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Kenyan graduate gives back to native country in summer mission trip
June 09, 2003
By Erika Nelson
Charles Juma (standing, right) teaches members of the Datooga people group in Tanzania. Juma, a native of Kenya, recently graduated from Boyce.
Fifteen years ago, a friendship began between Charles Juma and David Adams.
Their friendship was one of the reasons Juma walked the stage May 16 in Southern Seminary’s Alumni Chapel, graduating with highest honors from Boyce College.
Juma, who was born and raised along the shore of Lake Victoria in Kisumu, Kenya, came to the United States for the first time in December of 1998 to attend school. In the fall of 1999, he started at Lexington Baptist College where Adams was president.
But the story of how Juma came to Lexington Baptist, and later Boyce College, starts in Africa.
Juma met Adams, now the executive director of the National Center for Youth Ministry and professor of youth ministry at Boyce College, along with Randy Smith, now the director of the Center for Missions Mobilization and assistant professor of missions at Boyce College, in 1988 at a mission conference in Kenya. At the time, Adams was the director of the Center for Youth Ministry at Liberty University and Smith was on his staff.
A student at Liberty whose father was responsible for organizing the mission conference recommended that Adams be the keynote speaker. In Kenya, Adams spoke with around 125 national pastors, and 26 of them surrendered their lives to full time youth ministry. Charles Juma was one of them.
Adams and Smith kept in touch with Juma over the next eight years, taking several mission trips to Africa during that time.
In Kenya, Juma held a number of min-istry positions in his church. He worked as a Sunday School teacher, youth pastor, music director and assistant pastor, and two years before coming to the United States, he served as the senior pastor. He did his own research and took correspondence classes to learn more about ministry.
He taught at a college in Kenya for three years and developed a youth curriculum at his church based on what he learned. Juma said that today, his church in Kenya has the best youth ministry program in the country.
With all that he was doing, Juma felt a need to further his own education.
“My area is mentoring and training and I knew it was time for me to leave Kenya and further my education,” Juma said. “I needed to get to a good school. In Africa, you don’t have a lot of resources, so you have to learn on your own and from experience.”
Between 1996 and 1997, Adams and Smith worked to help Juma get the legal papers he needed to come to the United States. Part of the arrangement in Juma’s leaving the country was that his education needed to be fully funded.
David and Becky Adams, Smith, Youth Ministry International, Lexington Baptist College and Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington all stepped up to provide the funds for Juma to come to school.
Juma said he decided to attend Lexington Baptist College because of his connections with Adams. When the college’s board voted unanimously in 1999 to close the school and recommended that its students transfer to Boyce College, Juma moved from Lexington to Louisville, along with Adams.
Four years later, Juma has started work on a master of divinity degree at Southern Seminary. He plans to get a Ph.D. and then go back to Africa, with the goal of starting his own seminary.
“I’ve seen a lot of needs in Africa while on short-term mission trips,” Juma said. “The problem today is there are pastors who feel the call of God, but can’t do anything with it because they don’t have the training.”
Juma said pastors in Africa want the training Boyce College offers, but the majority of them won’t ever have the chance to come to the United States due to expenses.
“It breaks my heart when I see ministers who can’t prepare a simple message,” said Juma. “My goal is to start a seminary in Africa with the connections I’ve made here.”
Juma plans to invite professors and friends to volunteer to teach for two weeks to a month at a time.
“Many pastors can’t afford to go to the seminaries in Africa,” said Juma. “I want something very accessible to all pastors in Africa.”
Focusing on the immediate future, though, Juma will be traveling to Africa this summer to work with churches in Kenya, Tanzania and possibly Uganda. He has selected five key churches in Tanzania where he will place two American interns. Ten other interns will travel between the churches and instruct them on how to do outreach ministries.
Juma himself will be traveling between the churches, training key people to train others in ministry, preaching and talking about the AIDS virus.
In the fall, he will return for his second semester at Southern Seminary.
But looking back on his college career at Boyce, Juma said his experience at the school has reshaped the vision and purpose for his life.
“My devotion for the Lord has been enhanced like never before. My passion for academic excellence will never be the same again. And my desire to reach the nations is set on a path that will not be the same again,” said Juma.
“I’ve been greatly impacted by the professors here. Each of them has left a piece of themselves with me. In them I’ve seen what it means to have a passion for academics, and how to blend that with a passion for the world.”
Adams, who plans to keep in touch with Juma, describes him as “uniquely gifted.”
“In Tanzania, he is viewed with a high-est regard among [other] pastors,” said Adams. “He is anointed -- a soul winner.”
And when Juma establishes a seminary in Africa, Adams said he would be honored if he receives an invitation some day to come and teach.
“That will be the full circle,” Adams said.