How to give a street kid song

“Impossible,” I thought. They were singing. Not just any song, but a song about Jesus. “Jesus is here,” they harmonized in Lingala.

It was November 2007 and we had gathered on old concrete grandstands overlooking a long-abandoned pool in Kinshasa, Congo. Some 40 youth and children were sprawled across the platform, with meagre belongings. They called it home. Some were babies and toddlers, now second generation street children. Some were sick, all were desperate. Yet from this ragged little crowd sprung a joyful, spiritual song. Incredible!

The Jesus way

It seemed strange to me how I ever got there. All good Mennonites believe that feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is the way of Jesus. At Waldheim (Sask.) MB Church, we wanted to do the same. But we had a problem. Our financial commitments were stretching us to capacity. How could we ask people for more?

Still, a verse kept tearing a path through my brain. “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Galatians 2:10). My conviction grew. I knew that several individual church members gave to compassionate ministries, but I wondered if we could do something together as a congregation.

In the fall of 2006, we began to talk, explore, and pray. How could we make a tangible difference in the lives of the unfortunate? Congo caught our spiritual eye, and the vision to rescue a few of the thousands of Kinshasa’s street children emerged.

Crisis in Congo

Due to economic hardship many children are kicked out of their homes onto the streets of Kinshasa. Some local churches, like those in our MB family, have been trying to help. For about five years Pastor Muller, Kapay, and others have been in rescue mode, winning the trust of wary street children.

They rent a modest home to shelter a few children, calling it “Bomoyi Ya Sika” (New Life Home). When space is available, they offer a place. The child is taken into the home for a few months for a generous dose of food, love, health care, and Jesus. Afterwards, the children are reunited with their parents or placed in foster care.

Sadly, the home is only large enough for a handful of children. And within three metres of their “haven,” about a dozen men are typically drinking – not the best situation for young girls whose history often includes sexual abuse and survival prostitution. So, God put the idea of expansion and relocation into the hearts of Congolese leaders.

Doing our part

Our Saskatchewan congregation became excited and jumped on board. Giving exploded! Our treasurer shook his head in disbelief as the funds for the project rolled in by the tens of thousands. Our gifts were added to others from the larger MB family and soon there was enough money for the Congolese ministry to purchase a much larger, more secure home.

We decided that some of us would travel to Africa to visit the people, the home, and the work. With the help of MBMSI missionary Murray Nickel, the trip became a reality as I and two adventurous sisters made the journey.

The vision, courage, and resourcefulness of our Congolese brothers and sisters deeply impressed us. They were caring for the forgotten ones as best as they could with limited resources. Help from North America would make a wider ministry possible.

We met the children. They were joyful and inspiring. We heard their stories, and though tears flowed from our eyes, redemption was the tone. One girl who had been rescued from the streets said, “The spirit of the street is gone, and I hope the same grace can be afforded to those who are still homeless.”

Yes, grace. That’s what those homeless kids needed, especially the ones left singing “Jesus is here” on the pool grandstands. Jesus was indeed there, in the hands and feet of our good Congolese partners. But the children would still have to wait until more tangible help arrived for them. It was hard to walk away, but we were hopeful – trusting that more children would yet find a home.

Our budget? You can’t wipe the smile off our treasurer’s face. And through the grace-filled efforts of our brothers and sisters at Bomoyi Ya Sika, still more smiles will find their way onto little faces.

Clarence Peters is pastor at Waldheim MB Church.

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