Sunday, 23 September 2018

C Columns

Started by Friends Expansion International: Making Disciples

By  Lauren Phillips

Scholarship  Conference  2018:  A  scholarship  program  is  held  annually  for  youth  in  Kenya.  Expansion  International's  sister  organization,  Expansion  International  Africa,  organizes  an  annual  conference  for  those  in  the  program.  Just  this  past  April,  a  record-setting  number  of  young  Kenyans  attended  the  conference.  (Photo  provided  by  Expansion  International)

“You,  then,  are  to  go  and  make  disciples  of  all  the  nations  and  baptize  them  in  the  name  of  the  Father  and  of  the  Son  and  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  Teach  them  to  observe  all  that  I  have  commanded  you  and,  remember,  I  am  with  you  always,  even  to  the  end  of  the  world.”  —  Matthew  28:19-20  (J.B.  Phillips  translation)

Expansion  International  (EI)  dreams  big  because  its  God  is  big.  What  began  simply  with  a  few  friends  from  a  local  church  venturing  to  Kenya  on  a  mission  trip  has  expanded  to  meet  the  needs  of  the  marginalized  in  seven  regions  of  Kenya  in  a  variety  of  ways.  While  each  locale  faces  different  challenges,  Expansion’s  mission  remains  the  same:  transforming  communities  through  the  love  of  Christ.  Based  in  Boise,  EI  became  a  501(c)(3)  in  2009.  The  nonprofit  organized  a  board  of  directors,  hired  a  small  staff,  and  welcomed  volunteers  representing  many  churches  across  the  Treasure  Valley  and  beyond  into  this  beautiful  cross-cultural  ministry.

EI  is  all  about  partnerships.  By  developing  relationships  with  local  community  leaders  in  Kenya  and  partnering  with  Christian  organizations  and  donors,  EI  provides  spiritual  enrichment,  educational  opportunities,  healthy  living  conditions,  and  economic  development  to  help  transform  people’s  lives  forChrist.  It  conducts  annual  mobile  medical  clinics,  constructs  homes  for  internally  displaced  persons,  provides  access  to  clean  water,  builds  medical  facilities,  offers  micro-financing  and  job  training,  and  provides  high  school  scholarships  for  teens,  among  other  life-altering  things  —  all  in  the  name  of  Jesus  Christ.

“Forty-four  percent  of  Kenya’s  population  of  45  million  are  under  the  age  of  15,  and  64  percent  are  under  the  age  of  25,”  explains  Dr.  Evans  Baiya,  a  founding  member  and  president  of  EI.  He  believes  wholeheartedly  that  if  EI’s  goal  is  to  transform  the  nation  for  Christ,  “We  should  work  on  impacting  the  youth.  From  a  macro-level  of  transformational  impact,  youth  are  the  least  evangelized  group  in  Africa.  Young  people  are  important  for  us  to  invest  our  heart,  effort,  and  money  into  as  we  move  toward  our  shared  future.”  

Because  of  this  goal  of  making  disciples,  Expansion  is  providing  hope  to  Kenya’s  youth  through  education.

Believing  that  all  children  should  have  the  opportunity  to  flourish  in  their  God-given  gifts,  EI  developed  a  High  School  Scholarship  Program  where  at-risk  teens  from  impoverished  families  are  empowered  to  stay  in  school.  “Urban  migration  is  a  growing  problem  in  Kenya,”  explains  Baiya.  Over  60  percent  of  the  population  of  Nairobi  live  in  slums,  where  dreams  of  the  young  quickly  become  nightmares.  Children  who  could  be  learning  to  contribute  to  the  future  of  their  nation  find  themselves  vulnerable  to  sex  trafficking,  teen  pregnancy,  drug  addiction,  and  hopelessness.  

Jeanette  Johnson,  a  retired  high  school  teacher  and  director  of  Expansion’s  Education  Program,  was  moved  by  the  need  she  witnessed  while  on  a  medical  mission  outreach.  “The  vulnerability  of  young  teens  due  to  poverty  and  lack  of  opportunity  creates  a  desperate  situation  when  education  is  not  an  option,”  she  says.  

EI’s  scholarship  program  fills  a  gap  in  Kenya’s  educational  system.  Though  the  government  currently  provides  public  education  through  8th  grade  and  is  making  strides  to  include  high  school, many  students  drop  out  as  fees  increase  at  the  secondary  level.  “On  applications,  I’ve  seen  families  list  their  net  worth  as  the  cooking  utensils  they  own.  If  there  is  not  enough  food,  it’s  just  not  an  option  to  send  their  kids  to  school,”  says  Johnson.  

“We’ve  found  that  education  and  discipleship  give  these  amazing  kids  direction.  It  keeps  them  off  the  streets  and  from  feeling  hopeless.  God’s  love  changes  all  of  that,”  says  Danielle  Moceri,  EI’s  scholarship  program  coordinator.  Currently,  Expansion  has  148  teens  enrolled,  with  many  more  on  the  waiting  list.

EI  also  offers  a  matching  program  called  “2  Mustard  Seeds”  that  provides  a  matching  scholarship  forevery  teen  supported  by  local  Kenyan  PEFA  (Pentecostal  Evangelistic  Fellowship  of  Africa)  churches  and  two  children’s  homes.  The  “2  Mustard  Seeds”  program  not  only  provides  for  twice  as  many  children  to  attend  school,  it  encourages  the  local  church  (in  Kenya)  to  invest  in  its  own  community.  To  help  fund  this,  Expansion  holds  a  three-day  consignment  sale  in  Eagle,  Idaho,  where  people  from  the  surrounding  area  come  to  shop  for  'gently  loved'  clothing  and  household  furnishings.  The  proceeds  fund  these  matching  scholarships.

