Side by Side

by Mark Lacey

The elders of assemblies in Kenya requested teaching on Christian marriage and family, compared with local cultural views on the subject of marriage and family. They were also looking for advice on helping those in their communities who were addicted to alcohol and drugs. On my arrival in Kisumu five years ago, I met my host and a young man called James Otieno, who would be my interpreter during my month’s itinerary.

While on a ferry to visit an assembly on an island in Lake Victoria, James shared his testimony. James was raised by Christian parents in Sindo, a fishing community by the lake. Prior to James’ salvation, at 14, he had lived a worldly lifestyle succumbing to peer pressure, alcohol and drugs. Shortly after James’ conversion his father passed away, necessitating James to support his family by selling firewood and fishing. His hands became so lacerated and swollen from fishing he could hardly hold his pencil during school lessons. These early hardships were character building and would help James in his future years of ministry.

A Passion to Serve

Despite the difficulties James faced, he had an increasing passion to serve the Lord full time. After much prayer, a local elder offered to disciple James and even sponsored him to study for a degree in Theology at the assembly Bible college. James’ calling to full-time ministry came as a response to his own experiences of peer pressure, drugs and alcohol. James’ burden was to reach the teenagers of his community and see them saved and delivered from a wasted life and early death. In 2016, James stepped out in faith and started visiting high schools around Kisumu. After initial discouragements, he was welcomed into three schools with a student population of 2,500.

Now, seven years later, 13,000 students have come forward for help and salvation. The schools ministry has been formally registered as a charity called Youth Impact Ministry. The demand for ministry has grown so much that James has had to train volunteers to assist in some of the 70 services that are held each week, averaging 70,000 students reached with the gospel! There is a waiting list of 31 schools that have requested a visit from Youth Impact Ministry.

Afterschool discipleship clubs have been formed in many locations, which are overseen by the schools’ chaplains. British Christian charities have supplied 1,000 Bibles for students to purchase to ensure further supplies and to aid the funding of discipleship material. They plan to move the discipleship course online to enable easy access and facilitate marking of the courses. Presently, over 4,500 believers have completed the course.

Travelling between the schools for the ministry, James walked many miles in all weathers. It soon became an overwhelming problem and a desperate need of personal transportation became a matter of prayer. Local motorbike taxis proved too dangerous as their use had resulted in personal injury to James several times. After much prayer, the Lord miraculously supplied a suitable vehicle that can cope with the many unpaved roads. The provision of the vehicle has more than doubled the number of schools James can visit per week.

James has established two main centres for the ministry. The first is located at his home in Nayhururu and the other is in Kisumu. This has meant a suitable property had to be found in Kisumu that would be multipurpose, providing accommodation, a reception and a discipleship centre.

The demand for ministry has grown so much that James has had to train volunteers to assist in some of the 70 services that are held each week, averaging 70,000 students reached with the gospel!

God’s Saving Grace

Student V – V’s brother and mother were all addicts. V was contemplating suicide when James visited his school and conducted a service there. V was convicted and spoke with James, which resulted in him giving his life to the Lord. Seeing the changes in V’s life, his brother and mother also came to faith in Christ. They have been released from their addictions and are experiencing God’s help in providing for their needs.

Student F – F was addicted to self-abusive behaviour to the point where it was causing depression. Following an encounter with James and Youth Impact Ministries, student F can now testify to a life free of self-abuse and he is rejoicing in the Lord for His salvation. He takes great delight in witnessing to the Lord’s enabling help to other students caught up in addiction.

Student A – A was rejected by her mother, who felt she was a burden, and her teacher also refused to help her. After a visit from James and his team, A felt she could approach them for help. Today she is a bright testimony to the security and self-esteem she enjoys following her salvation and she has a tremendous zest for life.

Student P – P was bullied in primary school and developed an inferiority complex. Driven by addictions, his life was out of control. Subsequent to a motorbike accident, the result of being drunk, the school sent for James to help student P. James not only spent time with P but regularly followed up and encouraged him to bring the Lord into his life to resolve his many issues. Today P has been sober for over six months. He is enjoying his faith in Christ and studying for discipleship.

Student S – S was a fugitive from the law when James encountered him at his school. In a gang fight, S had knifed an opposing gang member who bled to death. Never sharing with his parents and hiding in his boarding school, he had, so far, escaped the hands of the law. When James visited S’ school, he shared the story of his troubled youth and how the Lord had intervened in his life, S was convicted and revealed his situation to James. Over the subsequent weeks and months James was used of the Lord to bring the opposing families together in reconciliation. Today S is a free young man and embarking on a university degree.

In His Hands

James was visiting a remote area of Kenya where warring tribes fight it out each night and gunfire is common. He rented a small mud hut and reached out to 30 local schools with the gospel. The response was overwhelming and hundreds of children came to receive Christ as their Saviour. One night the gunfire was too close for comfort. Bereft of sleep, the morning light revealed bullets through his hut door! Humbled by the protection of the Almighty against the enemy, James remembered the promise of the Lord, that He would never leave nor forsake him.

I have been mentoring James for the last five years, and have recently returned from a visit to Kenya and Uganda. We visited ten schools together with a total student population of 10,500. Over 450 students asked for help in response to the gospel and messages. Pray for James and the Youth Impact Ministries team, and for the young people as they reach out with the lifechanging message of the gospel.

Pray

  • for the ministry to meet its target of reaching over 200,000 students every week with the gospel
  • for the need to train more volunteers in order to service the schools on the waiting list
  • for equipment to better communicate the gospel
  • for God’s leading in raising up regular support for James and the ministry
  • for the volunteer workers involved in the school visitation programme and the discipleship work
  • for the students mentioned above who have come to faith in Christ and for their spiritual growth and witness.

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