Among the preachers who led evangelistic meetings resulting in 117,000 baptisms in Tanzania and Uganda this summer is a 13-year-old boy named Boniface Joseph.
Boniface, baptized when he was 11, preached every evening for two weeks in a church in the north Tanzanian city of Arusha.
Boniface, whose short life has been filled with poverty and uncertainty, is eager to become a Seventh-day Adventist pastor one day.
“My earnest desire is to live with my confidence to become a pastor if God wishes,” Boniface said.
Church leaders described the path that led Boniface to become a child preacher as a “stranger-than-fiction story,” according to an e-mailed statement from the Adventist Church in the East-Central Africa region, whose territory includes Tanzania.
Boniface was born into a family of hardworking Adventist farmers near Kibondo village in western Tanzania on March 18, 2004. His mother led daily family worship and prepared him and his two brothers and sister to worship in church every Sabbath.
“However, life spiraled downward as his family incurred debts that created difficulties for the family business,” said Debbie Maloba, director for women’s and children’s ministries at the East-Central Africa Division.
In 2015, the Joseph family packed up their belongings and began to move from place to place, seeking stable employment. The parents held several temporary farm jobs before settling near Arusha in the north. With the assistance of scholarships, Boniface and his siblings studied at Tanzania Adventist Secondary School, where Boniface was baptized on June 1, 2015.
A year later, Boniface started to share his faith by joining a children’s choir and speaking publicly. One of his teachers, Samuel Robert, saw his interest and placed him in a young preacher training program in January 2017, Maloba said.
“During his practice with others, Boniface convinced the majority of observers that God could use him to lead others to Jesus Christ our Savior,” she said.
As church leaders prepared for a major Total Member Involvement evangelistic campaign in Tanzania and Uganda, they asked Boniface to join the 24,000 speakers who would preach at 8,000 sites in the neighboring countries on June 16 to July 1.
Boniface and another child preacher, his friend Lusekelo Mwakasweswe, spoke at separate series conducted under the auspices of the “Children Total Member Involvement” initiative in northern Tanzania.
Boniface said he feels “greatly honored” to be part of the Adventist Church’s mission to prepare people for Jesus’ soon coming. Twelve people came forward when he made an altar call at the end of the meetings, and seven were baptized.
In all, 80,806 people were baptized in Tanzania, and another 35,969 people were baptized in Uganda.
While Boniface is studying to become a pastor, he is faithfully sharing his love for Jesus with those around him, Maloba said.
“He has been studying the Bible along with his school subjects and shares his faith in Jesus Christ with other children,” she said. “He goes house to house to share his faith with his classmates every Sunday. … He plans to serve God despite the difficulties he is facing and still has faith in God.”