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July 20
Zimbabwe in the Wilderness

By Nkosi Sampindi

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An excerpt from the Zimbabwe monthly ministry update. 

This has really been a bittersweet month for us in Zimbabwe. As you might have heard, our economy is really struggling again and we see the full effects of this problem on the lives of our leaders and the kids we reach out to. It is very hard right now to find a group of Zimbabweans that still hold onto Him, and for those that still do it is a daily exercise of seeking reminders of God's promises.

I was reminded of something amazing in my devotional yesterday that I thought you would love to read. It’s not too long.

The Midbar

He took me out in the desert to an immense valley surrounded by reddish mountains, which turned increasingly purple and blue as they extended out into the far distance.

"What words come to your mind," said the teacher, "when you look at the desert wilderness?"

"Dry ...barren ...hot ...austere ...severe ...hard ...forbidding ..."

"And when people go through hard times - times of loss, crisis, tragedy, loneliness, conflict, hardship, problems, separation, tears - they speak of going through the wilderness. And yet the wilderness is a holy place. It was in a desert wilderness that God gave His Law, His Word, and where He revealed His presence. The wilderness is holy."

"So the hard times in our lives are holy?"

"For those who are His children, yes."

"How so?"

"In Hebrew, the wilderness is called the midbar. Midbar comes from the root ward dabar. And dabar means to speak. What is the wilderness? It is the midbar. And what is the midbar? It is the place of God's speaking, the place of His voice. It's where God especially talks to us. Why did He bring His people into the wilderness, into the midbar? So He could speak to them. He brought Moses into the midbar to speak to him in a still, small voice. So too He brings us into the wilderness that He might speak to us."

"What is it about the wilderness that makes it the place of God's speaking?"

"Look around you," he said. "What do you see?"

"Rock, sand, mountains - not much."

"That's why," said the teacher. "God speaks, but we don't hear. We have too many distractions. But in the wilderness the distractions are gone. So God brings us to the wilderness that we might hear His voice. Therefore, do not fear or despise the wilderness of your life, and don't despise His removing of the distractions. Rather embrace it. Draw closer to Him. And listen to what He is saying. Seek to hear His voice, and you will hear Him. For the wilderness in your life is not just a wilderness. It is holy ground ...the midbar ...the place of His voice."

Having read this I am reinforced in my belief that Zimbabwe is in the perfect place for us to hear God speak and see Him move in our midst. I actually know that we are in a holy place because of what I have seen happen with our ministry in Young Life. In the midst of a hard time the Lord has blessed our ministry with leaders that hear God's voice and boldly act on it. I also pray that in the midst of any wilderness you go through may you hear God's voice loud and clear in your lives.

Please continue to pray with us as we make final preparations to take over 3000 kids to hear the Gospel shared at over 11 camps nationally. 

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A picture that I took yesterday which reminds me to always be grateful with the life and people in my life God has blessed me with. 

July 11
Finishing the Freedom Walk

By Dana Knowles

 

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Galatians 5:1

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Three years ago, Young Life Africa started a pilgrimage along the historic slave caravan route in Tanzania from Ujiji to Bagamoyo. Here, millions of men and women were chained together and then sold to Arab slave traders in the Zanzibar slave market in the 19th century. But in 2017 - hundreds of years later - over 200 Young Life Africa staff, committee and friends representing 25 countries walked, prayed, sang, talked, healed, established Young Life connections and worshipped along the 1200 km route. Why? To "break the chains" of pain and suffering. The 2014, the Freedom Walk ended at Bagamoyo near Dar Es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean.  In Swahili, "Bagamoyo" means "lay my heart down" - what so many Africans were forced to do by their captors.

 

But...the Freedom Walk was not complete.

 

In July 2017, the Freedom Walk was finished in a powerful way.  Members of the Young Life Africa/Middle East committee and friends, in Tanzania for the 2017 Africa Retreat, joined staff from across Africa and the Middle East to carry chains from the 2014 Walk down the dirt road to the cross which stands at the beach where Bagamoyo meets the Indian Ocean. Country flags flew and were passed from hand to hand, allowing everyone to participate. Voices lifted in song to break chains of bondage from years past and present. Cries of anguished prayer and beseeched forgiveness at the foot of the cross over past sins of slavery and persecution allowed reconciliation and healing. Each region of Africa and the Middle East was prayed over.  

