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Ministry to world’s street kids nudges him to seminary studies


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Most seminary students go to school with a burning desire to be used by God to make a difference for the sake of the gospel. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary student David High is already accomplishing this goal with a worldwide ministry to “street kids.”
A master of divinity student in the weekend program of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, High is both a full-time student as well as president and founder of Homeless Children International (H.C.I.). The nonprofit organization strives “to share the love of Christ with abandoned children by providing housing, education and a loving, home environment,” High said.
Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., H.C.I. has branches in Kenya and South Africa, supports work in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, and is laying the groundwork for a branch in Vietnam. The organization operates with a staff of 25 volunteers and nine full-time employees worldwide.
A missionary kid from Nigeria, High first felt called to work with street kids in 1983 while visiting his brother in Brazil. During his stay, High visited an orphanage that forever changed his life.
“Seeing the children and the situation they were in was similar to growing up in Nigeria,” High said. “At first, my heart wasn’t really moved. I guess I had a hard heart.”
Nevertheless, High began to think to himself, “What could I do?” High was surprised by the answer he heard the Lord give him: “You can become a father to these children.”
After acknowledging God’s request, High began making excuses why he could not obey.
“I don’t know these people or their language,” High remembered thinking. “I don’t have a place to stay, I don’t have a job, I would be a burden. What about my goals and ambitions for life? What will my parents think?”
Putting God’s call on the shelf, High returned to the United States to finish his last semester of college at Furman University in South Carolina. He soon realized, “When you tell the Lord to wait, you’ve told him, ‘No!’”
However, doors did not open for High to return to Brazil. After completing his undergraduate degree, High went on to receive a master of exercise physiology degree from the University of Tennessee. He accepted a job with Lockheed-Martin in Knoxville as director of fitness where he still works today.
Yet, he could not overcome the burden for the orphanage in San Paulo. High engaged in cross-country bike rides during vacations to raise money for the children. Finally, in February 1991, some friends invited High to visit them in San Paulo. He took a one-month leave of absence from his job to explore what God wanted him to do.
“As the plane landed, I looked out over that city of 17 million people and I thought to myself, ‘One man, one month, a huge city, what difference can I possibly make,’” High recounted. “Within the first five minutes of being on the street, a little 13-year-old boy named Paulo came up to me and asked if I would be his father and take him home.”
High was now determined to address the evolving crisis of homeless children. Everywhere he went, High was told by city officials that the number one problem behind the economy was the presence of street kids.
“To make matters worse,” High said, “nobody was doing anything about it.”
Returning to the United States, High was soon introduced to Sue Morton, founder of one of the world’s largest nonprofit organizations, Refugees International. Morton encouraged him to start an international ministry dedicated to homeless children, and she showed him how to do it. Homeless Children International resulted as one effort to help alleviate the suffering of more than 100 million kids living on the world’s streets.
High envisions starting self-sufficient orphanages, educating street kids to return to their local school system and sharing the love of Christ through other practical avenues of ministry. He also believes helping homeless children is a good way to share Christ with unreached people groups.
“So many of these groups will not open up to you if they know you’re a Christian organization,” High said. “But if you help a child who is part of that culture and the Lord changes him, he becomes a productive member of society and the church and will take the gospel to others. That is an effective missions strategy.”
To further these goals, High knew he needed to obtain a seminary education. He heard about a special weekend master of divinity program offered through the Graham School at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Louisville, Ky., school offers students the opportunity to take up to 12 hours of classes each semester by attending only on Fridays and Saturdays. In this way, students may complete the M.Div. degree in four years while continuing their ministries where they live.
“I wouldn’t be able to come to seminary any other way,” High said. “I felt the need to develop my speaking and evangelistic preaching skills and learn more about missions administration, cross-cultural evangelism and youth ministry. Southern fills this niche in my life like no other seminary can.”
High’s commitment to helping homeless children has spread to others in his family. David’s brother, Thomas, whom David first visited in Brazil, is now a Southern Baptist missionary in Bolivia. In addition to his regular missionary duties, Thomas has helped H.C.I. make the necessary contacts to start new projects in that South American country.
David’s brother, James, is finishing a residency as a pediatrician in Charleston, S.C. Last spring, James indicated God had called him to address the medical needs of street kids. In places like east Africa, millions of homeless children suffer from the compounded effects of AIDS.
“These children are dropped off at hospitals and completely abandoned by their parents,” David High said. In Nairobi, Kenya, H.C.I. already has established a hospital visitation program to bring the love of Christ to those discarded souls.
Having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the seven years since the founding of Homeless Children International, High’s organization has only begun to scratch the surface of this growing global crisis. However, one cannot measure the group’s success in dollar figures alone. The real difference made by High and H.C.I. will be recorded for an eternity.
“When you sit down with a child and look into a face that has no hope,” High said, “and then you come back a year or two later and discover that child has accepted Christ, that is the greatest reward of all.”
People interested in learning more about H.C.I. may contact High via e-mail at “High_David@aol.com.”

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  • Craig Christina