I’m Alexis Kwamy, and I oversee the work of Young Life Africa, a CSPC missions partner, in countries from the central to southern part of Africa. Here’s how I’ve been living deeply.
I was giving a talk at the Young Life neighborhood club I led in Tanzania, and suddenly I saw all eyes move from my face to way over my head. Buster had just walked in behind me. Everyone knew who he was- a bad kid, a tough kid, a tall kid. At more than six feet, he towered over my short frame. I literally had to turn and look up. He had some dark, military-type gear on, and his thick arm muscles were impossible to hide. Buster kept walking in and sat down while I finished my talk. Nobody had invited him, but he did have of bunch of the kids laughing, singing, and having fun. Afterward, I got a shocking call from a parent: ‘Buster almost raped my daughter yesterday. If he’s going to be part of Young Life, we are not going to allow our kids to come.’ I was stunned. My first thought was, ‘Okay, I need go try to find out where Buster lives.’ I did, and I managed to talk to his father. I was like, ‘This behavior will send your son to prison. I mean, this is not okay.’ He looks at me and goes, ‘I don’t know what to do with Buster. I am tired. Can you help me?’ I called my supervisor: ‘What should I do?’ He goes, ‘We need to make sure Young Life clubs are a safe place. Tell him to not come.’ But Buster kept coming. I was afraid this was going to destroy the ministry. If I pushed him hard, well, he could take me down. He was tougher than me, hung around a bad group of kids, and could beat me. So I prayed, ‘God, help me!’ During Buster’s fourth time coming to the club, I was talking about how we are all sinners, separated from God- there’s nothing we can do. The only way out is Jesus. Then I gave the kids three to five minutes of silence to think about what they’d heard, after which they could leave. One thing I’d decided was that if I couldn’t stop Buster from coming, I would always at least walk home with him. As were walking that day, Buster said, ‘Today God touched many hearts.’ So I stopped and asked him, ‘Okay, what about you? Did He touch you?’
Buster goes, ‘You don’t know me. I am a very bad guy. I’ve done a lot of very bad things because I’m very angry at God. I’ve asked Him to help me and my family, and He didn’t. So I’m actually angry at God.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, but today you said that the Word touched you. Buster, I’ll tell you something. When Jesus said it is finished, He meant it. We were all in jail, and He broke the door of our jail, but He did not get us out. The door is open- it’s our choice to remain in there or to walk out. You are angry with God. I want you to know the door of your jail is open, but your legs are not out of that place. Maybe you need to get both your legs out of the jail and then start to experience God, and see if you’ll really continue being angry with Him.’ Buster had never looked at it that way. He told me he wanted to walk out of his jail. We were in the middle of the road, and I just stopped. I was like, ‘This is a golden moment.’ We prayed. Buster gave his life to Jesus. That was back in 2009. The road from there was very bumpy -a lot of ups and downs- but Buster is now a father of three, and he’s a Young Life leader. He inherited one of the ministries I started with the street kids in Tanzania. He’s perfect to lead and protect because he still looks tough! (The only jobs people once wanted him to do were working as a guard or a bouncer; that’s how physical he is.) I’ll tell you, watching Buster’s life go from where it was to where it is right now -where he’s being called a daddy by his daughter, his wife loves and respects him- that’s the reason I’m still doing this. It’s for kids like him and many more.
So many of the kids we serve through Young Life here are caught up in Africa’s parenting crisis. As a leader, you can suddenly become like a father to kids who don’t have fathers. When they don’t have food, they call you. You may find yourself in their lives to a point where you pay school fees for them, too. The factors behind the parenting crisis vary, and they’re all heartbreaking. In many countries, HIV has taken a lot of parents. The war in Congo has killed more than 8 million people. The lack of proper medication is a problem, too. People die from diseases that could easily be cured, like tuberculosis and malaria. That’s part of what drives poverty in underdeveloped countries. It’s why the average life expectancy in some parts of this continent is only 18. So you find a lot of kids raising their families. Young Life Africa steps in to bring the light of Jesus to this darkness by building life on life relationships. We build our ministries through what we call neighborhood clubs. Because a lot of kids don’t go to high school here like they do in the U.S., we build the clubs around the neighborhoods where they live. We also organize soccer ministries because soccer is so popular here. Right now we’re in relationship with about 1.6 million kids. Wow, I am just so humbled when I see all God is doing! Another exciting thing: We are in a lot of heavily Muslim areas. The relational nature of our ministry has given us big open doors into Muslim communities. The hardest part is discipleship, because some of the families we reach are forbidden from having a Bible in their homes. God is still on the move, though. Last year we reached over 25,000 Muslim kids who gave their life to Jesus.
Here’s how you can pray for us: We’re having a hard time finding female volunteer leaders and staff members. Africa is filled with traditionally male-dominated cultures. We are really struggling to recruit and sustain women in leadership. Our goal is to one day have a 50/50 male/female leadership split. Thank you for joining us in praying for more female leaders.