 

The symbolic final crossing from Bagamoyo to Zanzibar was made by Simon Okiria from Uganda and Irene Mwasanga of Tanzania, two elders on the Young Life Africa/Middle East staff. They left the shores of Tanzania in a wooden dhow, a sailboat similar to what was used in slave trading times while Amazing Grace was sung and cries of hallelujah rang out as the boat broke through the shore waves and headed out to sea. Simon and Irene took the chains, which had been carried across Tanzania, on to Zanzibar to complete the journey.

 

The group reunited with Simon and Mama Irene the next morning as their boat arrived in Stonetown, Zanzibar. From there, the crowd walked together down cobblestone streets to curious stares - flags waving, chains held up, singing songs of praise and worship.  It didn't matter that not everyone understood the lyrics.  It felt powerful and holy. Leaders prayed for freedom from slavery of all kinds - addiction, atheism, poverty, oppression. For pain and suffering to be redeemed; for chains to be broken. The walk finished at the old slave market and cathedral, which was built as a memorial to those who suffered there. A moment of reflection and silence to remember what African brothers and sisters endured. Then, flags and chains were carried into the church and up to the chancel for joyous song and sacred prayer. Freedom. Reconciliation. Chains Broken. Healing in Jesus. Peace.
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June 29
Climb Day 6 & 7: The Descent

Kili Rap - by “Pop$ da Top$” (aka Steve Larmey) 

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We Climbed Kili

Y'all we just climbed Kili

Folks back home said we were silly

Said we’d pay too big a bill

But with a big act of will

And the help of a little white pill we

Together together took step-by-step ‘til we

Conquered that big ol’ icy African hill, we

won—YoungLife 35-Kilimanjaro Nil, we

Pushed through trial and adversity

What sisters and brothers are made for

But with sweat, tears and blood its paid for

We trudged through ashes, dust and mud

Boots landing thud thud

Coughing up crud

But doing it all with our newfound buds.

 

But whoa, remember those guides and porters?

(Moment of silence)

Those guides and porters

Did what they did for a buck and a quarter

Carrying our burdens, fetchin’ our water

Gate to gate, border border

Teachin’ us more than that big mountain did

About how to serve and to love and to live

How to work ‘til it hurts and to give, give and give

Lord for my selfishness please please forgive.

 

But let’s give props where props are due

To our leader Drew

The glue

The Mountain Man how-to

Told us what to do

What to wear

From our hats to our underwear, gloves and shoes

Couldn’t have done it without you

Our big floppy hats we take off to you

 

But to whom did we really turn

When the climb was too tough

Or the trail was too rough

And our legs and our knees and our backs had enough?

Who was our real go-to

When we had no O2?

I think you know Who…

Our side-of-the-head whoppin’

Sunrise and sunset eye-poppin’

Baranco Wall hoppin’

Barafu wind stoppin’

19,000 foot mountain toppin’

Creator Savior God

 

Have you not heard?

Do you not see?

Yes Lord we see—we are not blind

And with knees and hearts bowed low we thank you for this climb

And for these brothers and sisters whose hearts with ours you’ve entwined

One more time Lord we say Thank You, Thank you for this climb

June 28
Climb Days 4-5: The Wall & The Summit

Climb Day 4

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Today was the day I’d been dreading the most of my Kilimanjaro experience. Yes… more than the cold or the prospect of altitude sickness.

We had to go over “the wall” to get to the next camp (Karanga camp). It’s not the kind of wall you’re imagining. But think huge rocks and boulders (a dream for the hiker and adventurer) and a pathway that goes up, one that only the guides can expertly guide you over.

 

I am not one for heights. And I was most nervous about facing that wall and crossing to this next camp. Okay – I have to say everybody else enjoyed climbing the wall and they say it was the best part of their climb so far. So I am obviously amplifying how hard it is. One of the main reasons I chose to climb the tallest mountain in Africa was to overcome a lot of fears, and rely on the Lord’s leading (listening to and following the guides has a big lesson on that actually…). I have overcome a huge fear today!

