The Day of the African Child: a sermon – Restoring the youth

Africa Files
By Rev.Dr. Mankekolo Mahlangu-Ngcobo, Baltimore,

African charter chapter#17: Every individual shall have the right to education, cultural life, and the promotion and protection of values.


The author now lives and works as a pastor in the African Methodist Church in Baltimore but was present 43 years ago when South African youth marched on June 16th, 1976. JDN

Ext: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, 1 Timothy 4:11-16

Ecclesiastes 12

V. 1. Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble

come and the years approach when you will say ” I find no pleasure in them V. 2. Before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark and the clouds return the rain. V. 7. And the dust return to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

I Timothy 4

V.11. Command and teach these things.

V.12. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

The sermon topic for today is “Restoring the Youth

In two days it will be June 16. In South Africa this will be the 43rd commemoration of the student uprising in 1976. Some of us who were part of that resistance of being taught in Afrikaans as well as being against Bantu Education, June 16 thereafter 1976 cannot just be a day. Last year I was in South Africa, in Soweto. I was invited to the ceremony at the Hector Peterson Museum in Soweto. I met the June 16 committee which comprised of the students who were in the initial Soweto Student Representative. The Committee was led by Seth Mazibuko. We remembered Hector Peterson the 12 year old student who was killed by the police. The boy who carried him on the pictures is not known what happened to him. The young girl who was close and seen at the picture, is now a woman is working at the museum. I sat next to her and we started to look back.

My memory flashed back, of what happened that day and the ten days thereafter. I was a student at the University of the North and the secretary of the Student Representative Council. We protested, police came, fired teargases and arrested some students. Some students were in Hospitals and the University closed. I was a nurse and I went back to Baragwanath Hospital to work. We nursed the students that were shot and under police guard. Soweto was flooded with the soldiers and police. Students were killed.

At their burials at the cemeteries were police and soldiers who killed again students after the funerals. Some students fled the country. Some students came back and some died in exile and their graves are not known. Tsietsi Mashinin, the Student Leader of the 1976 died in Liberia, Khotso Seatlholo went into exile. I met him in Lagos, Nigeria. He came back to South Africa. He was arrested and served time in Robben Island. He was released and died few years ago. Sibongile Mthembu Mkhabela the woman who was beside Tsietsi and Khotso is alive and works with The Mandela Foundation.

The youth then had a purpose and plan. As Seth Mazibuko said that the youth also belonged to the Student Christian movement. They attended the Student Christian Movement on Sunday and Tuesday, June 16, they marched peacefully and met the hostility of South African army and police. The students only had stones. They had guns and teargases. The youth had discipline and they worked with Teachers Action Committee and the Committee of Ten which later I became a member after I was expelled at the University because of the protest.

The youth of June 16, 1976 had focus, discipline and respect of the other organizations. They were self- less. It was not about them craving for publicity in newspapers, we did not have TV then. They knew what sacrifice was, you give your life by death, imprisonment or exile. The slogan was “Nation first, When the nation is right everyone will be right.”

June 16, 2009 youth is different. They speak without consultation or concern about the consequences of their speech. They feel that if they do not like the principal or President of the University because he belonged to a different political party they can call a strike and get him fired. Their speeches are out of their roles as youth and not adult. Their understanding of democracy is democrazy. Adults who are in charge of disciplining them are silent and ignoring them. One does not know whether they are with them or not.

It is not only the youth that needs restoration, adults who are working with the youth also need it. I was disturbed by the action of South African Democratic Teachers Union in Soweto Schools this week. The teachers Unio n wanted teachers to boycott classes and this is the examination times. Why can’t they let the students write exams and deal with their grievances when the school is closed? What I do not understand is why the Union that is in alliance with the government is not working out their differences and disputes with the Government who they are a part of?

Students belong to classes and not to School management committees. The same, teachers belong to classes to teach. There should be appropriate times, places and people who will deal with those disputes.

