Our big God adventure: Episode 9 – How our small playgroup became one of the largest ACE schools in Kenya

YASHA Mission Academy 2005

In this week’s episode Wilco and Lydia Venter become the answer to their own prayer

One of the things that really bothered Wilco and myself, was the fact that so many small kids were roaming the streets unattended throughout the day. It was from then on we felt that the Lord was inviting us to start a small playgroup for these kids. So that is what we did in the beginning of 2004.

At first we only started with three children, but within a few months, they’d grown to 16, which we felt was all we could manage with the space we had available. Timothy was only a few months old, so we also decided to start a baby day-care centre. At that point, it was literally unheard of, and so was the first of its kind in the Rift Valley, as far as we knew.

Maki and Joy were in a local government school, with Stéfanus still in nursery school. Joy had learning disabilities and so, as a result, she would often come home sad and depressed, walking as if she’d been carrying the whole world on her little shoulders. This was very disheartening for us as parents.

One day, as I was crying out to the Lord about this, I clearly heard the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear: “Whatever good you want for your children, you will have to create it yourself …”

At that stage many of the parents in our little playgroup were requesting us to continue with their children. So one day “the knowing”’ just dropped in my spirit. We’re starting a school!!

Lydia with Enock Mohol and No’am Fourie from Faith Venture Academy as well as Peter Kellerman and Andre Kok from the ACE head office in South Africa.

But what kind of school? Although I homeschooled Maki the year before leaving for Kenya, I really knew very little about educational options. However, what I did know was this: I didn’t want my children to do the government’s 8-4-4 curriculum.

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One day I came to learn about a South African lady who was the principal of an ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) school in Nairobi, called No’am Fourie. How wonderful it felt for her to be able to speak in Afrikaans with someone in Kenya! So we agreed that we would go and visit her at Faith Ventures Academy in a suburb called Garden Estates.

As I went around from class to class, I eventually came to the learning centre for the older students. Neither the “supervisor” nor the “monitor” were in the class at that time, so I was standing at the door waiting for the students to go crazy — but it didn’t happen. They were sitting in their “offices” (also referred to as cubicles) just doing their work. It was at that moment that I knew that that was the curriculum God wanted us to implement in Njoro, to teach our children.

Yasha Mission Academy staff

Then in January 2005, Yasha Mission Academy was born. Within a few months, we had about 12 teachers and 68 students from baby care to Grade 1. The Lord had sent us a wonderful couple, Enoch and Violet Mohol, to be at the forefront of the ACE school in Kenya at that time. They also organised with the head office in South Africa to send us someone to train our teachers in the Bless Programme as well as in Grade 1. We will always think of Camila with fondness as the Lord truly used her to give us a great foundation in this value-based curriculum.

We worked hard, Wilco and I. He was the one designing and making our furniture, and also made sure the curriculum was available. While I, on the other hand, found myself being the administrator and secretary of the school.

In ACE every 10 students must have a supervisor. So each year as we added another class, funds had to be directed towards recruiting more teachers and getting curriculum supplies. As a result, for the first three years, there were no finances available for appointing additional office staff.

It was all worth it though because we saw students and staff growing in the knowledge and stature of Christ. We saw entire families being transformed as children were ministering the Father’s love to their relatives.

We only dealt with needy families, and so the area chief had to confirm the financial status of each applicant. We provided quality education at only $15 (R216) per term, and that included snacks at 10am, hot lunch at 1 pm, and loads of extra-curricular activities. Many of the parents could not even pay that amount, so we made use of a bartering system where they could either work in our kitchen garden or bring dry food, charcoal, firewood, or whatever else they could afford.

We did not make them dependent on us by giving them handouts. Parents felt a sense of pride as they took ownership and responsibility for their child’s education. It was something beautiful.

I’m sad to say that many missionaries miss the mark when it comes to this. How can we truly teach others (through words or even through our lifestyle) if we can’t show them how to trust — or patiently wait upon — the living God? Worse even, if we play God.

I love our sports podium in those early years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should not be generous or give as the Lord presses upon our hearts. But we should always point people to Jesus, the one and only Source, the Giver, the Redeemer. The people that we serve should know that the same Christ dwells in them and that He can indeed do “exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond” what they could even ask from Him.

Sometimes we feed the wrong spirit, and work against God, when we give without the unction of the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 5:8 encourages us to provide for our own, and especially for members of our household. He goes as far as to say that faith is denied to those who do not do this.

Don’t we sometimes deny people faith when helping them without teaching them accountability? Missionaries should not come as “little saviours”. They should come alongside the needy and the broken — as those who know what it is to be needy and broken — and love, give, disciple, work, teach, and empower by example, yet as people who are still learning and growing.

Our task as ministers of the Gospel is to make disciples and disciples are people who obey their master. And yes, there are those desperate moments when you have to first give before you can tell people about Christ, but we’ve seen a great transformation over the years in the lives of people who said “yes” to Abba, and who were willing to take Him at His Word and trust Him wholeheartedly on this journey, without looking to people to answer their prayers for them.

In the next episode, I’ll share a little bit more about how the post-election clashes in Kenya at the beginning of 2008, affected us. More stories of the Father’s abundant grace to come!

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