 

I am looking around at the lunch table as I write this (we’re having veggie frittatas, fries and chicken!) and am grateful at how this team cheers each other on and patiently helps each other to go up higher and higher so we all make it to the summit together. Everyone looks excited and well.

 

Keep praying - we are almost there!

 

– Banji

 

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Climb Day 5

 

Today was amazing. After 14 long hours of hiking, we are back at 10,000 feet tucked safely away in our tents at camp. This morning, we woke up at midnight to the sound of excited voices and porters who sang to wake us for our ascent to the summit. After conjoining in the meal tent for coffee, tea, and other sugary snacks, we set off into two groups: one left at 1:00 am and the other left around 1:30. By the grace of God, the wind had died down and the temperature was mid 20’s…perfect peaking weather I was told. As our two groups made it up the mountain, our porters were nothing short of amazing: warming our hands, handing us our water and reminding us to eat during rest breaks. They even checked up on us about every 10 minutes. It took my group around 4 hours to get to Stella Point, which is just a half-mile short of the peak at the top of Kili. By then the sun had started to peak above the clouds and warm us up a little bit. It was absolutely beautiful. We could see the entire crater, the massive ice blocks, and the other lower parts of Kili, all floating above the clouds. A few pictures and a cup of tea later, we were headed back down to the camp (16,000 ft) to sleep until lunch. After we had rested and eaten, we all begrudgingly began our four hour descent down to our last and final camp.

 

Needless to say, today was a great and long day. We are all sore and tired and still trying to process the events from the dawn to the dusk. Above all, I believe that all of us are just thankful. Thankful for our porters who helped us every step of the way. Thankful for the countless encouragements of our team. Thankful that all 35 people who attempted to summit last night made it to the top. And thankful for a God who is so much bigger than we will ever be able to understand, and who loves us very, very much.

 

With love,

 

Sarah


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June 23
Climb Days 2 & 3

Climb Day 2: Machame Camp to Shira Camp

10,000 ft. – 12,500 ft.

 

We woke up on the right side of our sleeping bags this morning with a loud Tanzanian hello and Tent side coffee after a night under the stars. We ate a wonderful breakfast all together and got going early. The first 45 minutes we hiked in silence, each spending time with the Lord as we began our second day. Poles were necessary today as we climbed up and up until we were above the clouds, resulting in a photo opportunity every rest spot. We traversed on the side of the mountain, winding through the mountain and through clouds and sunshine. We arrived safely at camp with a greeting full of dancing and singing thanks to the porters and guides with time for meals and rest! I think I have transported to a scene from Star Wars or Lord of the Rings at this camp, it takes your breath away.

 

Thank you for all of your prayers and thoughts. This is a joyous adventure that most of us climbing cannot yet believe is reality. It seems as if God is speaking louder with every step we take! Please continue to pray for strength, energy, and friendships as we continue to gain altitude! The end of Isaiah 55 is a wonderful piece of scripture for the day – as the mountains and the trees sang as we climbed them.

 

Much love to you all,

 

Hailey Hess

 

Climb Morning Day 3: Shira Camp

 

Here we are Morning day 3!! Yesterday’s hike brought us up to a beautiful plateau overlooking an ocean of clouds flanked by the peak of Kilimanjaro. As beautiful as it is this morning we must press onward and upward. The lava tower, a famous Kili landmark, awaits us today at 15,000 feet. Upon arrival we plan on dinning for lunch in its ominous shadow. Our team is one of a kind, climbing alongside new individuals has been both encouraging and uplifting. Pray for us today that as mountain sickness starts to rumble and heads start to ache that God would intercede and refresh us as we continue the climb.

 

As always

 

-Coop-

 

Climb Day 3: Shira to Lava Tower to Baranco Camp

12,500-15,000-13,000 ft.

 

Sitting in the mess hall as the sun waves goodbye to day 4. Continuing to wonder whether this is all a dream or reality, but starting to be content with either. Getting a chance to hear people’s stories, encourage one another and dig into knowing Jesus more has started to change the direction of this trip.

