The people of East Africa have experienced a widespread revival over the last few decades. Millions are coming to a basic belief in the Gospel of Christ, but as popular Christianity swells, so do the destructive habits of nominal religion. Many local leaders believe that the next generation needs better preparation to lead the rapidly-growing East African church into long-term, stable, and thriving faith.
The greatest hindrance to any local leader or missionary who wants to bring such training to East Africa is the widespread illiteracy of its youngest peoples. In January, 2010, our founders Rob Hoskins and Duane Mellor travelled to East Africa for strategic planning meetings in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, to discover how they could meet these needs with sensitivity and effectiveness.
Duane and Rob met with many ministers, children, ministry directors, NGO representatives, and denominational leaders. All of them confirmed that there was little being done to plant and strengthen faith among primary students in school, church, or at home. They were excited about developing a metanarrative, visually-based, parent-child book with accompanying manuals for Sunday school teachers and school club patrons. They also wanted to establish robust training programs for this curriculum in order to train parents and Sunday school teachers, and to start primary Scripture Union and church-based clubs.
In response to this need, OneHope sent a small team of interns to help develop the Stories of Hope program, by creating a visually arresting, culturally-appropriate educational product for East African children. They interviewed hundreds of students, church leaders, and educators, developing their prototypes based the input, and tested the them in Uganda, in October of 2010.
Since then, our ministry has grown into a thriving, widely-used resource that is teaching thousands of school children the fundamentals of strong faith, and instilling literacy in them at the same time. We are now poised to spread this exciting, rigorous ministry into the whole of East Africa.
Stories of Hope is specifically targeted to reach illiterate young people in East Africa with the story of the Gospel.
Based on detailed research and strategic planning, our classes and materials are designed to meet children in Uganda and other East African countries exactly where they are. Our eighteen-month, weekly program teaches participants about absolute truth, integrity, the identity of God, sexual purity, and healthy families.
The children who participate in Stories of Hope will learn to communicate "God’s Big Story," and to articulate Biblical responses to relevant cultural issues. The children and their parents will be encouraged to engage in increasingly meaningful communication at home, and the children’s workers we train will be equipped for effective ministry.
Our materials and classes are uniquely suited to reach illiterate children in a welcoming and sensible way. We know that accepting the Gospel is about more than an emotional epiphany or intellectual consent–it is about learning your place in God's Big Story, and Stories of Hope gives just such a narrative to each child's life.
Questions & Answers
What is the ultimate vision and dream of your ministry?
Our dream is to reach every child in East Africa with clear, relevant expression of the Christian narrative which will foster community, communication, commitment, and growth.
How did you initially design and develop this program?
We conducted detailed research on a massive scale in the areas we hoped to reach, and met with local leaders in the church and surrounding communities. Once were were acquainted with their needs, we designed an energized and rigorous program that was perfectly suited to meet those needs, and which could be calibrated to suit every subcultural milieu.
How do you know it is working?
We conduct detailed follow-up research in each of the areas where Stories of Hope is taught, and meet with the volunteers and leaders who are administering it, adapting our materials according to their feedback.
How would you like to see it improve and grow?
Right now, Stories of Hope's pilot program is flourishing in Uganda, but we would like to adapt our materials and expand the ministry to the whole of East Africa.
What recommendations would you have for someone doing a similar ministry?
Begin with detailed research. A ministry can only meet a community's needs if it has a thorough knowledge of them, gained from both statistical data and the experience of the local leadership.
For posts on the state of children and youth ministry in Kenya, click here!
To learn more about children and youth ministry in Tanzania, check out our Asset Mapping Report here, conducted through OneHope!