I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s unacceptable. None of these children chose war. None of them. Most likely, very few if any of their parents chose war. Yet, the most vulnerable in our society, the ones that Jesus calls “blessed,” are the ones who are impacted by war the most.
This past December, I had the opportunity to share at a seminar at Urbana22, which was titled, “From Broken to Full.” B2TheWorld, the organization my wife and I co-founded, seeks to bring “fullness of life for every child impacted by war.” That’s a lofty goal, and one that we may not achieve in our lifetime, but that remains our north star.
We have four kids and they mean the world to us. Like most parents, we have deeply invested in their education for over 8.5 years. Over these years, we have lived in Rwanda, a country that over 28 years ago was deeply impacted by the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. Within this context, we have served in the education space as we serve at the Kigali International Community School. My wife is a teacher, and she’s remarkable and loves her students and helping them learn. I serve as the Director of the school, and I enjoy spending time with students. Seeing them smile, seeing them learn, seeing them wrestle and grapple with different challenges inspires me. I love creating an environment where they can learn. A safe place. A school where they are loved. A school where they love to be because they are valued. So, it’s with this backdrop, that we felt led to develop a high quantity of high quality schools in countries that are recovering from war.
The impacts of war on children are immense. Some examples of the realities that have affected the education of children in a few countries impacted by war are highlighted below.
Of the 86 million out-of-school children in the world, 22.8 million children between the ages of 5-16 are in Pakistan, while over 9,000 schools were completely or partially damaged by June 2022 in Ethiopia, leaving over 2.9 million children out of school. In Iraq, almost half of all schools need rehabilitation, and in Cameroon by 2018 an estimated 4000 Anglophone schools had been shuttered, depriving over 700,000 children of regular classes for over four years.
This is starkly contrasted to the challenges these children face regularly. In Pakistan, children are victims of exploitation, being forced into manual labor. In Afghanistan, 71% of children experience physical violence and more so, the girls whom the Taliban have outlawed from going to school past the sixth grade. Syria sees youths recruited into combat roles, while in Iraq anxiety isincreasing. SouthSudan's young people are being enlisted in armed forces and are often subject to sexual violence.
When I see this, my heart breaks. I want every child in every country to experience a transformative education as guided by Isaiah 61 where we are called to be agents of restoration as we represent Christ to the nations. When I read Isaiah 61, I see a picture of the prophet describing how God envisions moving lives from being broken to being full. It’s a beautiful picture of who Jesus is and how he can bring about restoration in the places we serve.
The text in verse 3b-4 says, “3b...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
As I shared with our friends at Urbana, I share with you also now. Would you consider these children, the plight of children in countries recovering from war, and would you let the Lord grow this burden in your hearts? If so, would you commit to the following:
- Pray daily for each of these children.
- Consider how you might be able to engage and impact the lives of these children.
- Consider supporting an organization that focuses on these children. In addition to some of the larger organizations that serve in this space like World Vision, here are a list of some smaller organizations that are doing great work in this space, in addition to our org, B2TheWorld.
a. Partners – www.partners.ngo
b. Justice Rising – www.justicerising.org
c. ELIC – www.elic.org
We should strive to move our children from brokenness to fullness. As Andy Crouch so poignantly observed:
It is undoubtedly true that violence and violation in one generation has tangible consequences in the next. We have evidence that severe stress and loss have epigenetic effects that can be passed on from parents to children, even if the traumatic experiences happened before the children were conceived…And yet this destructive effect has a fundamental half-life because every generation is born with a capacity for love, eyes wide open, looking for a face. (The Life We’re Looking For, pages 208-209).
Would you rise up with me and be the face, the hands and the feet of Jesus’ love that these children see and experience?