*Adapted from her white paper entitled Raising Generations Rich Toward God Through The Education Sector, published by the Christian Economic Forum in 2019
Valentine Gitoho is a Fellow of the Institute of the Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and has over 40 years’ management experience, including at Price Waterhouse, the World Bank, and the World Council of Churches. She is a Founder and Director of LEEDS Consulting as well as the African Council for Accreditation and Accountability (AfCAA). Valentine is married to James, with two adult children and two grandchildren. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya.
Africa is – and will continue to be for quite some time – the young continent. The current population of Africa is estimated at 1.3 billion (March 2019)[i] with a median age of 19.4 years. By 2050, the projected population will be 2.5 billion with a median age of 24.8 years. It is therefore critical that our generation impacts the lives of the youth through redemptive stewardship practices if we are to raise the next generation to be salt and light for the Kingdom of God. Kenya – where I’m from – has an estimated population of 52 million (March 2019) with a median age of 20. Those between the ages of 18–34 constitute 25%, and those below 15 years constitute 43% of the total population. This means that a staggering 68% of the Kenyan population is younger than 34 years.
From this deep conviction, I have been involved in various redemptive initiatives among teenagers for more than two decades. I was first introduced to schools ministry by a young man, Simon Kioko, who took part in training that I facilitated. Working with local high schools from a Christian perspective, he is always on the look out for preachers and role models. We have been working together since 2000, with him providing Bible study materials specifically designed for 14 to 18-year-olds. And over the years my passion for seeing the young ones grow up with Kingdom values has only grown stronger. We’ve provided sound equipment and musical instruments for Sunday services, given career and leadership talks to students, brought school chaplains together so they can learn from one another, brought teachers together to discuss pertinent issues in their interactions with students, as well as guided and encouraged parents (who are increasingly single) through various family challenges.
Through the Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS) and the church, we regularly connect with college students and young professionals, discussing topical issues relevant to our local context in Kenya, and how we can be game changers through God’s Word and likeness. My husband and I also interact with young people through a marriage ministry, providing guidance to them and their parents on dating, courtship and marriage. We mentor and sponsor others through school, while maintaining a close relationship with their families. All this is done with one goal: To raise the next generation to be salt and light in their areas of influence.
Many students have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ through these interactions. My husband and I meet many who are now adults and doing very well in their careers, still walking in the light and making a positive difference to others. Others have told us how we influenced their career choices. The school administration also appreciates our career talks with the students on what the Kenyan industry and beyond demands, as the curriculum system is very heavy in academics and the teachers hardly have time to inform themselves on changing trends in employability. Over time, we introduced family and friends who also have a heart for teenagers to various ministries and they in turn have introduced others, and the ministry has continued to grow. Some of the young people themselves have also gone back to their high schools to serve as we do.
As a grandmother, I thought I would be irrelevant by now to the high schoolers, but have been surprised at how refreshing our interactions are. Indeed, “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalm 92:13–15)
Some of the lessons I have learned from focusing on raising the next generation to be salt and light are:
1) It is simple
God will open the way. Walk in it with your whole heart and be creative in impacting them with Kingdom values that will stand the test of time. While doing so, you may find that you have certain gifts and talents you never knew. Indeed, “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
2) It is sustainable
There will always be young people going through school, colleges and churches. They are there for us to impact them to the glory of God. Just go and do it.
3) It is fruitful
There is great joy in sharing life with young people, inviting them to join you on this Kingdom journey, and then seeing them as mature adults go back and impact the next generation. The path gets wider and wider with the influencer and the influenced, as these young people impact not only Kenya and Africa but beyond, bearing fruit that lasts.