In this interview, Dr. Emmanuel Mbennah, International Director of TWR-Africa, shares his heart for reaching Generation Z. He sets the interview in context saying, "If we spend one hour in this interview, by the time we've finished the interview, no less than 1500 children will have died because of poverty."
Tell us about the plight of children in Africa.
To ask Dr. Mbennah about the issues facing children today is to ask for a list of bleak realities including: poverty, forced prostitution, child trafficking, life on the street, abuse, child marriage and rape. "It's just too much," he says. Worse than poverty itself, is what Dr. Mbennah calls the "poverty of ideas" which is when "somebody is failing to respond to the needs of the child or prevent dangers that children face." For example, "There are many children who are fatherless even though their fathers are not dead. There are many children who are fatherless even though their father actually stays at home, because he is not being their father - he is just an adult male in the home."
Tell us about your childhood.
"I grew up much like any one of these children that we are talking about, so I have actually lived the life of these children. And I think that God had a plan that today I could speak in this position. I can speak on behalf of children because I know what it feels like when you have no food. I know what it feels when you have no water to drink for days. I know what it means when you cannot have a bath for weeks. I know what it means to walk kilometres and kilometres to look just for some drops of water. I know what it means to almost miss school - if I didn't run away from home to go look for a school I would never have been who I am today. These are the many issues facing children today."
Tell us about TWR's role in all of this.
"I think that TWR as a Christian media organisation can make a difference. We can change the attitudes of fathers and the attitudes of society. We can change the way society thinks about children. We can change the culture of the church in the way we treat children and the way we regard children. We think children are just children - they make noise, they make the place dirty. Yet, Jesus gave top priority to children. So as a media organisation we have the responsibility, but also we have the capacity to change the thinking of society with regard to children, as well as minister to the children themselves."
Tell us about the 4-14 global initiative1.
"Research has indicated that 80% of people who come to Christ and continue in their faith are the ones who make decisions for Christ when they are between the ages of 4 and 14 ... That is a strategic window for the Kingdom of God. It means if we focus on the 4-14 window, in our evangelistic and discipleship programmes, we are likely to make true, genuine, life-committed followers of Jesus Christ ... . and we are likely to have a generation, or multiple generations that can change the world ...
"Research also shows that the greatest percentages of people who become part of the church and leave the church after sometime are the youth. So, if you don't disciple the 4-14 age groups they are just simply part of a church, and when they get to their twenties they are likely to leave the church. But if you disciple them, they will stay in the church all the way through ...
"We want to see the church mobilised, sensitised, challenged, motivated and even resourced to focus on the 4-14 age group."
A closing thought from Dr. Mbennah
"If we change the way we think about children, this planet will be a new planet."