Reaching the Children of Dar es Salaam

Koehler“You’re stealing our children and turning our mosques into churches!”

Dan and Melinda Koehler and their team of teachers hear those words each week. But they’re happy to hear them, because it means the Koehlers are accomplishing their goal—reaching Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, with the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Melinda and Dan’s journey as missionaries to Africa began over 20 years ago. After graduating from RHEMA Bible Training Center in 1985 and 1987, respectively, they served other missionaries, trained indigenous leaders, and translated a number of Faith Library Books into Swahili. They also established churches—including Shining Light Church, the church they currently pastor. Now, through weekly Kids Club gatherings, they’re reaching the children of a city where many people are practicing Muslims. And those children are reaching their families and friends with the Gospel.


Dan and Melinda Koehler, along with their three children, are working together to spread the message of Jesus in Tanzania.

Melinda and Dan are 1985 and 1987 RHEMA Bible Training Center graduates, respectively.

» LOCATION: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

» MINISTRY: Pastors of Shining Light Church, Kids Club gatherings

» DID YOU KNOW?: An estimated 400–600 kids attend Kids Club each week.

Many parents in Dar es Salaam don’t know what to do with their children during the day, so they let them wander the streets from morning until night. Many of these youngsters get into trouble of one kind or another. Dan and Melinda and their team get the children off the streets and teach them about Jesus.

Each Saturday the Koehlers’ team of teachers ministers to around 2,000 children in 12 locations around the city. Children too young to walk are carried in on the backs of their older siblings, and even teenagers, hungry for the truth, choose to attend. In each neighborhood, between 400 and 600 kids come each week. The Koehlers have 25 to 30 teachers, but with a ratio of almost 100 kids to one teacher, they can’t train helpers fast enough.

Each time children attend Kids Club, they are taught the Word of God. Each week’s session begins with a 20-minute object lesson before the teachers give out Bible verses. The children sing and then break up into smaller groups to play games and review their Bible verses. This gives all of the children an opportunity to know and to be known by a teacher.

“The kids share their hearts with the teachers,” said Melinda. “They pour out their hearts about what has been happening to them on the streets—things that even their own parents don’t know. But they tell the Kids Club teachers because they’re so close to them. It would just make you weep,” continued
Melinda, tears in her eyes. “Little children— tiny things—who have been abused and used. They come to Kids Club as their refuge now.”

Kids Club doesn’t just feed the children spiritually. The youngsters who come are also fed a high-protein porridge—as much as they want. Those children who haven’t eaten go through cup after cup. “When we’re finished, we pray,” said Melinda. “Every child is hugged, every child receives a toy and candy, and we tell each one, ‘I love you and Jesus loves you.’ ”

The children receive the Gospel, take it, and share it in their neighborhoods and homes. One young girl whose father is the leader of a local mosque was saved at Kids Club. She begged her Kids Club teacher to give her the weekly lessons so she could start a Bible study in her house in order to teach the children who couldn’t come. She even saved up all of the toys she had received at Kids Club to give to the children who came to her group. Melinda related, “Her heart is that she loves Jesus and wants to give Jesus to the other children. Her mother even began to attend. This young girl is only 9 or 10, and she is teaching the Bible to 10 other children, plus her mother.”

Salvation Prayer

Each week in Dar es Salaam, children risk everything to attend Kids Club
and hear about Jesus. Do you know Jesus?

The Bible says in John 3:16, “‘For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’” (NIV). God loved mankind so much that while we were still sinners He sent His only Son to die for us on the cross (Rom. 5:8).

God has offered up the greatest Gift ever given—Jesus Christ—so we can receive the greatest gift available to us—eternal life. To enjoy this gift, all we have to do is receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

This greatest Gift is available to you right now. If you haven’t made Jesus
your Lord and Savior, pray the following prayer:

Dear God, I come to You in the Name of Jesus. I admit that I am not right with You, and I want to be right with You. I ask You to forgive me of all my sins. The Bible says if I confess with my mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in my heart that You raised Him from the dead, I will be saved (Rom. 10:9). I believe in my heart that You did raise Jesus from the dead, and I confess that He is my Savior and Lord. Thank You for the greatest Christmas Gift ever!

MouseIf you prayed the salvation prayer
below for the first time, e-mail us here and let us know about it. We’d love to hear from you and send you some free materials to get you started in your new life as God’s child!

Another young girl, Mary (her name has been changed for her safety), was drawn into Kids Club as she made her way to the mosque to receive her Islamic teaching. Her life was changed. “She was so touched by our teaching,” said Melinda. “She told the teachers that what they were getting at the Islamic school was fear and intimidation. ‘But at Kids Club,’ she said, ‘we’re getting love, and fear
is being taken away. We’re coming to know a God of love.’ ”

Now Mary comes to Kids Club every week and brings three of her fellow Islamic classmates with her. She comes later than everyone else and stays only 20 minutes, because she still has to go to her Islamic teaching class and doesn’t want her parents to discover she’s coming. She receives no food and
no toy because her time is limited, but she is hungry to hear the Word. When the teacher gives the altar call, she tells her friends to receive Jesus and they all pray. “She’s coming fully robed,” Melinda remarked. “The only thing you can see is her face. Yet she is an evangelist, bringing all of her friends from the mosque.”

“Mary keeps telling her teachers, ‘This is what I’ve longed for,’ Melinda continued. “And she wants to give away what she has to everyone else.”

That is the heart cry of all the children who come to Kids Club. They are so excited when they receive the truth of God’s Word that they want everyone else to receive it too. “They come with pure hearts for God [in the midst of] persecution,” noted Melinda. “Their leaders are beating them with sticks, but they are shouting ‘Jesus is Lord!’ in the mosques.”

Kids Club is transforming the city of Dar es Salaam. Islamic leaders and even some Christians—steeped in religious tradition—are protesting, but still the children come. And they are never turned away. Instead they’re given an amazing gift—they’re being saved, healed, and filled with the Holy Spirit. But they’re not keeping that gift to themselves. They’re taking it to their friends, families, churches, and
mosques. They’re going into places where others are prohibited from going, and they are reaching a nation for Jesus as no one else can.