by Clark Logan

If Botswana’s diamonds represent the natural wealth of our country, then without doubt Botswana’s children are our spiritual treasure. Significantly, one third of the nation’s population is under 14 years of age. Over the years, thousands of children have been taught the Scriptures, just like Timothy was in childhood (2 Tim. 3:15), and many have trusted Christ. The majority of those in fellowship in the six assemblies were saved as young people.

In our own experience of serving the Lord in Botswana, we have seen the value of children’s work. It is not that we regard ourselves as specialists in this age group, the gospel is for everyone, but the interest that young children have shown in coming to hear the Word of God has developed into a large and fruitful work.

Beginnings

After spending our first two years with Jim and Irene Legge in Serowe and seeing their work among adults and children, we moved to Gaborone in 1984. We sought to carry out the good advice we had been given: ‘Start as you mean to go on.’ In the first week after our arrival we visited all our neighbours in the street and invited them to a gospel meeting in our home. That particular evening we waited and waited, but not one person came. By contrast, when we later invited the local children to a Sunday school in our garden, on the very first day 30 boys and girls were waiting excitedly for us to open the gate. Soon we had 150 children coming regularly. After two years of patiently sowing the seed in Gaborone without any visible results, the Lord began to bless in salvation, with young and old turning to Christ.

Dwight L. Moody once returned home from preaching the gospel and reported that he had seen ‘two and a half conversions’. His family assumed that two adults and a child had been saved, but Moody replied ‘No, no, two children and one adult accepted the Lord. The adult was an old man and had only half a life to give.’ The salvation of a young person means that not only is a soul saved but also a life. By God’s grace, that life can be preserved from sin and devoted to service, for the glory of God and the blessing of others.

Another valuable result of children’s work is that it opens up to us the homes and hearts of parents. On many occasions a child has been saved and then has begun to bring their mother to the gospel meeting. The mother too gets saved and suddenly there is a wonderful change – a household has now become a Christian home.

A Sunday school teacher can be a stabilising and sanctifying influence on young children. Some of them grow up in difficult home environments, often with a single parent, usually a mother, but every week they know that they have a teacher who will welcome them with a smile. There is constant care and a consistent standard shown to them so that the child, in learning the truth of the Word of God, sees and understands how Christians act. These children never forget you because you have become a special friend to them. In recent years we have been frequently greeted by name by young men and women in the street. When we struggle to put names to their faces they quickly remind us that they once attended Sunday school and they still remember the stories
and verses they learned.

On many occasions a child has been saved and then has begun to bring their mother to the gospel meeting. The mother too gets saved and suddenly there is a wonderful change – a household has now become a Christian home.

Growth

At present we have 13 weekly classes for children in Gaborone and surrounding villages. There is at least one held each day of the week, but, being Irish, we still call them ‘Sunday schools.’ There is not much equipment or technology required for a village Sunday school in Botswana. All you really need is a tree and a Setswana Bible. The tree is vital for shade; the Bible is vital for everything else. Seats are optional.

My wife, Hazel, and I are busy most days of the week, as is our colleague Joy Griffiths. Several of our classes in different villages were started in response to invitations from local people, who pleaded with us to come and speak to the children in their areas. In several of the classes the parents join us. This presents a challenge when the age range of the combined class is from one to fifty years of age. Joy is able to visit a local primary school, and other sisters from the assembly teach classes of young ones in their own areas. In this way the work has grown and expanded. The prize-givings at the end of the year are a highlight in the children’s lives. We remain grateful for individuals and assemblies overseas who for many years have sent suitable materials for us to include in the bag each attender receives: a garment, stationery or toiletry items, small toys and games. Bibles are given for Scripture recitation.

Each week over 1,000 boys and girls hear the Word of God in our area alone. The same is reflected in other parts of the country where our colleagues also have open doors among children. There is a thriving correspondence course work based in Serowe where Jim and Irene set up a small print office. Irene had retired from voluntary nursing service because of a heart condition, but she devoted her remaining energies to literature work, producing thousands of Bible lessons and gospel tracts. These have been sent to children all over Botswana, including those in distant areas presently beyond our physical reach.

Challenges

No country stands still and there are changes in Botswana which affect the attitudes and values of young ones. Widespread access to television, internet and social media means that a new trend starting in London today can be found on the streets of Gaborone tomorrow. Children, especially those in urban areas, are becoming more sophisticated in a worldly sense, but we continue to be amazed at the numbers who still come each week to sing a few choruses, learn verses from the Word of God, and listen to a simple Bible lesson with a gospel application.

All you really need is a tree and a Setswana Bible. The tree is vital for shade; the Bible is vital for everything else. Seats are optional.

School life has become more demanding and competitive. No longer does primary or secondary school work end around midday. There are now many compulsory activities that children must attend in the afternoons or even on weekends. These extra activities can affect Sunday school attendance.

The greatest challenge of all is a spiritual one. How can we make the best use of the many opportunities and open doors we enjoy at present? How can we make sure that this generation of boys and girls hears the good news of the Saviour and His love? How can we nurture those young in the faith so that a new generation of young believers will go on for the Lord?

Joys

The story is told of a pastor in Scotland long ago who informed his congregation that he was retiring from church ministry. He had become discouraged because in his last two years he had seen only one new convert, ‘wee Bobby Moffatt’. Little did he know that the young lad would become the man who opened up southern Africa to the gospel. Robert Moffatt (1796-1883) lived and pioneered for many years in Kuruman (now part of the Northern Cape province of South Africa). He devoted 40 of those years to translating the Bible into the Setswana language. Truly, we have entered into his labours.

Over the years we have had the joy of seeing many boys and girls saved, most of them as first-generation believers. What gives us even more joy is to see them going on well and growing in the things of God. Eventually they are baptised and added to the local assembly of believers. In the goodness of the Lord they find a suitable partner, marry, and have a family of their own. We thank the Lord for the godly young couples who grace the local churches.

The disciples of the Lord Jesus were sometimes out of harmony with the heart of their Master. On one occasion they would have chased the children away, regarding them as an inconvenience. As always, the Lord Jesus Christ showed them the way: He took each of the children up in His arms and blessed them (Mk 10:13-16). Heaven will be populated by many who trusted Christ in childhood and for us the thrill will be to meet those who did so in Botswana.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Irene Legge who, like her Lord, loved the little children.