Youth of 2009 in Africa and Americas need restoration

In Chicago about thirty-nine (39) young people have been killed during this academic year. Some youth have been killed by police or each other in gangs. Drug Abuse, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy and violence are on the rise. Some youth have done well but their surroundings are putting them at risk. 2009 graduates are facing tough employment opp o rtunities because of economic recession. Our two texts Ecclesiastes 12 and I Timothy 4 speaks to youth. The first text emphasizes the importance of being a part of God while you are young. In the second text, the mother, grandmother and the elder in the church are working together to restore the youth.

Apostle Paul is interested in restoring the young man Timothy. This young lad was raised by his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. Timothy was like many youth today who are raised by mothers alone or grandmother or both mother and grand mother and fathers are not present. These women were wise to raise their son in the presence and fear of God. They also introduce him to man of God to disciple him.

How can the 2009 youth be restored?

Back to God.

In Ecclesiastes 12 verse. 1. Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say ” I find no pleasure in them. The youth of today have to understand that they cannot make it without God. God should be at the center of their hearts and turn , transform them in to new creatures in Christ.

Be example in speech.

Paul has five ways to restore Timothy. The first is speech. What language the youth today is poisonous. They curse one another and began the fights. They curse their parents and other elders. Paul knew that words can kill or cause pain to someone. Hurtful words you said may not be taken back. Hurtful words that were derogatory to women where used and they were protests to stop those words. The tongue can hurt of heal depending on the speech. Paul says to Timothy be example in speech. If the speech by youth could be restored the right helpful speeches will eliminate anger and violence among themselves and others.

Be example in Life.

Some young people are being raised in poverty, abuse, neglect, war, orphans, and with single parent. That should not be an excuse to have destructive behaviors in your life. When you have Christ, you have abundant life. Youth do not need a life of drugs, violence, and incarceration. Youth need a productive and progressive life. Life full of positive energy. A life with Christ is victorious. ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

•        Be example in Love.

•        Most young people have never experience love in their homes. Love is not because of but Love is in spite of how you act and behave I will continue to love. That is the Agape love, God’s love. When young people are introduced to the unconditional love of Christ they will learn how to love. If you were loved dearly when you were young, your self esteem will be up. Love count no wrongs. Love heals the hurts. Love means to respect yourself and others. •

Be example in Faith.

•        Young people should be taught faith in God. Faith in a Wonderful God, a god who is able to do anything but fail. Faith that everything is possible if you have faith in God and trust him. Solomon had faith in God to give him wisdom. The opposite of faith is hopelessness. When young people loose hope, disease, suicide and violence rise.

Be example in purity.

Sex is appealing to most youth today. Sexy bodies, sexy clothes, sexy magazines are bombarding the youth through TV, Face book and internet. MSNBC has a program show called “catching the predator” Young girls ages 13 are being enticed on the TV and men ages from 13 to early 50’s of different ages, classes are caught when they come to see the girl. In South Africa in some area young girls are abducted to be married by older men. Purity is not the burden of a girl alone. Young boys need to be examples in purity. Sexual abstinence, postponement of sex while you are young by both sexes is still the best especially these days of HIV/AIDS. Like Apostle Paul, we should encourage young people to be examples in purity.

Restoring the 2009 youth everywhere by introducing them to God, supporting them to be examples in speech, life, love, faith and purity will save them from destruction and death physically, mentally and spiritually. These 2009 youth when restored will continue with the legacy of 1976 youth that brought liberation to South Africa. These youth will change the statistics everywhere in the world. There are organizations and churches that have started restoring the youth. The Africa Society in Washington DC led by attorney Bernadette Paolo is restoring youth in Africa through Education. Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth in Atlanta has a restoration conference called Re/Present Youth Conference this week.

Let us restore the 2006 youth. Now you are responsible to restore the youth in your home, school, community, church and the world. Be first the example and they will follow and be examples.