Gerhard and Carmari Strobos, full-time staff members of Petra Institute, moved to Mwanza, Tanzania, in 2015 as part of a partnership between the institute and the Africa Inland Church, Tanzania (AICT).
The AICT and Petra Institute partnered as a result of the Advocacy Workshop that Petra Institute presented to the leadership of the church during August 2010. At the end of the workshop, the then archbishop of the AICT, Archbishop Silas Kezakubi, responded:
“We thank the Lord who through His plan made us know each other. We are getting so many benefits by working with Petra Institute. We pray that this relationship will continue to grow.
Allow me to say that children’s ministry remain to be the hope of our church.
We believe that by working with children, we are building a strong church and establishing His kingdom here on the earth. If we neglect the children in our programs, we are actually undermining the church. So, I ask you to help us with this big task of preparing these young men to be strong believers in the future.’’
Carmari writes, “The AICT has an enormous annual camp ministry that has been running for almost 70 years. Our first and chief focus since we moved here in 2015 has been to assist in compiling the programme for the annual weeklong camps that take place across the country every year. We focus on including relationship-building factors, teaching the Bible relevantly to the various age groups between 6 to 13 years, and making play and games part of the learning process. In the last two years, we have included a family element where we invite families to the Sunday services (closing service of the camps) where family-friendly, interactive services have been introduced.
Designing the programme with the national team representing all the regions countrywide is only a small part, as the main aim is training all the teachers that will be teaching at these camps. Between 1 500 – 2 000 teachers are teaching each year and since we cannot train them all, some teachers were equipped to equip others on different levels. Therefore, a selected group are trained as trainers of trainers.
Apart from the above, we are also doing advocacy on leadership level with bishops and pastors. Gerhard recently started training at the Bible schools, which is a big part of advocating for the very unique, focussed ministry on children which includes families. Ministry (with the AICT local team) to refugee camps and various children’s homes are new opportunities that crossed our paths and continue to do so the past three to five years.
Knowing the language and culture of the people you work with is crucial in gaining their trust and for them to understand what we teach. Gerhard and I are now able to speak the language, and so, even the children.
There are many testimonies of individuals such as pastors and older men who apply what they have learned with their children, grandchildren and kids of neighbours by playing with them and telling stories, and we see how they change. This is unique, as culturally, it is not fitting for older people to play with children.
The camp ministry changed from using visual aids in telling stories. Initially, teachers would spend hours colouring pictures for visual aids, and it also cost so much. However, after they saw how the trainers told stories and how the children enjoyed it, and how they bonded with the children, nobody used visual aids anymore, which saved a lot of time and money.
Over the past years, the camps have grown from around 12 000 children in 2015 to 27 000 children in 2019 that attended the camps countrywide.’’
Petra Institute: Training for multiplication
Petra Institute’s training focuses on multiplication – training trainers to train others. Through this, the AICT leaders have acquired many adult training skills that they use to train trainers to train others. Many of them are also involved in other ministries and NGOs where they put to use these skills with great success.
Active partnerships, both with churches and organisations that are working in the context of poverty, emergency, and persecution, are central to our model. We focus on building capacity for children’s ministry within partnerships with denominations or organisations. T
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