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The power of the word

Paul Sampson and Innocent

In African nations scarred by civil war, violence and poverty, God’s word is transforming the lives of young Christians. Here two students share how biblical study at Carlile College in Kenya has revolutionised their understanding and the way they teach others about the Bible in their local church and community.

Innocent’s story

I was born into a clergy family. My dad and grandfather were clergy in the Anglican Church in Burundi, Africa*. As a son of a pastor, it was normal to grow up in Sunday school, and every evening our family would sit together to share the word of God and sing.

But, when I was 15 years old, I fell into bad company who influenced me to drink alcohol. At the time I remember my Dad telling me: “My son, I know you are in difficult age, but remember you are gifted and you are wasting your time in wrong ways. Please come back.”

Then one day I decided to change and went back to walking in the right way. I remembered what I had learned in Sunday school about forgiveness and I said sorry to God. I asked my Dad to pray for me.

I had been teaching Sunday school, but after my experiences I became passionate about children’s ministry. I wanted to share with young people how the teaching at Sunday school helped change my life, in order to help them in their journey. But because I had passion but no methodology, I made many mistakes in the way I taught.

I had learnt incorrect teaching methods from my Sunday school teachers. In my country Burundi, Sunday schools are very neglected. Church leaders don’t train teachers, there are no materials for Sunday schools and therefore teachers can teach whatever they want, however they want. There are many heresies.

My parents suggested to our Bishop that I should go to Bible college to learn more about how to teach Sunday school, and so I went to Carlile College in Kenya.

Carlile has changed me so much. Through lessons taught by CMS missionary Paul Sampson, I have learnt about the exegesis of Bible passages, and that the Bible is one big story with the New Testament fulfilling the Old Testament.

Today the way I teach Sunday school is very different than the way I was doing it before. Now I can’t stand before the children without good preparation. I take time to see if I can help them understand what I want them to learn. In that way I have also been able to influence my colleagues to sit down and plan lessons. I am also thinking about ways to teach different age groups about the same message.

My request is that you pray for our church leaders to understand that Sunday school is a foundation of the church for today and tomorrow.

*Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. It is one of the poorest nations in the world, and its people have faced many challenges, including civil war, political unrest, displacement, and food and clean water shortages.

Jaspher’s story

I am from Uganda, and I first learned about God when I was in third grade. A few years later I started reading the Bible for myself.

I gave my life to Jesus Christ in 1999, after reading Matthew 24 for seven consecutive days. Every night after reading this passage, I dreamt about the glory of God. One morning I woke up at 5:30 and went to wake up our neighbour, who was a Christian. I told her I wanted to give my life to Jesus and she led me in a salvation prayer. I returned home very happy.

Several years later my family was forced out of our home by a rebel group in Uganda, known as ‘The Lord’s Resistance Army’ (LRA) – which claimed that it wanted to rule the country using the Ten Commandments in the Bible. This group killed tens of thousands of people in Northern Uganda between 1987 and 2009, abducted over 20,000 Ugandan children, and displaced more than 1.9 million people from their homes.

My family of four siblings and our two parents were forced to relocate to the Internally Displaced People’s Camp in Northern Uganda-Lira District, while I went to the capital city of Kampala to try to earn money. We couldn’t even afford two meals a day!

I lived on the streets in Kampala and started selling fruit in a market. I knew no one. In August 2006, I started going to All Saints Cathedral in Kampala. Being a church full of rich people and ministers, I felt out of place!

In 2009, I came across St Stephen’s Church. To my surprise I found people singing in my own language. The next day being a Sunday I joined them at church. It happened that there was no service leader that day, and I was asked if I knew how to lead the service (luckily, I had been leading services for the past six years). After the service I made friends with the rest of the congregation and they asked me to become the lay reader in that service. I felt at home and accepted. In 2012, I was promoted to the position of the senior lay reader, second in command to the Vicar over spiritual matters in the church!

In 2014, St Stephens recommended me to the Diocese for theological training and so I began studying at Carlile College in Kenya. Before attending Carlile College, I understood the Bible as the word of God but, even as a preacher, I didn’t know how to interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.

During my years on the street, Romans 8:29-30 encouraged me so much that God had predestined me “to be conformed to the image of his Son”. I have always had a strong conviction that I have a calling from God. I knew that even the LRA war could not stop the plan that God had in store for me. I strongly believed, and still believe, that God brought me to Kampala for a reason. I came to Kampala in 2006 as a refugee and street boy with nothing, and yet this November I will graduate from Carlile College with a Diploma in Christian Mission [accredited by St Paul’s University, Kenya]. I plan to use this training to minister to, and advocate for, marginalised people – the poor in slums, drug addicts, HIV patients, street children, prisoners and prostitutes, among others. On the very street where I was a street boy, I will soon be a pastor! This is God at work.