Are young people the key to community transformation?

Community EmpowermentTheologyYoung People

One of Tearfund’s corporate priority areas is church and community transformation. This means churches that improve the holistic well-being of their communities. Normally, we expect this transformation to be facilitated by experienced church leaders. But what about children and young people? To what extent can God use them to transform their communities? It was this question that was on my mind after visiting and preaching at Chepkoton Girls’ High School in Kericho, Kenya, last year.

The girls at the Chepkoton Girls’ High School during the church service in October 2017. Photo: Sas Conradie
The girls at the Chepkoton Girls’ High School during the church service in October 2017. Photo: Sas Conradie

The first thing I saw when I woke up that Sunday – after a very difficult night fearing that a flying and crawling insect could climb under the sheets into my bed – was a text message from Rev Walter Rutto, Kenya Chairman of the Transformational Compassion Network and Director of the Africa Gospel Church Compassion Ministries Department. He wanted to know if I could give an inspiring message at a girls’ school and then at a church. He said he would pick me up at 9am. That left me just under two hours to get out of bed, dress, grab a quick breakfast and then think what I was going to say to a group of 350 girls! 

When Walter and I arrived at the school, the girls were already waiting in the sun. The message that God gave me was a specific sentence in Luke 4:18: ‘He has sent me… to set the oppressed free.’ 

God wants these girls and other children from very poor backgrounds to be freed from any oppression that binds them, whether it is bullying at school, psychological difficulties at home or manipulation by friends. The motto of the school is 'Excellence every day'. God wants these girls to live out this daily excellence by being freed from everything that prevents them from being what he intended them to be. But not only that, God wants to use these girls to set others free – their friends, their parents and others in the community. God indeed wants to use these girls to transform their communities. 

I praise God for the response. All the girls stood up and showed that they want to follow Jesus and become the women God wants them to be. Afterwards, the school’s head girl described how they are going to live out this freedom in Christ. They would, she said, work hard to reach their full potential, help the poor students in the school and care for those who face difficulties and experience oppression.

The entrance to Chepkoton Girls’ High School in Kericho, Kenya. The motto of the School is ‘Excellence every day’. Photo: Sas Conradie
The entrance to Chepkoton Girls’ High School in Kericho, Kenya. The motto of the School is ‘Excellence every day’. Photo: Sas Conradie

The Bible is full of children and young people who have been set free from oppression and then set others free. Yes, children and young people can transform communities. It is not only the task of senior church leaders. Perhaps we need to acknowledge this more often.  

For more information about Chepkoton Girls’ High School contact the principal, Mrs Agnes Langat, at agneslangat@yahoo.com

Sas Conradie
Rev Dr Sas Conradie is Tearfund’s Theology and Networking Manager for Africa: sas.conradie@tearfund.org