“One  of  our  graduates  told  us  that  while  she  was  going  to  school  through  our  program,  her  friends  thought  she  was  rich  because  she  never  missed  school,”  recalls  Johnson.  In  Kenya,  when  a  family  is  unable  to  pay  school  fees,  children  are  forced  to  leave,  sometimes  for  a  day,  a  week,  or  many  months.  Some  go  to  work  to  raise  the  money  to  return,  and  when  they  do,  they  must  catch  up.  Oftentimes,  this  issimply  too  difficult.

“Once,  on  a  mission  trip  to  Mombasa,  our  interpreter  explained  that  when  he  was  little,  he  would  hide  from  the  headmaster  so  he  wouldn’t  get  sent  home.  As  a  teacher,  that  was  definitely  the  first  time  I’d  ever  heard  of  a  student  hiding  to  stay  in  school!”  says  Johnson.  “These  children  want  to  be  there.”

Expansion’s  sister  organization,  Expansion  International  Africa  (EIA),  organizes  an  annual  conference  for  those  in  the  scholarship  program.  EIA’s  director,  Edith  Njenga,  coordinates  all  of  the  speakers,  teachers,  career  counsellors,  professors,  and  pastors  to  teach  at  the  three-day  conference.  Thisconference  is  a  very  special  event  for  these  young  adults,  many  of  whom  have  never  left  their  village.  “It’s  a  time  set  aside  for  young  people  to  meet  others  like  themselves  from  different  tribes  and  communities.  They  come  to  find  that  they  are  not  alone  in  their  struggles  and  that  God  wants  to  use  them  right  now,  right  where  they  are,  to  create  positive  change  in  their  lives  and  their  world.  It’s  something  they  look  forward  to  every  year,”  says  Moceri.

This  past  April  was  the  largest  conference  yet,  with  127  in  attendance.  The  theme,  “Prepare  for  Action,”  was  taken  from  1  Peter  1:13-16.  Four  team  members  from  the  U.S.,  including  Johnson  and  Moceri,  along  with  other  guests  from  around  Kenya,  were  this  year’s  speakers.  They  talked  about  the  importance  of  being  people  of  integrity  and  godly  character  while  living  a  holy  life;  of  relationships  and  how  to  handle  peer  pressure;  steering  clear  of  drug  and  alcohol  addiction;  and  living  a  life  of  self-discipline  and  academic  excellence.

Johnson  remembers  attending  the  first  scholarship  conference  in  2013,  where  70  teens  attended  fromfour  communities:  “I  was  wondering  how  the  speakers  were  going  to  bring  the  Hope  of  Christ  into  topics  like  study  habits  and  personal  hygiene,  but  in  every  session,  the  message  of  God’s  love  was  interwoven.  Everything  was  totally  about  God  and  what  He  thought  of  them!”  Eighteen  young  people  gave  their  lives  to  the  Lord  that  year.

“Our  kids  are  so  thankful.  They  know  they  are  the  fortunate  ones.  But  more  than  that,  they  are  finding  out  about  their  identity  in  Christ  and  how  to  pursue  the  plan  God  has  for  them.  We  remind  themthat  God  sees  their  worth  and  loves  them  so  very  much.  I  see  so  much  potential  to  affect  change  for  God  and  for  their  nation,”  says  Johnson.

When  asked  what  she  hopes  for  these  teens,  Johnson  says,  “Oh,  for  them  to  see  the  possibilities  in  their  life!  If  they  can  see  it,  I  know  they  will  go  for  it  and  fulfill  the  dreams  God  has  for  them.  You  know,  when  I  was  young  my  father  would  tell  us  (11  kids)  that  we  could  be  anything  we  wanted.  We  were  encouraged  to  hope,  dream,  and  achieve.  I  want  our  kids  to  have  the  same  opportunity;  I  want  them  to  have  open  hearts  and  minds  to  seek  whatever  God  has  for  them;  I  want  them  to  know  they  can  be  successful;  I  want  those  that  desire  to  go  to  university  to  do  so;  and  I  want  them  to  know  that  their  relationship  with  God  is  above  everything  else  in  their  lives.

“I  also  know  that  this  scholarship  program  is  a  blessing  for  our  sponsors  here  at  home;  they  play  a  part  in  changing  someone  else’s  life.  They  pray  for  their  teens  and  have  the  opportunity  to  interact  and  encourage  them  through  letters.”

Moceri,  who  receives  then  sends  these  letters  on  to  sponsors  says,  “Our  kids  always  write  back  and  tell  us  that  they  are  praying  for  us  and  asking  God  to  bless  us!  They  say  things  like,  'I  know  not  everyone  can  give,  so  thank  you,  and  I  hope  I  can  give  back  to  my  community  as  you’ve  given  to  me.'They  definitely  do  not  take  for  granted  the  privilege  they’ve  been  given  to  go  to  school  through  our  program.”  

Lauren  Phillips  is  the  executive  director  of  Expansion  International.  To  join  EI  in  making  disciples  in  Kenya,  contact  Danielle  Moceri  at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The  public  is  invited  to  shop  this  year’s  2  Mustard  Seeds  consignment  sale,  which  raises  proceeds  for  matching  scholarships.  Go  to www.2mustardseeds.org for  more  information.  To  find  out  more  about  joining  a  mission  trip,  visit www.expansioninternational.org

 

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