 

Coolest story of the day: Jose (a climber and YL area director in Mozambique) who speaks Portuguese was able to share the gospel with our guide Ahim (who happens to speak Spanish), and through the Lords hand Ahim accepted Christ today. This thing is more than a climb. The mountain is unexplainably beautiful, but what will be taken home are the bits and pieces of each other that we get to laugh about, shake our heads at, and maybe even wish we never smelt.

 

     Today we ate lunch higher than any peak in the continental US, while looking at a view that I’ve only seen in mars exhibits. A tower of black lava towered over us encouraged us on forward. We camp tonight in the clouds and tomorrow push onward. Thanks for the prayers, keep em coming! Prayers for health and that we would all be open to experiencing God in new ways.

 

– Eyob Yirgau

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June 22
Climb for Change Day 5: The Climb Begins

Day 5: The Climb Begins

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Wow, what an incredible & jam packed first day we had! We woke up to a cloudy & damp day in Arusha with absolute eagerness to begin our first day on our Kilimanjaro adventure. We all packed into the bus with our 3 guides and made our way to the gate. As we approached the gate, we saw dozens of groups of strangers from around the world, waiting with excitement & uncertainty of what the next 7 days have in store. Our (very large) team was able to all sit at a table to share our first meal of our trek together, where we discussed our excitement, our fears, our hopes, & our prayers for our climbing adventure. The Lord has truly brought together a special crew for this trip filled with strong & devoted hearts to Christ.

 

We kicked off the climb trekking in gators & rain jackets because of the wet, rainforest type climate. It was truly amazing to witness the God breathed beauty that filled our view all 6 hours of our initial hike. We arrived at camp around 7:30 pm, filled with awe & wonder over the beauty that surrounded us. We have a view of the backside of the summit, with a sky coated with sparkling stars. Now that we’ve enjoyed our first dinner together, we have all tiredly wandered to our tents to enjoy our first night in our tents. Thank you all for covering this group in prayer! We could not thank you enough. God is so sovereign & glorious, we are filled with hope that He will guide us according to His perfect will. His presence will be our continued strength as we continue to explore His wondrous creation together.

 

Sending our love from Tanzania!

 

Always,

 

Laura Varberg


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June 21
YLA KILIMANJARO CLIMB FOR CHANGE

“Climb for Change” is a group affiliated with Young Life Expeditions​ in Africa.  We will strive to climb all 19,341 feet of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

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JOIN US: We are climbing to raise support for Young Life in a particular country (let’s call it Country X) in Africa. We are not seeking support for the cost of our trip. We are personally responsible for these costs.

 

JOIN US: To change a country. Each of us is passionate about Young Life in Country X. We are humbly asking you to join us as we each seek to raise $.50 cents per foot we climb over these six days.

 

JOIN US: How would you consider donating for us? Your support is tax-deductible and 100% will go directly to sponsoring Young Life in Country X. Click here to help us change a country.

 

 

DAY #1

 

WEEE MAAADDEE ITTT!!

 

After 20 hours of total flight time over the last 3 days, we are in Tanzania!

 

We arrived at around 12:00 PM (4AM Central) and made it through customs 2 hours later! Nevertheless, we had a blast. 

 

The day has been amazing ever since… From pizza to tave (some weird rice dish that looks like a sponge in tortilla form) to our first glimpse of camp, each event brought out group closer and closer together.

 

Tanzania is absolutely gorgeous. The land is rich in vegetation, abundant in hills and rocky features, and painted with green! Crazily enough, it is winter here!

 

Alexis and his staff are absolutely talented and love Jesus. They showed us around the camp, which we will be serving at tomorrow, and the camp far exceeded our expectations! It looked GREAT!

 

We watched the kids at camp play games, and felt refreshed at the amount of joy we saw. We are all exhausted, but excited to get started serving at camp. Please, pray that kids go from death to life as they meet Jesus for the first time.

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DAY #2

Today was our group’s first day at camp with the campers and African staff and work crew. It’s safe to say that everyone had a great time. After being allowed to sleep in and battle jet lag, we had breakfast together and then headed to camp.

