Hands clasped and heads bowed, the two basketball teams prayed at center court. Suddenly, a loud Arabic chant erupted from the mosque across the street.
A few players from the visiting team glanced up. It was the first time they had ever heard the guttural Islamic "call to prayer." Several men sitting on the sidelines gathered their bottle of water for washing before prayers and headed to the mosque. Most opted to stay and watch the Americans play the local team, but mainly they wanted to hear why this group of youth visited the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
International World Changers (IWC) spread throughout the city in late July in an effort to "change the world" through Jesus Christ. More than 110 Southern Baptist youth from twenty states combined forces for this project through the international missions organization for youth, sponsored by the SBC International Mission Board. The teens did everything from hosting basketball and volleyball clinics, to working with street kids, to doing construction work.
Daniel Deblasio from Nashville, Tenn., couldn't believe that basketball provided such an opening for him to share the gospel.
"Basketball really paved the way," he said. "Before we play, we let them know that we want to be their friends and just build a relationship. Through that, I've had several ask me questions about God."
Deblasio and teammate Clayton Mauritzen from Longview, Texas, said they weren't exactly sure how to share the gospel with their Muslim peers, but God took all of those fears away. Person after person sat down with the Americans and asked questions about the Bible and their Christian beliefs. The pair shared their personal testimonies with the youth, who were mainly refugees from Somalia.
"They taught me about their religion and what the Koran thinks about Jesus Christ," Mauritzen said. "Then, I told them about my belief and how I believe that Christ is the only truth. I feel that just by talking with them like this, we planted some seeds with them."
Planting the seeds of change not only happened in the lives of Kenyans, but in individual World Changers' lives, too. Stacey Jackson, Paradise, Calif., and Heidi Bryan, Chico, Calif., say their lives will never be the same after this mission trip. They have seen God work in ways they never imagined.
"I've always known that there are people in the world who didn't have shoes or even food, but I've never seen it ... until now," Bryan said. "God opened my eyes to see people's needs, and those needs go way beyond physical comforts. I now see that God is always working."
Evidence of God's work for Bryan came with the street kids. Waking up at 5 a.m. would have most teens complaining, but not in this case. The early morning sessions were a must for the group to be able to find the boys all in one place and to talk to them before the boys got high on sniffing glue.
The first day of the project with the street kids ended with the group not finding any. Police had gone through the night before and arrested all of the kids to get them off the streets.
"The next day, there were kids. It was just amazing how God worked it all out," Bryan said. "These kids were really excited to see us and just to hang out. All they wanted was our attention and love. They definitely changed my life."
Jackson said the main thing she learned from the trip was how much she needed to depend on God for day-to-day matters. Being the only person from her church, Jackson was forced to jump out of her comfort zone from the very beginning and make new friends among the World Changers group before even stepping foot in Nairobi.
The California teen saw how the street kids lived without so much and then saw the same at a children's day camp later in the week. After working on a construction crew at the Baptist Bible School, she realized how much many of the students give up for the privilege of studying the Bible.
"No matter how much you have, God is the only One to rely on," Jackson said. "It doesn't matter if you are in Kenya or in the United States, God is the only One to rely on."
For information and registration for next year's projects, go to: www.thetask.org/youth/IWC or call 800/999-2889, ext. 1355.
2001 International World Changers Project Statistics
20+ People Groups
1,077 IWC Participants
100+ Local Volunteers
3,000+ Witnessing Opportunities
7,000+ Bibles Distributed
2,150+ Tracts Distributed
150+ Decisions for Christ