I smiled when I saw the message in my inbox. This was an email I’d been wanting all year. It came from African Enterprise in Malawi. I sped through the note and clicked on the attachment. Photos spilled out. In them, African men with suits and ties stand smiling. Officials exchange ceremonious handshakes. Students dressed in school uniforms sit attentively on the ground watching. Some pictures show men giving speeches, and others show them lined up to inspect the new building: a bathroom for the Phereni Primary School.
If you hear a whoop and holler from the Catacombs tonight, it will be WOW kids rejoicing. You see, heavy rains had made the previous mud brick outhouse collapse, leaving the 580 students who attend Phereni with literally nowhere to “go.” Worse, the 240 girls had no way to relieve themselves; many had just dropped out of school. Without a bathroom, the girls couldn’t get an education. For them, the Bible would have always been just squiggles on a page, so last summer the kids in WOW took on raising funds for the bathroom, partnering with fourth graders in Brussels to meet the goal.
Malawi has the distinction of being the poorest country in the world. Scarce money means getting the bathroom rebuilt was a really big deal—so big that a member of Parliament participated in the ceremony. His presence there was connected to what the kids at Tenth did. Wow!
If you’re new to Tenth, you might not know about WOW—that’s our nickname for OpenWide World, our summer evening program that exposes kids to God’s work around the world. Tonight we begin our tenth year of WOW and welcome children pre-K through grade 6.
We start with singing—but not the songs from Schola Cantorum or even the Trinity Hymnal. Instead we sing in Urdu, in Hebrew, in Twi, worshipping God with choruses learned from brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world.
The program that follows combines age-segregated classes with large group assemblies where we hear firsthand reports from visiting global partners. They tell about people hearing of Jesus for the first time, about desperate prayers and God’s answers, and about what it’s like to follow Jesus in places where church is illegal.
We want kids to come away convinced
- That God hears and answers prayer
- That God is actively drawing people from other religious traditions to himself
- That people and cultures are being transformed through the work of Jesus Christ
In short, we want them to know that God is doing something through Jesus in the world right now. The awareness of his active presence will give them confidence that Christianity is more than just a good story. And the only way to communicate that is to expose them to the testimony of real people who are staking their very lives on following Christ and who are finding him faithful.
This summer we will hear testimonies from partners working in Turkey, Kurdistan, China, India, and the Persian Gulf. We’ll also have the joy of sending the Kempen kids and their parents off to Ethiopia, and a former WOW leader to the Middle East.
But the Kempen kids won’t be the only ones with passports. We’ll be issuing them tonight to every kid who comes to WOW, and over the summer they’ll earn “passport stamps” by doing special things like reading missionary biographies, memorizing verses about God’s heart for “the nations,” or learning about other cultures. Generous donors insure that each passport stamp earns a dollar contribution to our special summer project—like last year’s toilet for the primary school in Malawi.
Over the years the projects have ranged from kids’ Bible clubs in rural Egypt, to mattresses for orphans in Liberia, to Bibles in Urdu for Pakistani children, to a bakery oven for the children’s home in Colombia. This year we’ll be aiding refugee children from Syria. It’s astounding when you think about it: God uses those kids rushing down the stairs on a summer evening to do significant things.
Really that’s part of what we want kids to understand: God is at work in the world. He is the one bringing salvation, but he is pleased to use us for bit parts. Like the boy with the lunch of fish and bread, we obediently bring our humble offering to Jesus, and he blesses and multiplies it. Wow!