Stories from CEF

CYIA Teens are Eager to Serve

By Celia Brannon

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In the past I arrogantly thought that missionaries are Americans who leave the United States to preach and serve in other countries, and I was sure any dictionary would agree with me. But after meeting four teens this summer who have left their native countries of Uganda and Rwanda, I have been humbled to realize we need missionaries to come to us right here in the Bible Belt.   

It may surprise you to hear that you can experience cultures from around the world without leaving the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are a part of the Texas school systems. Special classes and sometimes entire special campuses prepare for and help refugee and immigrant children learn our culture and the English language. Many assume that Spanish is the first language for these students, but that is most often untrue. Latin American born children make up only a fraction of these students. This part of Texas is much more diverse than even the locals might realize. According to the 2017 Census, 369 languages are spoken in the DFW area, which does not include the several dozen suburbs.

This summer I met four young people at Christian Youth In Action® (CYIA) camp in Fort Worth: sisters Sandra and Samora, who were born in Uganda and then lived in Rwanda; Emmanuel, who comes from Rwanda; and Blessed, whose family is also from these countries. Between them they speak and understand multiple languages, including Swahili, French, Ugandan, Kinyarwanda, and (the reason I know this) English. They attend a multilingual local church where the Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) staff of Greater Fort Worth recently visited to tell them about their work. The teens all nodded in agreement when one of the girls told me that they wanted to learn the skills taught at CYIA camp because “it is much easier to teach children about God when they are young.”

I had the joy of seeing this group of teens at camp, then while they were dancing and speaking at their church, and again while they were helping lead a CEF 5-Day Club®. Each time they brought joy and a special energy to whatever was happening. I don’t think the song “Jesus Loves Me” will ever be the same for me unless Emmanuel is there to dance and play his drum. The kids attending the club never wanted those drums to stop and wanted to sing the song again.

Even though this group already had much experience preaching and serving, these 5-Day Clubs were excellent opportunities for them to practice teaching in English, fine tune their presentation skills to children, and prepare to start a club in their Congolese church.

Wearing a t-shirt that read, “Saved to Serve,” Sandra admitted that it is sometimes difficult to be here without their father, who is still preaching in Uganda. “He is doing the work of God, and then when it is time he will come.” Finishing her thought as they often do for each other, Samora added, “Besides, our greatest dad is God.” It is not hard to see that these teens are eager to serve their Heavenly Father.

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