Drawing Crowds for Christ: 18-Year-Old ‘Missionary Kid’ Overcomes Fears to Spread Gospel In South Africa

Bethany Amber, an 18-year-old daughter of International Mission Board ministry workers in Johannesburg, South Africa, (right of center) ministers to and forms friendships with children there. IMB photo
Bethany Amber, an 18-year-old daughter of International Mission Board ministry workers in Johannesburg, South Africa, (right of center) ministers to and forms friendships with children there. IMB photo

The children crowded around 18-year-old Bethany Amber, hands reaching toward her on the hot South African morning. A few years ago this kind of crowding frightened the Southern Baptist “missionary kid.”

At age 13 she found the lack of personal space in the townships difficult to endure, having just moved to South Africa with her parents who were International Mission Board missionaries.

“People were always wanting to touch my hair, touch my face,” Bethany recalled. But she’s learned to understand and even love the importance of human touch in the culture and now embraces it.

Today, she looks forward to drawing henna art designs on the hands of children as a reminder of the Bible stories she shares. Having focused on the creation story, Bethany decorates their hands with such creations as fish, moons and suns.

“I want a tiger,” a little boy says, matter-of-factly. With the henna applicator, Bethany holds the boy’s hand in one of hers, and carefully paints on a tiger design. The body art drawn with natural plant dye takes a while to dry. “I just hope it didn’t smudge on their hands — so they could remember the Bible story,” she says.

The high school student joins her parents in their ministry work and sometimes branches out on her own. For instance, she’s worked in camps for Afrikaans-speaking kids from foster homes and orphanages; she could communicate with them because she learned the language while attending Afrikaans-speaking schools for three years. Camp activities included swimming and canoeing in the river, but they had to stop water activities when crocodiles and hippos were spotted in the river, Bethany said.

“We get to spend a whole week with them, and then at the end get to share Christ with them — even though the camp is run by [nonbelievers],” she said. “They aren’t Christians but they allow us to do this.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Elaine Gaston