God uses Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts to open a door and then a church starts in a difficult location.
The island of Vridi Ako is a largely forgotten place, even though it is located just a short distance from Cote d’Ivoire’s largest city, Abidjan.
Accessible only via a 30-minute ride aboard a makeshift wooden ferryboat, Vridi Ako is
home to a wide variety of ethnic groups. The one common denominator on the island is desperate poverty. The island has been known as a hangout for criminals, where alcohol and drugs often destroy young people’s lives. Occult practices and idol worship drag others down.
The situation prompted one local Operation Christmas Child representative to wonder: What chance do children have in such a place? How will they find any guidance toward truth?
A neighboring church had tried three times to plant a new congregation on the island but with no success. However, Flore Sebeyo, a local woman, still believed something could be done. After attending a presentation by Operation Christmas Child leadership in the area, she worked together with her pastor to mobilize a concerted prayer effort for the forgotten island.
“God gave us faith to believe that through sharing gifts with children we could find a breakthrough,” Flore said.
“God gave us faith to believe that through sharing gifts with children we could find a breakthrough.”
Flore contacted the village chiefs on the island and obtained permission to hold an Operation Christmas Child outreach event. A total of 150 children attended and joyfully received gift-filled shoeboxes packed full of toys, school supplies, and personal care items that were just for them. Touched by these tangible expressions of the God’s love, the children also heard an engaging presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The following Saturday, we started The Greatest Journey class with 64 children,” said Flore, describing Samaritan’s Purse follow-up discipleship program for shoebox recipients. “By God’s grace, 43 of these children graduated and received certificates.”
Now one year later, the team has a shelter on the island where 27 adults and 91 children are coming to church regularly!
“Operation Christmas Child has been such a wonderful blessing, giving us the opportunity to reach children with the Gospel,” Flore said. “Our vision is to set up a center to teach children to read and write, because so many of them here don’t go to school because their parents can’t afford to send them to the mainland for school.”
As a result of Operation Christmas Child’s work there, Vridi Ako is already a safer place for children and a location where the Word of God is freely proclaimed. We praise God for this transformation and look forward to more good reports in the future!