Many years ago, I met Brady Keeling, one of the founding members of Know Think Act. He and I played together in a worship band in Japan, which is a long story that formed a solid friendship. When Brady began telling me about the beginnings of Know Think Act, it sent my mind spinning in a number of directions. My passion is youth ministry, particularly guiding young people into a more holistic understanding of the good news of Jesus. Here was a creative idea that connected local leaders in Africa who are combating poverty in their own context with the youth of my context who were emerging out of spiritual poverty themselves.
In March of 2009, as the junior high pastor at my former church in Arizona, I hosted our youth group’s first Dodgeball Extravaganza. Junior highers created teams and smacked each other with dodgeballs, all for the sake of raising money through Know Think Act. We raised funds for secondary school tuition, pointing out that while junior highers tend to hate school in the United States, education is nevertheless vital for changing a person’s future for the better. We wanted to help provide some of their peers in Uganda with funds for school.
After the dodgeball tournament, the students in my youth group raised funds to build a freshwater well in Uganda during a month-long campaign during the Christmas season. I remember one particular 7th grade girl who caught me after youth group one night. She sheepishly handed me a check, and turned to walk away. I looked at the check; it said $500. I called her back over and asked where the money came from. She is an incredible gymnast, and had won a tournament that past week, so she gave $500 of her own prize money to help build the well. I don’t know too many adults who would do that, let alone junior highers. Other students gave up their own Christmas gifts and gift money; still others baked cookies and sold them to raise funds. It was a remarkable movement in the lives of young people.
In the spring of 2010, the people in the community of Mukigando, Uganda built a shallow well from the funds raised by junior highers from Arizona. One of our youth ministry interns was traveling in Uganda later that year and saw the well and its impact in the community. She also met some of the students who were going to school because of that first dodgeball tournament. Her own experience in Uganda was eye-opening, and as she shared her story with the students back home in Arizona, her story became their story.
As a youth pastor, I have a passion to see students wake up from the world of consumerism, materialism, and selfishness in order to embrace the ways of Jesus and love other people through sacrificial action. Know Think Act is a tangible way to help foster this transformation. As the end of the year approaches, I want to encourage you to partner with Know Think Act, particularly in their recent matching campaign to pay for students’ school tuition in Uganda and Kenya. Get your church or youth group to host your own Dodgeball Extravaganza, give all the funds to the matching campaign, and watch as eyes and hearts are opened. Compassion requires action. Put your compassion into action and pursue a connection with KTA today.
Joel Mayward is a pastor, writer, husband, and father living in Langley, British Columbia. He’s been serving in youth ministry since 2003, and is currently the Pastor of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at North Langley Community Church. A writer for numerous youth ministry publications and author of Leading Up: Finding Influence in the Church Beyond Role and Experience, Joel writes about youth ministry, film, theology, and leadership at his blog, joelmayward.blogspot.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @joelmayward