great email about a middle school ministry impacting africa

i’ve shared before how god worked in and through the middle school ministry at my church to change a community in africa. our kids set out to raise $3000 to build one house for a family of orphans. their goofy little variety show brought in $25,000 the first year. the money went to put in two clean-water wells. the next year, the church responded again with almost $35,000, and a health clinic was funded.

i shared this story at the national youth workers convention a couple times. and recently, i received this way-encouraging email from a middle school pastor, who agreed to let me post it here:

MarkO –

I’ve been meaning to send you a note for a while to say thanks. I’m a Jr. High minister and we were at the St. Louis Believe Conference last year. I had already heard your story about the impact the Jr. Highers at your church made in Africa and shared it with some of my students on Friday night, only to have you tell them all on Saturday. From that story, God sparked our own students to act.

Our story turned out much like yours. We got together and set an ambitious goal of $6,000 to build two wells in Africa (people, including our H.S. guy, later came to me and told me they thought there was no way we’d ever get close). We made “Just Add Water” our summer project and challenged our kids and their families to use their summers for something greater than themselves. Long story short, by the end of the summer we hit over $9,000. In the mean time, our church began a relationship with a ministry in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya and we were able to provide water (plus showers and toilets, which there are almost none of in the entire community of 100,000) for three schools in the slums of Nairobi.

My wife and I then used some airline miles to take a trip to visit and we were blown away. We came back and our church decided to make our adopted community in Nairobi our whole emphasis this Christmas. Our church set a goal of $60,000 (more than double our largest ever Christmas eve offering) and we went all out to help people connect our community of Springfield, IL with our adopted community in the Mathare Slums. In the end, God completely blew us away. God brought in over $130,000 from people in our community and even people from around the country who heard about what we were doing. It really was an incredible Christmas and a lot of it began last spring at a conference for Jr. High students.

God uses all kinds of things to change the world. I just wanted to thank you for allowing God to use your story to help spark our students and our church to do their part to change the world.

(We’ve got a few videos from our experience online – YouTube ID StudentExplosion. here’s the best one. I know you’ve got a lot going to don’t feel pressure to check it out. I just thought I’d let you know in case you’d like to see it.)


Chris Sandel
Jr. High Minister
West Side Christian Church

6 thoughts on “great email about a middle school ministry impacting africa”

  1. I’ve been following your blog for the last few months and I love it. It is a great combination of fun and challenging stuff. It was weird to wake up this morning and find my church up here in between Gilligan and r2d2 but it was fun suprise. It really has been an amazing year for our church and our students. Thanks again for sharing your stories.

  2. These kinds of stories are exactly why I am in youth ministry. Whend young people are really and truly caught by the Spirit of God – I really think they would storm the gates of hell without any reservation.

    It is so humbling to be used by God in this way!

    Way to go Chris! May God bless you, your group and every other youth leader who dreams of helping students change (REDEEM!!!) the world.

  3. Well, in reading this, I have to toot the horn of the group of 4th and 5th graders I work with at my church. We did a series on world missions and the kids had been saving for The Massai Project, an outreach to the Massai tribes of Kenya by Caleb Bislow of KBM. Those kids blew me away with what they raised (read this post to find out what they did), but their efforts encouraged our congregation to give a total of over $17,000 to this effort, blowing away our $10,000 goal. Even cooler, those young kids made an impact on my even younger son and daughter, which I posted about here. I agree that it’s exciting to be a part of seeing young people truly “get it” and get behind something like this, but as a dad, it’s even more rewarding to see those kids impact others, like my own children. Excellent job, Chris, and thanks Mark for sharing great stuff like this with us!

  4. I’ve been volunteering in Chris’ ministry for 4 years now, and let me tell you… Last summer was AMAZING (as was this past Christmas)… but watching Jr. High kids CHOOSE to do something meaningful with their summer rather than just hang out… I was blown away…

    Like Chris said, he and I had heard MarkO’s story before… but it took our students hearing it to really impact our entire ministry… I wish I had realized how much impact one or two or 20 Jr. High students can make when I was in Jr. High… So many missed years!

    These kids really do minister to me more than I can ever hope to minister to them and I thank God for them every day.

  5. Chris – that is awesome. You do a great job up there and you can really see God using you in Jr. High ministry. Keep challenging the one group of students that most people believe are just trouble and can do little that is good. You have proven that is not the case.

    Good stuff!

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