This week is going to be amazing–our Family Purpose Statement coming to life. The girls and I have the awesome opportunity to serve some of the Somali Bantu refugees here in Columbus by helping out with a week-long day camp for their kiddos in K-5th grade.
I’ve heard a lot of people say recently (some trying to be mean, some just questioning honestly) that they don’t understand why Christians in America spend time caring for the poor in other nations when there are so many needs right here in our own country. That, my friends, is a whole ‘nother post, but suffice it to say, I don’t think it has to be either/or.
It can (and should) be both.
Columbus (OH) isn’t huge as far as cities go, but we’ve got the whole world in our hands here. In our little subdivision alone, we’ve got neighbors from all sorts of countries from around the globe. The school Nina will attend in the fall (where the two of us volunteered on Wednesdays this past school year) is a colorful, multi-national melting pot of kiddos.
A quick history lesson: The Somali Bantu people are not originally from Somalia but were brought there as slaves in the 1800’s. In 1992, they fled to Kenya because of militia raiding, raping, robbing, and killing. In 2001, the US decided to help resettle many of them here, but that was all postponed after 9/11. Resettlement began in 2003, and by 2007, there were 13,000 Somali Bantu in the U.S.
A few hundred of those live right here in Columbus. And the church we used to attend has a great relationship with many of them. Last year, they held a Vacation Bible School (that they call a club or a camp) for these children (who are all Muslim). The response from the Somali Bantu community was so great that they’re doing it again this year (and will continue every year).
Over 75 Somali Bantu kiddos are already registered. Isn’t that incredible??
I’ll be a Crew Leader of 10 or 11 first- and second-graders (about half Bantu, half kids of volunteers). There will be roughly 12 crews of kiddos. We’ll have a big time all together at the beginning, then crafts, games, story, lunch, and a big time together at the end.
We’ll leave home at 7:30am and get back around 3pm, so it will be a big day, a big week.
To be honest, I’m a little flabbergasted that we (the girls and I) get to be a part of something so amazing. God is so good. Over 75 Muslim children are willingly being sent by their Muslim parents to a 3-hours-a-day-for-5-days camp run by CHRISTIANS.
We won’t be saying the name of Jesus (they find this very offensive, and the kids are trained to tune you out once you mention his name), but we’ll sure be praying in his name in our spirits all the blessed day long. And we’ll be talking about God and telling stories from the Bible and singing songs and learning a verse together.
There will be a beautiful mixture of dark-skinned kiddos and fair-skinned kiddos, girls in burqas (head-to-toe covering), and kiddos in shorts, all wearing yellow, red, orange, or blue t-shirts. I am so excited to learn more about these people and their culture–how they live, what they love, and how we can all live and love together in this space we all share.
My friend who’s leading the whole thing attended a special prayer meeting last weekend, and God gave her a vision of the park where we’re holding the club. She said she saw it as a little piece of heaven… all the nations… shalom… as it should be… true kingdom work.
Praise the name of Jesus.
I would love your prayers this week for:
1. These precious Somali Bantu children. That they would experience a love and acceptance that they’ve never known. That God would speak to their hearts in a still, small voice. That they might get even a peek into the truth of the gospel.
2. For the workers. For stamina, wisdom, enthusiasm, unity, love, grace, unselfishness, discernment, and faith.
3. For the American kiddos. That they would reach out to their Bantu peers in love and acceptance, that friendships would be formed and seeds planted.
4. For the Somali Bantu families. That they would see Jesus shining through us, even if we never mention his name out loud.
Your turn: I would love to hear about some opportunities (big or small) God has given you lately to serve him by serving others in your own backyard (and I don’t just mean foreigners–any human counts).
Let’s encourage each other to reach out and touch others for Jesus!