By Pat Franklin
Many children in remote parts of Ghana face a trial by fire which often results in their death. Villages have a sort of kiln, like a brick kiln, a furnace, which is stoked up, and the children are made to remain inside for a time as a coming-of-age initiation ritual. Those who survive the ordeal are considered special children, protected by spirits. Now a Christian non-profit ministry called Children in Christ (CIC) is having great success in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ into these villages, which by God’s grace has stopped this evil practice in some villages.
As a result of this transformational witness, more villages in Ghana are coming to Children in Christ and asking them to bring this same ministry of hope to their villages.
I learned of this from Mrs. Jennifer Merryman, who serves Children in Christ as a pro bono CEO, and lives in Tanzania, Africa, full time with her husband, Adrian, and family of three children.
CIC is a US-registered 501C3 ministry, founded in 1997, which ministers in 20 countries across the Sub-Saharan region of Africa. The ministry focuses on reaching and maturing children in Christ, so that those children can lead others in Christ. Over 260,000 children have been reached in 2014 with CIC Clubs that provide weekly discipleship, Bible study, worship, prayer and games for children who come from some of the most unreached people groups in the world.
CIC helps inspire and also equip the local church to do this outreach CIC Club ministry in their own countries, as indigenous volunteers. CIC has found that this bottom-up (children’s) ministry opens far more doors and softens hearts in the most resistant people groups than top-down missions (adult-to-adult).
It also has found that indigenous local ministry volunteers from local churches and community know the context, culture, language far better than outsiders, and this ensures incredible fruitfulness and effectiveness in the ministry. And the fact that CIC has 18,700 dedicated and loving volunteers to do this ministry helps ensure broad scale cost efficiency, capacity to grow according to the people God raises up and sustainability in reaching so many for Christ.
Jennifer and their daughter Anna visited the fellowship we attend in England and told me the horrifying story of the furnaces and what happens in parts of Africa– and the inspiring news of thousands accepting the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Over 60,000 children received Christ last year and thus far 53,000 have received Christ this year through this ministry – all by God’s grace. When the Light of the World comes in, the darkness must go – and the horrible furnaces too!
The fiery ritual is part of ‘animist’ or ‘ancestral worship’ religion presided over by witch doctors. Traditional ancestral worship and Islam exist side by side, along with some Christianity as well, in the Sub-Saharan region. This makes it a unique and fertile place for ministry, despite the dangers.
Jennifer explained that even when some regions do have a few churches, these churches often have virtually no children’s ministry at all. The children usually attend church with their parents, and if they misbehave, it is the norm for them to be beaten. Most African churches focus on adults and children are left to go play in the street or dirt or keep themselves busy.
But CIC, serving as a non-denominational ministry, teaches indigenous pastors that children need ministry and teaching just as much as the parents. Children are 50% of the population in Africa too! She said that some pastors weep when they realize how the children had been ignored because they were not deemed important in the culture, and how much Jesus loves them and calls the Church to minister to all. CIC finds that wherever they go they find local churches willing to volunteer good people with a heart for children who are very willing to step forward and run CIC Clubs to reach unreached children for Christ in remote villages.
Their vision is to reach people who have never heard the gospel, particularly in outlying areas. Jennifer said they had the ideal of reaching the four corners of these challenging countries – the furthest places and the hardest to get to. CIC seeks to go where western missionaries cannot. Indigenous ministry leaders can go where it is too dangerous for others to enter, because they slip under the radar. All of the countries CIC ministers in have tribal conflicts, war, terrorism, intense poverty, AIDS, and other significant threats to children and ministry workers.
Jennifer said that children often write testimonies that they are astounded when they learn in Genesis that they are made in God’s image, and that God actually loves them! The gospel changes them and their parents notice the change – the better behavior, the love*.
Then, she said, the parents come and want to find out what their children are learning, and they want to learn too. There are many testimonies of families coming to Christ through these dear children. The seeds of the gospel are landing in good soil across Africa! Many souls are being added to the Lord’s great family. Not only children, but whole families.
Here are some testimonies from people who wrote to CIC in recent months:
I am a Missionary from Cameroon and I have spent six months in Mali. I was asking God how I can start reaching the unreached in this region. One day when I visited CIC Club in *** (a town), my eyes were really opened. I saw how the CIC mentor was ministering to the kids and I saw the impact of CIC in this Muslim-dominated community. Not only the children have gained her trust, but also the parents. And I believe some of the parents will give their lives to Christ through their children.
Pastor Koda Salomon, Norwegian Mission in Mali
”Blessed is the day CIC came to this village . . . I was afraid CIC would not last because many churches had come to our village but they end up running, leaving their things behind with reason that they are being haunted by spiritual forces and we experienced this several times . . . .But CIC is unique among the organizations and churches – it has come to our village with the message of salvation. CIC for sometime now has changed the situation we used to find ourselves in. Our children are doing well beyond imagination. We used to feel that our village is engulfed by spiritual forces but since the existence of CIC we have not experienced such things in our life,”
Chief of Soriene, Leo, Burkina Faso
It is my joy to see children following Christ with all their heart through CIC. My gratitude goes to CIC for standing with the body of Christ here to reach children with the word of God. We have never received such ministry. I also thank my fellow pastors who are cooperating with CIC. I see increases in few years to come in every church and a big change in this nation. Therefore, I am appealing to you parents . . .to allow your children to come to CIC Club but also for you to be agents who will go out of this place and challenge others . . ..”
Abriham Vumaiku, Pastor,Moyo,Uganda
“I came from a Muslim family, Fullah by tribe. I came to know about CIC when I enrolled in school two years ago, Every Wednesday we meet for CIC Club . . . . The first day I attended the club we were told a story about Adam and Eve which happens to be my best story even in the Quran, But this time when our teacher was telling us the story, this is the first time I deeply understood why God created man and I got to know who God is and His true love to mankind. . . .After this day I experienced peace, joy and happiness in my life. . . . I decided to join the child leaders group to be part of the praise team. Now I can sing Christian songs, pray in Jesus’ Name even for my parents without hesitation and also improved in my academic performance. Finally I decided to give my life to Jesus as my Lord and savior. I experience peace anytime I read the Bible that was given to me by CIC. . . .my Bible always is in my bag even when going to school. I thank God for CIC for letting me know the true love of God.”
***, Age 12 West Coast Region, Gambia (name and details withheld to protect this child)
Below are the contact details if anyone would like to join with CIC in this wonderful work. They are a faith-based funded ministry.
Children In Christ
330 Franklin Road
Brentwood, TN 37027-3282
Jennifer Merryman, Chief Executive Officer,
Phone (Tanzania) +255 683 228 338
+255 768 909 176
(USA) 508 265 7002
- Footnote: One thing I (Pat) realized when I read through the Koran: there is no love in Islam. And there is really no way in Islam that your sins can be forgiven. But Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all those who would put their trust in Him. There is no other way sins can be wiped out except by coming to Jesus and accepting Him as your Savior. He took all our sins on Himself on the cross of Calvary, but His sacrifice will do you no good unless you accept it and put your faith in Him.
- A good prayer: Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. Please forgive my sins (name them). I believe that You died as a sacrifice for my sins on the cross ofCalvary. Please make me one of Your people!