of what is happening in Africa by even drawing an analogy from a fantasy fiction novel comparison.
But the heart of this message is to bring His light into darkness, and free those who are imprisoned in hopelessness. And somehow, whether we like it or not, children are at the forefront of the battleground between darkness and Light.
And, unlike The Silver Chair, this mission is real, not fantasy. The stakes are high and the battle is intensely palpable.
In response to this, what should the Church do?
In CIC we are focused on one key thing: coming alongside local indigenous churches to inspire, equip, and help them minister deeply to children weekly via CIC Children’s Clubs and Child Leadership Trainings in 20 countries across this battlefront. Today, the Lord is working through CIC to inspire and equip over 18,000 local indigenous volunteers to minister His genuine love to all children – regardless of their ethnicity or faith background, and deeply encourage and equip them with His life-giving Love and Truth.
In just the past 3 years over 210,000 children have expressed their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. And of these children many courageously share their faith with their peers, families, communities; but even often without a word, their transformed behavior and lives witness His love and truth to others.
Children write us testimonies every month and many of these tell us amazing stories of unreached sisters, brothers, moms, dads, aunties, uncles, neighbors and whole villages joyfully receiving the Good News through CHILDREN!