Kevin, a drama and English teacher at the Rain Forest International School (RFIS) in Yaoundé, Cameroon, has been leading youth drama outreaches for over 13 years. But when he and another drama teacher took their students to a remote village in Cameroon, he never expected the response.
Many Cameroonian cultures are rooted in oral storytelling, so Kevin’s students perform dramatic mimes set to music, share the gospel, and pray and talk with people. “ It’s a tremendous encouragement to people in the [Cameroonian] church,” Kevin said.
After students finished the drama presentation in one church, the pastor announced to the congregation that they were welcome to stay and talk with the students or go. Among the more than 80 people present, no one left.
After three hours, Kevin decided to take the students to dinner but there were still 30 people waiting to talk to the students. “We’ll be gone about half an hour,” Kevin told the congregants. “If you want to wait for us to return, you can.”After dinner, Kevin returned to the church with the youth team, not expecting anyone to be there — but not a single person had left.
“They were still waiting for us,” Kevin shared. “We spent hours and hours praying with them, and several church leaders made a commitment to Christ. The way [the message] was visually portrayed really struck them.”
A year later when this Cameroonian community held their New Testament dedication, they reached out to RFIS and asked for the drama team to return to share the gospel with the rest of the community!
There aren’t many education options for missionary families in West Africa apart from a few very expensive schools in nations’ capitals or the choice to homeschool with limited resources. Rain Forest International School is one of the few schools that can provide a highly competitive education with a Christian foundation.
Allison, a teacher at RFIS, observed: “It’s huge for families. They are relieved. … We have parents who are doctors, pilots, translators, construction workers, church planters, or run discipleship programs, seminaries or Bible schools. We enable all those ministries to go on.” Kevin and his wife, Lori, agreed. Twenty-five New Testaments have been translated since the couple arrived in West Africa 27 years ago. Those translations were supported by the efforts of parents of RFIS students.
“Over 1.5 million West Africans now have God’s Word who didn’t have it when we started,” Kevin said. “We were part of what helped keep [those missionary families] on the field, enabling them to do their job, so that ... people could have translated Scriptures.”
And RFIS takes that role very seriously. The education provided by RFIS allows students to go pretty much anywhere in the Western world for higher education.
Josh, a 2017 graduate of RFIS, commented: “... I definitely felt prepared for the tough engineering classes I have taken so far [in college] and excelled in. Also, for such a small school, the wide variety of extracurricular opportunities [at RFIS] really helps make you a well-rounded person. I was able to participate in sports, music, drama, academics and other things while I was there. Overall I would definitely say RFIS prepared me for my post-high school life.”
Allison explained: “At RFIS, students … enrich each other through their cultures and experiences. That gives them a global perspective that might not necessarily have had.”
RFIS serves between 65 and 100 students from seventh through 12th grade depending on the year. The students come from all over the world and have a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs — some may not come from missionary families or even be believers. Currently, about 50% of the students at RFIS are Cameroonian. Many of these students come from families in high positions within the country and have the potential to serve in future leadership positions. RFIS serves as a mission field for these students.
When Josh reflects on his time at RFIS, he sees faith as central: “[RFIS] gave me a good place to really make my faith my own and have lots of resources for growing in my faith.”
Allison has wanted to teach since she was a little girl, so working at RFIS is a dream come true.
“By teaching these kids, I’m helping their parents do what God is calling them to do. And the need is so great,” she said.
Why does she like teaching here? “You have small classes,” Allison said. “You can share your heart with the students. … You can teach them about God in your classes. I never went to a Christian school. ... When I first came to RFIS, I was surprised at how strong it was academically and spiritually. I just couldn’t believe there was a place like that. I love the students!”
Kevin agreed wholeheartedly. “I teach the best kids in the world!” he laughed. “I’ve gotten the chance to interact with some of the most amazing kids who go on to do incredible things. ... I’ve even had the privilege of teaching [alongside] several of my former students.”
“[Teaching at RFIS] is an opportunity to have eternal impact though supporting Bible translation,” Kevin continued. “You’re also sending kids you’ve had a chance to shape and mentor literally all over the world. I have alumni on five continents [who are] serving the Lord and doing amazing things. That’s part of my legacy.”
Joshua and Virginia are linguists and translation advisers who have served in Bible translation in Benin and Cameroon for nearly 17 years. “We moved to Cameroon specifically so that we could live with our kids through the high school years. Before that, we were homeschooling in Benin, but homeschooling became difficult as the kids got older,” Virginia said.
Virginia was approaching burnout with homeschooling, and the family didn’t have any public education options to pursue. RFIS enabled Josh, Virginia and their family to remain in the work of translation while strengthening them in a healthy way, and their son loves it!
Virginia said: “We ... see him maturing in so many ways — among other things, trying various sports, growing in his Christian maturity and becoming more considerate in his relationships among peers.
Joshua agreed: “One of the great things about the school is that our kids … make friends cross-culturally. … Our kids friendships’ are the best thing.”
He said: “We love the fact that [our son] is getting a Christian education and that his teachers can interact with him both in and out of the classroom. With so many people speaking into his life, he is understanding that faith isn't just something his parents are trying to teach him; it's a community of people living out what it means to be God's children.”
The impact of Rain Forest International School is rippling across the globe.
Leanne, a parent of three boys who attend the school, concluded: “You pray that the Lord will provide for your kids when he calls you to the field. We feel like he didn’t just provide — he gave our kids the very best. RFIS is everything we could hope for in a school for our boys and more. … RFIS is truly a ministry in and of itself. It’s not just a support role, it is a ministry! God is at work in big ways at RFIS.”