The goal of our ministry in Kapoeta is to reach out to whomever we can, regardless of age and tribe. Everyone deserves God’s grace; therefore, everyone in Kapoeta center is a potential target of our ministry as we aspire to be effective witnesses of the Gospel. We do this by paying attention to every window of opportunity that God leads our hearts to discern and our eyes to see. Kapoeta is a cosmopolitan center with a population between 6,000 and 10,000. Less than 10% of this population go to any church. As we continue to learn more about the community, we have become intensely aware of the different groups of people who live here. One of these special groups is young boys from ages 6 to 15.
You don’t need to spend more than half an hour to identify them. Sometimes they capture your attention by the language they use, how they dress, or a funny haircut. The countenance of their faces is legible. At times, they quarrel for unknown reasons. Because of the circumstances of their living conditions, they have learned life skills for survival. Some steal, others smoke or inhale unknown stuffs, while others drink alcohol. We may be quick to make judgments and draw gross conclusions. But the question “why do they do all this?” still needs a comprehensive answer. I spent time with some of them and have understood something important. I call it “multiple deficiency syndrome” – they do what they do, they are what they are, because several things are missing. We may classify these deficiencies in broad categories from physical, social, economic, psychological to spiritual.
Sometimes they drink to curb their hunger and at times they do so to sear their minds from the awareness of painful reality. They do what they do in order to get iden
tity and be accepted in a social group. They do it to suppress frustrations conditioned by unfortunate circumstances. Their real needs are either not being met or wrong means are being used to address those needs. All I can say is there is something acutely missing. The core of their lives remains vacant and it needs the right occupant. I know Jesus is that right occupant that is missing.
We came to know a group of 15 boys when we started soccer and volleyball games. Playing games opened the door for meaningful interactions. Many came from two parent homes, but had left because of the cattle raiding and the harsh conditions of shepherding flocks. Others wanted a place where they could find food, and some had simply followed friends. We learned that none attend school. They were willing to attend, but had no one to be their guardian or to pay school fees and supply books.
Before agreeing to take them to school, my excitement was halted by worry. I knew this was a huge challenge. My heart told me that this was a great opportunity to trust that God was leading me to help these boys. I was concerned about how the boys would handle the responsibility of attending school. I set up my own warning/information system to get indicators for positive or negative progress. We agreed upon rules and checkpoints.
I took the boys to school. They were admitted to different classes according to their background and abilities. I bought them books, pens and pencils, and congratulated them for their admissions. The school agreed to a two-week probation period before charging school fees so that we could observe their progress. We encouraged them to come to church and shared the gospel with them. We also asked them to let go of other unbecoming habits such as drinking, smoking, and bullying. We agreed that they were to come to the church compound and show me their assignments. After one month, 7 out of 15 were still going to school.
It has been my desire for all the street boys to go to school and have a lifetime investment in education. It is also my desire for them to come to the full knowledge of God’s will in order to have an eternal investment. Education is one of the most important avenues that unlocks people’s unknown potential. But salvation in Jesus is the ultimate treasure that can truly transform the entire person. Our ministry is aware of what it takes to meet the all the needs of the street boys so that they can be truly transformed. They are struggling with lack of basic needs, and this has engulfed and overtaken any sense of other secondary needs – spiritual and academic needs topping the list. As we have observed, not all the boys are willing to brave current challenges and go to school or even be willing to take our help. Choosing to help them may prove uncertain, but I am sure of one thing, there are some among these boys who have been appointed before time to become a person of God, flock of His pasture, and royal ambassadors through our ministry. We are praying for God to guide us to know how best we can minister to street boys. Even if all will not be willing to go to school, I agonize for them to be willing to go to heaven by accepting Jesus.