Lautoka Corps, Fiji Division have started a kids club in their community to encourage connections with the children, to reach families for Jesus and meet the needs of people in different settlements.
It started when one of the corps members noticed that on Saturdays in Lovu Hart settlement that the children were left alone to play or help their single mothers around the house, with little time to connect with other children, especially outside their village. She approached the corp officers of Lautoka Corps and suggested the club.
Assistant officer at Lautoka Corps Lieutenant Mereani Betena said, ‘We knew … that settlement … their community rules were very strict and it’s hard for other denominations to come inside and to share the gospel. But when she came with that request, we were so blessed … The Salvation Army is the only denomination that is allowed into the community to bring the gospel’. She is grateful they are able to run the programme, as The Salvation Army is well known and appreciated in the settlement, given the ongoing support they offer.
The club has been running for four months every second Saturday, with the help of 15 teenagers from the corps who volunteer their time. They started with about 60 children but now get upwards of 100 children every fortnight. The programme is for children aged 7 to 14 years, although they sometimes get younger children, but everyone is welcome. It runs for an hour and a half to two hours and starts with a few indoor games, then singing and dancing and a 10-minute snack break. The second half focuses on biblical teaching through either a short devotion, a YouTube video about a Bible story or arts and crafts, such as colouring. After this, they run a few more games, and it finishes after a lunch break.
Captain Taina Temo, corps officer at Lautoka Corps, has been inspired by the children enjoying their time with each other, but also their growing confidence to ask for support, such as for food or a ride to school. She observed that the children really missed the company of other kids like themselves, and said, ‘even though they stay together in one village, there’s no bond between them’. She happily reports that the bond is now developing between all the children.
Lautoka Corps is also supporting these children and their families in other ways. Depending on needs, they can help low-income single mothers pay their rent, buy school stationery and uniforms for their children and provide food parcels. Taina said they also do pickups and drop offs for the children to get to and from the programme, as most wouldn’t be able to get there otherwise. A good outcome they are seeing is some of the mothers coming along to the kids club and also coming along to church on Sundays. The main thing they want from the programme is to see these mothers and their children accept Jesus as their personal saviour. ‘We really hope to see at the end of the programme we’ve been able to share God’s word … where the children can really understand who Jesus is … not just to hear, but to see what Jesus can do in their own lives,’ said Taina. They see the kids club as a beautiful reminder that it was God’s plan all along, first nudging the woman from their corps who made the suggestion, to creating a programme that would point so many families to God.