The Power of a Christian Education
“We saw over time that children began to fall in love with Jesus.”
Christian Schools can have great power in changing a community. But it can be complicated and one must be sensitive to the local context. In this article, Janet Helms and Bishop Qampicha share their experience in building Tumaini Academy in a Muslim majority region. You can learn more at their presentation at New Wineskins in September 2019.
KCEP (Kenya Christian Education Partnership) and the Diocese of Marsabit worked first on building Primary one and pre-school. We started with the youngest students.
When talking about Christianity to little children, we were careful to not criticize other religions. In fact we ministered to people of all faiths and talked of God’s love for all.
Children of all faiths could come to Tumaini Academy. Indeed, we had American sponsors who reached out and who asked to specifically sponsor Muslim children at Tumaini. This ensured that no children were discriminated against in any way.
We did not teach other faiths, even though the laws of Kenya request that. We never hid the fact that we were a Christian school. Parents knew this before they brought their children to Tumaini.
We then realized that these children began to meet Jesus within the walls of our school.
Great blessings abound and we saw over time that children began to fall in love with Jesus. Since Jesus is a prophet in Islam, we were careful to not get involved in debates of which faith is the “True” faith. Truth is something discerned in the hearts and spirits of individuals.
We also saw that these children who came to our school had the chance to avoid becoming radicalized. They began to see that love abounds in the Christian faith and from the lips of Jesus. Children in this region of Kenya are often taught that Christians are mean-spirited. Our students experienced the opposite.
Christian friendship was taught and shown by example through all grades. This is so natural when the children discover the nature and the presence of Jesus around them.
In order to expand horizons, we started a penpal program with a Christian elementary school in our area (outside of Pittsburgh). It was so rich for children both in the USA and in Kenya. They grew to love each other and wrote such loving letters. The Kenyan children drew such beautiful pictures of their flowers and animals. It was a joy for the American children to receive these letters. However, we did review letters before giving them to the children to look for anything which could be misinterpreted.
Through all of these things, the seed of the Gospel was planted in these young lives. Even if the children left our school at some point, we knew intrinsically they left embracing the values of our faith. We did not worry about that.
We never compromised on academics. Our school gave a quality and well-rounded education. Our children scored some of the highest marks in the national exams. As the children grew older and began to look for secondary schools, they found they had such an excellent foundation going to Tumaini. Indeed, they have continued to do well in secondary school. The parents have been very happy with the results… that speaks volumes!
We also addressed parental concerns about water. In this arid place, having a reliable source of water is important. We built masonry water tanks on the school grounds so that there would always be drinking water available no matter what the water situation in the broader community.
Part of being sensitive was being cautious. We did not engage in social media. We were VERY careful about what we put on our website. We realized our websites were read to look for anti-Islamic rhetoric. We never engaged in any negative comments about other faiths.
We committed to only hiring Christian teachers and staff. Prayer was our “secret weapon” for the good of the school, the children and the staff. Of course Bishop Qampicha was a loving and inspiring leader.
KCEP Board members and donors have visited Tumaini. Some multiple times! We have grown to love the children and for them, they now do not think of Americans in a negative way.
In summary, we believe the Holy Spirit led us in how we ran the school. Not that it is perfect, but it is a special place in this world!
From Bishop Qampicha Daniel Wario and
Janet Helms, Founders of Tumaini Academy