Mwana – Let the Children Come

by Janey Mukomba

Breathtaking cloud formations in the rainy season, ants that can build hills the size of houses and one of the biggest waterfalls in the world, are just some examples of God’s wondrous creation that we enjoy here in Zambia. What is even more amazing is that we are made in the image of the Creator. He has put His creativity in us so that we express His Glory.

Our ministry displays God’s creativity through the arts of music, storytelling and drama, all with one purpose: to preach the gospel and disciple children. We combine these performing arts to make a TV programme that we call Tommy Time. Tommy, the main character, is a puppet. He lives with his brother, sister, grandmother and grandfather, and they face challenges that many children can relate to and therefore learn from. Many of the stories are modelled on the situations that real children face.

Kenneth’s Prayer

One such story was based on Kenneth’s experience. His father left his mother when he was very young and, although they have contact, his father is distant. Kenneth attends our weekly Bible study. Each week we pray for whatever challenges the children are facing. In August, the month of his birthday, Kenneth asked us to pray that his father would remember his birthday. As we prayed, God gave me a glimpse of the longing in every child to have the love and attention of both mother and father. Unfortunately, Kenneth’s dad forgot his birthday but did call to visit a couple of weeks later. I used his prayer request as the basis of a story for one episode of Tommy Time, with the aim of teaching young people about our Father God who is a good Father. I believe it will minister to many children who are suffering the effects of a broken home.

God gave me a glimpse of the longing in every child to have the love and attention of both mother and father

Tommy Time

Each episode of Tommy Time follows a theme such as ‘saying sorry’, ‘bad company’, or ‘love in action’. Intertwined within the story is a song sung by the puppets, a dance where our costumed character Bingo dances with the children, a quiz, a short teaching by myself, the presenter, and finally an animated closing song. It is a 25-minute show.

With 15 years of experience ministering to children in Africa, I can confidently say that puppets are one of the most effective tools with which to teach children. The child leaves their own reality and enters into the imaginary world that the puppets and the story portray. As the child is moved by an emotion, such as joy or sadness, they open themselves up to learn from its lessons. Many children connect with Tommy; we had a child come to the office to give Tommy a T-shirt. He said he had been dreaming about Tommy and he wanted to see him.

A Heart for the Lost

When I came to Africa in 2003, I had no idea what lay ahead and could not have dreamt that I would end up making children’s TV programmes. I came from Scotland to Zimbabwe to serve in Dynamis World Ministries, an evangelistic ministry that ran large gospel crusades across southern Africa. I ran the children’s crusades, reaching two to three thousand children at each crusade, mostly through the use of puppets. After serving for eight years with Dynamis, my heart for the lost grew and I became frustrated that there are always more children who have not heard about Jesus. The Lord laid it on my heart and on the heart of Evans, the man who would later become my husband, ‘Imagine if we could do what we are doing but put it on the TV, imagine how many children we could reach for Jesus.’ So in 2010, in our spare time, Evans and I started making Tommy Time. Eventually we had a 13-episode show that would later be broadcast in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Realising the Vision

The vision had grown from a word from the Lord into a reality. Now we needed to take it forward in a sustainable way. With the wise counsel of my church elders and the fantastic support of friends who became trustees, we registered Mwana Ministries as a Scottish charity. Mwana means child. With these structures in place, we trained in video and film production in Cape Town. After completing the training, we needed equipment. Media equipment is not cheap, but God was faithful to provide. The charity is now seven years old and, as we look back, we can truly see God’s faithfulness.

We are currently finishing the fourth series, with the same aims as the first: to evangelise and disciple the children of Africa. Although the aim will not change, our methods and artistic standards have. We aim to broadcast on secular channels, to be a light shining in the darkness. Therefore we strive to produce a show that is of a better quality than secular shows, to bring glory and honour to God. We continually seek the Holy Spirit’s help to come up with creative, entertaining and attractive content that will help to draw children to Jesus. He never lets us down!

Although our vision to use media to preach to children across the continent of Africa is extensive, we are still a small ministry working from our home and assisted by volunteers. We hope to build a studio, offices, mission workers’ houses and a children’s play park, so that we can accommodate the growth of the ministry and start producing further TV programmes for children and youth.

We do not know how many young lives have been touched by God through our ministry, but the joy for us is in doing what God has called us to do and leaving the fruit in His hands.

Local Outreach

Alongside the media work, we reach out to children in high-density communities by running after-school clubs, called Mwana Mission. Currently, we run these clubs in three communities, reaching a total of 1,000 children each week. The meetings are open for children, and adults, to come and go as they please. When the children hear the music playing they come running. They love the singing, Bible stories, games and especially the puppets. Most of the children come from very disadvantaged homes, where hunger and lack are normal and parents are absent while out struggling to make a living. Often it is the street that teaches these children but we are reversing that through our weekly mission. We aim to not only lead them to Christ but to ground them in that salvation and disciple them in the Word of God. This gives them a hope for their future and helps to instil biblical values in their lives. We have seen many young lives impacted by our ministry. We find that as we get to know the children, the Holy Spirit reveals issues that they are facing and helps us to minister to them through the teaching, which is also reflected in the themes we deal with on the programme.

Our ministry is unique here in Zambia. We regularly run puppet training, and I am always amazed at how many people come alive as they manipulate a puppet and act out a story. Jesus used storytelling to teach the crowds about the Kingdom of God, and so do we. As children watch and listen to a story they are learning without realising it.

We do not know how many young lives have been touched by God through our ministry, but the joy for us is in doing what God has called us to do and leaving the fruit in His hands.

We hope to broadcast a fourth series, Tommy Time 4, soon. We are looking to sign new contracts with broadcasting stations in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and we are seeking new nations in which to broadcast the programme. We need God to send more labourers, either local volunteers or mission workers.

Pray for the ministry of Mwana, as it has enormous potential to multiply into many other communities, reaching thousands of children with the hope and salvation they have in Jesus.

Pray:

  • for the children to come to know Jesus
  • for houses, offices and the studioto accommodate growth
  • for the broadcast of Tommy Time 4
  • for God to send more labourers.
2018-12-04T09:33:05+00:00