What is a white guy from Cleveland, Tennessee, doing in a place like Africa? Since going on a summer missions trip as a teenager, my sensitivity and love for the nations have come naturally and unfailingly. My ministry in Africa began about six years ago, primarily in the form of raising money for orphanages and building ministry centers on the continent.
My heart for the people of Africa has bloomed. My aspiration was to see if I might do more to build up youth ministry, youth leaders, and the next generation of leaders on this massive continent. Imagine this: More than half a billion youth and children in Africa are under the age of 20!
The doors quickly opened and Church of God field director in Africa, Peter Thomas, and the Africa Council invited me to help train youth, youth leaders, and pastors to minister to the current and next generation. I have already trained leaders in over 35 nations so far. Church of God World Missions appointed me “Youth Ministry Coordinator of Africa” at the 2016 General Assembly. (This role is currently voluntary and in addition to my current position as the Global Youth Leadership Coordinator with Youth and Discipleship.)
The needs of youth in Africa are significant. Poverty, disease, lack of education, crime, Islam’s goal of continental domination, war, famine, and lack of economic opportunity stare the average African teenager in the face almost daily. To summarize, African youth need one thing—they need hope! Much like Peter and John, we may not have silver and gold to share, but what we have we will share … we have hope in Jesus Christ.
Rwanda was ravaged by genocide less than 25 years ago, and more than one million people died in less than 90 days. The parents, siblings, and grandparents of one Rwandan boy named “Innocent,” were all murdered in just moments. Innocent survived by hiding in the bush. His whole family was gone; everyone was gone. Innocent told me, “I was like a walking dead man. I was alive on the outside, but completely dead on the inside.” However, someone shared the Gospel with Innocent and everything changed. Innocent expressed: “From that very moment when I first met Jesus, He gave me peace. I have had peace every single day since then.” Innocent now pastors a growing congregation for the Church of God in Kigali, Rwanda. Jesus brings hope!
The vision and strategy of “Youth Ministry Africa” was jointly developed and shaped with me by a team of key leaders from four regions of the continent. We identified our Top Five Priorities which include:
- Training Youth Leaders
- Providing Resources
- Effective Communication
- Building Trust and Relationships
- Developing Financial Sustainability
I am grateful for the faithful hand of God upon my life; I certainly don’t deserve it. I don’t have a clue what I am doing, but God does. I am grateful for open doors and the leading of the Holy Spirit. My heart is full.
The opportunity, motivation, and incentive is clear … there are at least half a billion living, breathing, reasons to take action! What an amazing harvest and astounding opportunity.
—Randall Parris / Africa Youth Ministries Coordinator