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Hallelujah!” he said from his microphone. “Amen,” some responded. “Hallelujah!” he said again, until all 500 responded with “Amen” and fixed their eyes upon him on the stage. And then he began to share the hope of Jesus with all of them in the auditorium.

Thomas, and two other leaders, go to this school once a week to share the gospel with as many as will listen, and that day it was about 500...more if you count the ones peering in from outside. He maximises his time with them. It is a blessing that the local government allows such an open sharing of the gospel in the schools and, as any Youth for Christ staff will tell you, you take advantage of that opportunity because things could change after the next election.

Thomas has three scars below each eye. They are solid black and purposeful. I asked him what they are and he explained the following: “Those are markings that I got as a baby so you know what tribe I am from. Small cuts are made by the tribal witchdoctor and then they are filled with ash.” He went on to share that the markings were because tribes had a history of bad actions and the scars served as a reminder to anyone who saw them so they would not forget past transgressions. Then, without prompting he immediately continued, “But now that I am Christian I care nothing about those past transgressions because of what Jesus did for me on the cross! I am free from that and thus my children do not get those markings!”

Thomas is not holding onto things that his tribe did generations ago. Jesus covers it all. It’s what propels him to go to schools, share his story and the hope he has in Jesus. We know there are many “Thomases” in Youth for Christ, those who take an opportunity to share to as many as possible because we never know when things will change and the opportunities disappear.
“Let’s dream big. Become content creators. Change the way we engage with young people throughout our continent.”

That was the goal established by the 20 people representing six countries at Youth for Christ International’s first Africa Digital Academy, in South Africa. Facilitated by Martin Ainsworth, this gathering represented some of the best and brightest talents in Youth for Christ in the Africa Area. They fundraised and saved to attend this academy because of the opportunity it presented.

“I would have to go to university to get this type of training,” said one attendee. “We have a chance to reach so many young people on so many levels if we start creating content and it catches their attention on their phones,” said Jules from Burundi. The academy was designed to be an intensive 5-day dive into all the technical aspects of digital content creation with a 12-month follow up plan for accountability and refining. “Little did anyone know that, two weeks after we took our group picture, 99% of our ministry would be evolving and online due to the quarantine,” remarked Ainsworth.

The lockdown has limited the amount of in-person ministry, which is what Youth for Christ is known for. Reaching young people through sports camps, studies, and public gatherings has shifted quickly to the world wide web, and this team was prepared! From Public Service Announcements about where to get help, to inspirational biblical readings, to video challenges to those with the access, to helping set up online churches in their local communities, the leaders who attended were ready and willing to share their gifts to keep the mission going. “We are not hitting pause, we are continuing on, just at a more rapid pace because we have no other choice. We are driven to create content for Instagram, TikTok, etc, but also focused on being so good at what we do in our respective countries that young people search us out online, and the reputation of Youth for Christ is improved locally, thus opening doors for more and more ministry to share Jesus,” said Sisa from Zimbabwe.

Ainsworth closed with this: “My sincerest prayer is that this fire is not quenched and that the current pandemic allows this team to reach as many as possible with the love of Jesus...and frankly, I think they are.”
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