GEORGE, South Africa (BP)–Children run through the grass, yelling, laughing, singing and playing together in front of Ballotsview Baptist Church near George, a city along the southern coast of South Africa.
The Outeniqua Mountains, white with a new snowfall, rise in the distance, while the Indian Ocean, not far away, sends a sharp wind through the churchyard.
But in Ballotsview, a poor Coloured* community, high instances of gang activity and teenage pregnancies hold sway.
So Ballotsview Baptist Church has partnered with Youth for Christ and with International Mission Board missionaries Lynne and Jeff Holder to hold Kids Games during the World Cup competition being hosted by South Africa.
Because children have been released from school during the June 11-July 11 tournament, the church’s goal is not only to share the Gospel but to keep the children from harm while their parents are at work. Additionally, many of the children participating in the Kids Games come from areas where there is little or no parental supervision.
“We’re having some issues with child trafficking here in George, so there’s been a big movement to get kids off the streets,” said Caitline Vida, 28, from Falls Church, Va., who is working for Youth for Christ for two years in George. “We want to keep the kids safe and for them to have fun.”
Lynne Holder added: “We want to also teach them awareness — to be aware of people who might try to lure them away and harm them. Doing stuff during the World Cup with churches gives kids a safe place to spend the day.”
Holder said the Kids Games give children who are vulnerable “a safe place to come and enjoy wholesome entertainment such as games, drama, songs [and] sport, and learn valuable lessons from the Bible at the same time.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, an estimated 60 percent of trafficked victims in South Africa are children. In the George area, many are trafficked for forced labor and the sex trade, the Holders noted.
“There is an emphasis throughout South Africa to combat adult [and] child trafficking, especially during the World Cup, and we are joining in this in a small way,” Lynne Holder said.
“It’s important for the church to have an image in the community of being a place where their children will be safe,” Jeff Holder added. “It’s a testimony in this community of a caring church.”
Ballotsview Baptist Church has been in the Ballotsview community for about 10 years.
“It’s a small church and this is the first time this church has done anything in the community,” Lynne Holder said. She and her husband hope that from the outreach and influence of the Kids Games, the church will meet more people in the community and grow.
“Older teenagers and adults came up to find out what was going on and I think that was a good thing,” Holder said.
*The term “Coloured” in this story refers to a defined people group unique to southern Africa. Jeffery Aaron is a writer for the IMB’s global communication team.