 

Once there, we split up into 3 different groups to do some work crew activities. We had the kitchen crew, outdoor cleaning crew, and room and bathroom cleaning crew. Each of our groups was paired with some of the local work crew members so we could hang out get to know them and hear some of their stories. The local Young Life leaders are truly incredible. It’s great to see their serving hearts and be able to serve with them.

 

After that we all went into the dining hall and help to serve all the campers lunch. With lots of music and dancing involved, we all managed to make lunch fun. The campers sure enjoyed watching a bunch of Americans try and dance as well all them. Lots of entertainment that’s for sure.

 

After a late lunch for us, we sat and listened to one of the leaders here tell her story and how she was helping Young Life grow and impact kids lives here in Tanzania. It was great to see everyone truly moved by her story.

 

We followed that up with a great dinner and worship time back at the hotel. Everyone is really looking forward to the next few days at camp and spending some time with all the kids there.

 

~ Ben Pinkston

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DAY #3

 

This morning we were up early and rallied to try and make the last Young Life club for this group of campers in Arusha at the camp our crew has been serving at. For those who aren’t familiar, the last club at Young Life camp includes a time called “say-so” in which campers have an opportunity to stand up in representation of them “saying so” to following Jesus Christ for the first time in their lives. As some of us were still waking up from a long night of rest, God had been actively moving throughout the last few days in the hearts of these campers. Our team got to sneak in the back of the club room to listen in on the event. I was brought to tears as we witnessed over three-fourths (over 200) of the kids in the room stand up in proclamation of their newfound faith. I think for many of us this was a special moment. Witnessing God’s power and love halfway across the world is humbling and inspiring to say the least. It is such a blessing to be apart of what God is doing here and to see God visibly reveal why he has us doing Climb for Change.

 

After an enriching morning of observation, we were hard at work doing various jobs and serving with the African work crew. It was turnover day at camp, meaning one crew of campers headed home and another crew will be coming tomorrow. We ended our day with the annual Climb for Change football (soccer) game with team USA battling the Africans. Luck was on our side and somehow we took the victory.

 

We headed back to the hotel for dinner and another great night of worship. We also welcomed some new members to our team and got hear from some of the Young Life Africa staff who will be climbing with us. We look forward to our last day in Arusha and welcoming a new group of kids to their first day at camp and hopefully the best week of their lives!

 

– Trevor Carr


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DAY #4

 

Heyyo Friends!

 

Today was our last day before muddy trails, altitude, and extended fellowship on the mountain takes place.

 

As we made our way to the place where Young Life Arusha Camp happens, which eagerly awaited it’s second batch of Young Life Campers, we all were beaming with anticipation to see what it looked like to welcome hundreds of kids to a place where they would have fun and hear truth.

 

None of us, with the exception of those who came years prior, could have expected running after LOADS and LOADS of buses singing songs and getting the kids pumped for what would be the best week of their life.

 

The energy must have oozed onto every street in Tanzania because it was palpable and life giving.

 

At one point whilst setting up for lunch, as we had in the days leading up to this last day, we had to scramble to find more chairs and tables because there was a plethora of kids unexpected by the staff. This was a beautiful moment. Kind of like God saying “Let me mix things up a bit, hold tight…this will be GOOD.”

 

Tomorrow we embark on what is probably the hardest thing any of us have done physically and mentally. Spiritually it will challenge us all to not be ignorant to the One who climbs right next to each of us awaiting and invitation to break our hearts or mend them for Him.

 

Here is the prayer that we ask from you all: pray that in moments of complete disarray, when blisters and tempers run ramped, that we would be emotionally generous to each other. Secondly, pray that we would pray whole-heartedly. That each of us would genuinely invite the Holy Spirit to infiltrate our bodies and protect us with shields of truth.

 

Knowing there are people praying for us means more than a text could describe. We feel empowered and determined to get everyone’s booty up to the summit.

 

Thank you all for the prayer and support.

 

– Meredith McCarty

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April 24
Camp Sponsorship: Join the Movement. Change Lives. Impact Eternity!

