by Amanda Brady
Children’s Pastor, Amanda Brady is a guest writer for INCM.
Karen Rhodes and her husband David, the Founders of Kidz Konnect 4 Jesus, know the impact of bold discipleship. They have seen lives changed through their work with the children in Belize, Central America. Their mission field is huge with 52% of the population there under the age of 18. Their journey to Belize began about eight years ago when Karen was a children’s minister and felt God leading her to go on an international mission trip. She wanted to go where they could communicate with the people and where they could do some sailing. God drew them to Belize, which is the only English speaking country in Central America as well as home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. Four days into their trip, God broke her heart for the people there. They returned to the states but travelled back and forth to Belize at every available opportunity over the next five years. She knew God was calling them to minister there, but she didn’t know how or what they were supposed to do there. A turning point came when she realized that there was no formal ministry reaching the children in Belize. The Baptist association was the only organized group there, and they called on her to be the spiritual leader to the children. This opportunity opened up the door for them to go into every Baptist sponsored school across Belize. Their story is a perfect example of how God’s plans are bigger than ours – they started out praying God would give them a village, but He ended up giving them the entire country!
Kidz Konnect 4 Jesus develops ongoing relationships with kids through programs in the schools and churches in Belize. They create long-term partnerships by pairing families from churches in the United States with schools in Belize. Last year, over 300 people came to serve in Belize – 119 of those were kids! They minister to 1200 children on a daily basis. In addition to their programs in the schools, medical teams come every 90 days to serve in their health clinic. They also have a summer camp that 1000 kids attended last year and they hope to double that number this year. These ministries are possible through partnerships they have developed with groups and churches. Karen states that they determine needs the way Jesus did. They go in and get to know the people and see what their needs are and what they are facing. For example, human trafficking and child slave labor are huge issues in Belize so they have developed programs to help those who are at risk of those things. They offer CNA (nursing) classes for women opening up job opportunities for them. They have also partnered with a technical high school and give scholarships to kids so they can continue their education and learn a trade. These scholarships are given to students who are leaders and who love the Lord. These kids are the ones that they invest in and are raising up to be spiritual leaders.
We must teach kids discipleship from an early age. Kids that are brought up learning to disciple and be on mission become adults who disciple and are on mission. We can offer kids opportunities for discipleship as early as preschool. Prayer and sacrifice are ways that kids can become involved early on. Families do not have to travel to a foreign country to disciple others. Often we make ministry hard when it doesn’t have to be. They can serve together in their church and get involved in missions in their own neighborhood and community. We must teach families to model Jesus to others, but we have to be willing to step outside of the walls of the church and our homes to do that. Consider whom you have made a connection with in the past and be willing to meet them where they are. We cannot expect them to come through the doors of our churches on their own because usually they won’t. We have to show people that they matter.
We get to see lives changed when we are willing to be bold disciples and serve others. Karen shared two stories that are examples of this. First, there is a church in Alabama that is partnered with a school in Belize. When the children in Belize heard about the tornados that came through Alabama recently, they took up a donation. They collected what little bit they could – it didn’t even amount to $1. They asked her to send that money to their friends in Alabama because they didn’t want their friends to know what it was like to be without. Rather than being consumed with their own poverty, those children in Belize have learned to place the needs of others before their own. When we serve others, our lives are changed as well as theirs.
The second story is about a boy and his marbles. In Belize, marbles are a huge deal for the kids. Kids that are fortunate enough to have them can trade them for other things. A boy from Belize gave all of his marbles to a new friend who was visiting from the states that had never seen marbles before. When that little boy got back home, he told his church how this boy had given him everything he owned – it would have been like him giving away his Xbox, his bed, everything. By serving the children in Belize, this little boy learned what true sacrifice looked like. The next week a bag of marbles was placed in the offering for the boy to take back to his friend in Belize.
Our calling is simple: Love God. Love Others. Serve. God asks some of us to go to a foreign land, but He asks all of us to make disciples. What are you going to do right where God has planted you?
For more information on Kids Konnect 4 Jesus visit their website at www.kidskonnect4jesus.org.