Children’s Ministry Among Refugees

In 2016, Yei Children’s Ministry worker Samuel Malish fled South Sudan for Uganda. He immediately began encouraging his fellow refugees, using his skills in training children’s ministry workers and parents. After ACROSS established its Uganda office, Samuel moved to Arua and the ACROSS Children’s Ministry project was up and running again!

Among other qualifications and wide experience, Samuel was a trainer in the Walking With Wounded Children (WWWC) course, which deals with trauma identification, the impact of trauma and ways to help traumatised children. Best practices include helping children tell their stories through play, listening actively, and responding with personal testimonies and Bible stories.

Below is a demonstration of a structured sandbox, an assessment tool to identify trauma in children through the use of play. The “toys” are simple paper cut-outs.

Refugee children, most of whom had fled in fear for their lives, were very much in need of this kind of help. Since 2017, Samuel has trained Sunday school teachers, not only to teach the Bible, but also to connect with children as friends and “walk with wounded children,” ministering 7-days-a-week.

Both in South Sudan and in Uganda, Samuel has often been asked by other organizations to train their staff. Most recently, in October and November 2021 he trained 25 children’s workers from Hope Rising, a ministry working in Imvepi refugee settlement, on the WWWC, phases 1 & 2. The trainees reached out to over 80 children within the refugee camp during the training.

Trainees are seen holding their training material, printed by ACROSS Media-SLC.

In 2018, Samuel added to his trauma-healing tools an approach called New Hope. The aim of the New Hope is multiplying healing to the wounded hearts. The theme is Genesis 50:20, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good so that many people can be saved.” Trainees learn by telling and acting out the Bible stories of Joseph, Creation, Jesus’s sufferings, and his healing the woman with an issue of blood. Small groups relate their experiences to those of people in the Bible, pray for each other and find healing. Trainees then share the process with friends and neighbours. Many Mother’s Union members have been empowered in their ministry to families. (For more on the impact of New Hope, see Samuel’s article “South Sudanese refugees find peace.”)

In September 2021, after discussion with a colleague who runs a “Sports-for-peace” project for youth, Samuel began training youth leaders. In October he ran two New Hope trainings reaching 17 youth in Rhino Camp. In their small groups, youth leaders discuss their heart wounds and prepare a healing activity to deal with the problems they experience.

By October, the youth reached out to 133 others in their neighbourhoods. Phase Two of the training is the Forgiveness Journey. Three adult groups did phase two in 2021, the youth should do the same soon.

Children’s Ministry is supported by tools from ACROSS Media: SLC prints training materials and books; audio recordings of Samuel training are put on DAPs. Samuel has also deployed large and small speakers. In October 2021, eleven New Hope workers (pictured) received mini speakers loaded with messages on Forgiveness Journey, discipleship of children and some sermons.

Using all these forms of audio media, the project aims to impact hurting families in the camps with a holistic ministry of trauma healing, positive parenting and social development so they may have healthy relationships, loving God and passing the love of God to children. Loud speakers (four purchased in 2020, and four in 2021) are now broadcasting  messages on the New Hope & Forgiveness Journey, discipleship of children, positive discipline, COVID-19 prevention and sermons for spiritual development, moving from village to village in the three zones of Imvepi Camp. The pastors operating the speakers estimated that over 1,400 people in Imvepi zones 2 and 3 listened to such messages in October 2021.

Workers with speakers deployed for ministry.

Children’s Ministry work in 2021 is targeting Imvepi settlement (while still monitoring the workers trained earlier in other places), and aims to reach all the children with the Word of God in the 3 zones. Samuel visits churches regularly and estimates that they are half-way to achieving this goal and that 70% of children’s ministry workers in this settlement have been trained. He also estimates that about 2/3 of families have been helped by New Hope workers and/or reached by audio messages on trauma, forgiveness, and parenting.

One challenge is that the motorbikes are old and break down often. The older bike, now three years old, has done 70,000 km, the other over 36,000 km, most of it on very rough roads and tracks.