An interview with Matt Santen, regional team leader for Kenya on the Young Life Africa/Middle East committee and pastor of River Ridge Church in Charleston, West Virginia. Since experiencing Young Life in Africa for the first time in 2008, Matt has fallen in love with the ministry. He has led four mission teams to Kenya and created a staff sponsorship through his church.

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Read more to learn about the Santen’s journey in camp sponsorship and how you can join the movement, change lives and impact eternity.

 

How did you first get involved in Young Life Africa/Middle East? What has this journey been like for you and your family?

 

We were first introduced to YL Africa in 2008.  We met some of the staff in Tanzania while on a vacation.  The following year I went back to Kenya and led a short-term mission trip.  In the years that followed two of my children went on short term trips and Stacy and I went on a committee retreat to Tanzania.

 

Why did you decide to sponsor a camp for Young Life Africa? Why did you choose Kenya?

 

We sponsored a camp in Africa because we believe in the mission of Young Life and we believe that God is on the move in a major way in Africa through Young Life. Camping is a huge part of kids coming to know Christ and we want to be part of what God is doing.  Sponsoring a camp was a natural outflow of the existing desires of our hearts. We chose Kenya because that is typically where we lead short-term mission trips from our church and so it is an extension of where we were already investing as a family and a church.

 

How has sponsoring a camp blessed you and your family? 

 

Sponsoring a camp is a blessing in that we get to see the fruit of our giving as kids give their lives to Jesus Christ. We were also able to see how God used a variety of people to fund the camp.

 

How has serving at camp in Kenya influenced your relationship with Jesus? Your family? Your church? 

 

Serving at a camp in Kenya has opened up our eyes to what it means to love people. We serve, but we learn so much about what it means to value relationships and what it means to be content with what the Lord provides and where peace comes from. 

 

Would you encourage others to sponsor a camp or visit Young Life in Africa/Middle East? Why or why not?

 

Although not everyone can go to a camp, sponsoring a camp is a great way to be part of what God is doing. Seeing the pictures from the camp we sponsored was a wonderful blessing. Actually going to the camp and seeing it happen was bonus blessing.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

 

Every time we take step of faith, God comes through. Sometimes the step is going. Sometimes the step is asking people to give.  Sometimes the step is sacrificial giving ourselves. Every time it is about the Lord’s provision.

 

The camp sponsorship campaign is happening until the end of September. We are expecting over 90,000 kids and leaders to be going to YL camp this summer in Africa/Middle East. Because of a generous match, for a limited time, you can sponsor an entire outreach camp for $7,500. You can choose to sponsor a camp on our website, or create a sponsorship team with a group of people.

Questions about camp sponsorship? Email alyssa@ylafrica.com


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April 17
West Africa Prayer Walk

By Zoe Larmey

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 It was the second-to-last day of our scouting trip in West Africa. And there we stood in the neighborhood of Kiowa Tawo, Niamey, Niger.


This area is specifically known for its crime, gangs, and poverty. It is also almost completely Islamic. If you looked around, you would have no idea you were in the biggest city in the country. It feels like you are in a vast desert village. Flat-roofed huts made of mud or palm branches are scattered about over a flat plain of orange sand. People pass either on rickety motorcycles or camels, and groups of teenagers sit around looking for something to do.

Now, we had come to this neighborhood to pray. Tiowa, our team leader and head of Young Life Mali, was convinced that if anywhere in the city, Kiowa Tawo was a place that needed Young Life.

We split up, Tiowa and our guide, Tazi, went one way while Mary and I went the other. The sun was setting and the Muslim call to prayer echoed in the background. Since we were warned to keep a low profile, we walked silently through the sand and prayed for the people of the neighborhood, most all Muslim, to find a friend in Jesus.

Mary used to be Muslim too. She grew up in a Muslim family in Bamako, Mali. Sadly, she was cut off from her family as a teenager when they learned she was pregnant, and she was forced to live on her own. One day, as a young single mother, Mary found her way into a church where she was touched by God's word and transformed. Now, she is an enthusiastic Young Life leader with a contagious laugh and a burning heart to reach Muslim girls and everybody else.

"Young Life is a great way to show them to Christ," she said, "Because it's about friendship. These children won't listen if the gospel is just preached to them, but over time, Young Life leaders can earn their trust, and the respect of their families too."

