Are Young People the Key to Community Transformation?

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One of Tearfund’s corporate priority areas is church and community transformation—churches working to improve the holistic well-being of their communities. Normally, we expect this transformation to be facilitated by experienced church leaders. But what about children and young people? To what extent can God use them to transform their communities? It was this question that was on my mind after visiting and preaching at Chepkoton Girls’ High School in Kericho, Kenya.

The entrance to Chepkoton Girls’ High School in Kericho, Kenya.  
Photo: Sas Conradie

The first thing I saw when I woke up that Sunday—after a very difficult night fearing that insects would climb under the sheets into my bed—was a text message from Rev Walter Rutto, Kenya Chairman of the Transformational Compassion Network and Director of the Africa Gospel Church Compassion Ministries Department. He wanted to know if I could give an inspiring message at a girls’ school and then at a church. He said he would pick me up at 9am. That left me just under two hours to get out of bed, dress, grab a quick breakfast and then think what I was going to say to a group of 350 girls! 

When Walter and I arrived at the school, the girls were already waiting in the sun. The message that God gave me was a specific sentence in Luke 4:18: “He has sent me…to set the oppressed free.” 

God wants these girls, and other children from very poor backgrounds, to be freed from any oppression that binds them, whether it is bullying at school, psychological difficulties at home, or cultural systems that perpetuate injustice. 

The motto of the school is “Excellence every day”. God wants these girls to live out this daily excellence by being freed from everything that prevents them from being what he intends them to be.

But not only that, God wants these girls to live out their purpose, and in doing so, transform their communities. 

I praised God for the response; all the girls stood up and showed that they wanted to follow Jesus and excel in the dreams and plans God has for them. Afterward, one of the girls told me that she plans to work hard to reach her full potential, to help the poor students in the school, and to care for those who face difficulties and experience oppression.

The Bible is full of children and young people who have been set free from oppression and then set others free. Yes, children and young people can transform communities. It is not only the task of senior church leaders. Perhaps we need to acknowledge this more often.