God is working through Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey discipleship course to bring children to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Iglesia Nueva Generación in Cutuglagua, Ecuador, was predominantly a congregation of adults until they got involved with Operation Christmas Child. But when they coordinated an outreach event for children in June 2021, they were glad to see youngsters coming to the church, said volunteer Maria Yucailla.
The event was successful and followed local health guidelines even though it took place right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maria considered it a miracle to see so many children at their church. They promoted a campaign called “A Friend Brings a Friend” to encourage the participation of young folks and the results were surprising.
Once the children received a shoebox gift from Samaritan’s Purse in June, they were invited to participate in the 12-lesson discipleship program designed specifically for shoebox recipients called The Greatest Journey. Forty children attended their first lesson.
With pen and notepads provided by Operation Christmas Child, as well as the student booklet in their own language, children utilized all their senses to learn and understand God’s creation, the first in the series of Bible lessons.
They also sang songs and engaged in activities that reinforced the main message of their lesson: Jesus is our Friend. Maria, their trained volunteer teacher, explained in a child-friendly way how to receive Jesus Christ as Savior.
“These children had never seen a pen or notepad before,” Maria said. “They were wearing ragged clothes when they received their shoebox gifts in June and, for many of them, the shoebox gift was their first gift in their lives.”
The Miracle of New Life in Christ
This was the case of Génesis, an 8-year-old girl, who received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox at the event. She had never received a gift before in her life.
When she opened her box, her face lit up! “There were many things inside the box—dolls my favorite toys—but the box itself made me very happy,” said Génesis. “I am going to take care of the box also.”
A miracle happened that day when she received Jesus Christ as her Savior! She’s convinced that it was God who brought her to the event and not her cousin Leonela, who had invited her.
“I have a new friend” Génesis says, when she talks about the day of her salvation. “I am happy for the opportunity I had to come here. I have learned about God and received a shoebox. He is my Savior.”
Speaking of the stuffed animal that she received in her shoebox gift, Génesis said, “I am going to sleep with it and with Jesus.”
God Answers Prayers
After Génesis received her shoebox gift, she told her family about how she’d met Jesus at the outreach event.
At my home, we talked about God, and Jesus saved my mom who was sick with COVID. I asked God for her healing and her salvation, and both of my parents were saved,” Génesis said.
Génesis wants to be a doctor when she grows up to help others to get well because she is convinced that God was the One who healed her mom. “It’s a blessing to be able to talk to God because He answers,” she said.
Moved by all the Lord has done for her family, Génesis prayed: “God, thanks for this moment and for life. I’m always going to help Mommy and Daddy because You have helped us. I’m going to be there for them.”
Hungry to Hear the Gospel
Through The Greatest Journey, many of the other children’s parents are learning about God for the first time, too, as they stand at the back of the classroom observing and taking in all of the lessons.
At their graduation celebration, boys and girls gave testimonies of what they have learned through The Greatest Journey and how their lives have changed. Andrés Almeida, regional manager of Operation Christmas Child for South America, said, “It’s a planned and intentional event to show parents and the community how The Greatest Journey is impacting them.” As a result, many more people have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Since 2009, 26.9 million children have enrolled in The Greatest Journey with 12.6 million of these making a decision for Christ. Praise God! Please pray for the millions of children who receive a shoebox gift and go through The Greatest Journey discipleship course this year.
It all starts with a shoebox, and you can be a part of the journey. Pack shoeboxes for children in need and drop them off during National Collection Week, Nov. 15-21.