As we walked past groups of teenagers sitting idly in the sand she said, "These kids need Young Life." It could give them something to do. It could save them from a lot of trouble. It could change the whole community.

Our walk was almost over, and as I looked behind me a small crowd of kids were there, watching us attentively.

"See?" Mary said, "They're already following."




 

April 10
Adventure With Us: Come to the Table


By Claire O'Kelley​

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   This past winter I left the cold of the southeastern United States, flew across the ocean and landed in the muggy, hot and sticky weather of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I was on my way to take part in a large training that takes place annually at our Young Life Headquarters for Africa and the Middle East. For almost three full weeks, leaders from all over gather here to be with one another, to be with the Lord and to learn more about how to reach lost teens all across their continent. In this post, I wanted to share something that stood out to me during my time there.

 

If you walked through the gates of the Young Life Africa Training Center, crunched up the gravel driveway and peered in through the luscious tropical vegetation that covers the lawn, you would see a covered porch area that has many long tables set up, end to end creating a long table…much like something from a Dr. Seuss book, much like one I imagine waits for us in heaven.

 

This long table is set, carefully and methodically, every day. Each table cloth is laid perfectly, weights carefully clipped to the edges of the beautiful African fabric so that it doesn’t blow away. Each African textile is pieced together to match and to line up as it blankets the long banquet table stretching across the front door step of the beautiful house and training center. Bougainvilleas grow and wrap and dangle themselves, surrounding the table in a way that looks as if the plant is inviting you to take a seat. Chairs and benches are put into place. Salt and pepper set. Flowers displayed in vases. Jars of chilled water are set invitingly on the table. Plates are counted and placed perfectly, colors coordinating to the brightly colored table cloths.


It takes time to set this table.

Every evening, a South African staff woman, Rentia, lovingly puts every piece together with the kitchen staff. She makes sure it looks perfect for her friends to dine - every evening.

 

This reminds me of a night that is described in the gospels when Jesus sets a table for his best friends.

It probably isn’t historically accurate, but when I think of the story, I imagine Jesus sets out cushions, the most plush he can find, around a low sitting table. He lays down the most beautiful linens. Table cloths that are stitched and designed and dyed to the highest quality that is offered in Jerusalem those days.  Ornate textiles are placed and aromatic incense is burned. Olives and oils and delicious foods. A great loaf of freshly baked bread and the best wine.


Jesus invited his friends to sit, to relax, to enjoy.


I remember at one point in the evening, Jesus rose from the table and found a basin that He filled with water. He knelt down and washed each disciple’s feet. Dusty, dirty and probably smelly feet that had walked sandy roads of Jerusalem all day long. Jesus didn’t think twice about their filth. He didn’t hold his nose or his breath, He knelt in humility and served his friends.

He broke bread around the table that symbolized his body being broken for them. He poured the wine, symbolizing His blood, into glasses and gave it to them. He washed them. He lavished them. He offered them life and strength.

 

It was the same trip just a few months ago that one of our African staff Alexis Kwamy invited us to the table together to remember that night that Jesus set a table for friends.

 

Much like the table that Rentia sets every night, Alexis set the scene of this story of Jesus and His friends and honestly, it’s one I’ve heard more times than I can count. Although the story is familiar to me, the way that Alexis told it seemed fresh.

Alexis explained the symbolism of the bread and Jesus’ flesh that brings us strength. He said that the wine and Jesus’ blood represents life. Whenever we come together in communion, when we sit and relax and take time to be with one another around a table, it is representative of the LIFE and the STRENGTH that we are freely given in Jesus.

 

This Easter Season, as we celebrate the Holy Week, I invite you to gather around a table with the people the Lord has given you in your life, serve one another, humble yourselves before one another, break bread and think about the strength Jesus supplies. Remember the life you’ve been given, and celebrate the love He has lavished and continues to pour out on all of us.

 

Do you want to join the table with us at Young Life in Africa? Are you willing to go and adventure with us this summer? If you're interested in joining us in Tanzania for our retreat in July 2-7, email laurenedens@gmail.com for more details. ​


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