A new generation is coming to faith in Jesus Christ through Operation Christmas Child and its follow-up program, The Greatest Journey.
Light, sky, land, and water appeared out of nothing. Next came vegetation, animals, and mankind. God called forth all these things simply by speaking, “Let there be…” (Genesis 1). While the story of creation may sound familiar, it is an entirely new concept for many boys and girls in Mongolia.
At Living Stone Church in Nalaikh, just an hour’s drive outside of the capital of Ulaanbaatar, children are hearing this amazing Bible story and many others through The Greatest Journey, Samaritan’s Purse discipleship program for Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipients. Each of the 12 lessons proclaims Good News that confronts commonly held secular and animistic worldviews in Mongolia. The first class on creation is particularly revolutionary.
“The first lesson is always exciting for me to teach, because it is a very different idea that the world was created by God,” said Buyankhishig, a church leader. “Mongolia was a communist country, and Darwin’s theory was taught—that our origin is from a monkey.”
Buyankhishig and other leaders at Living Stone Church are teaching participants in The Greatest Journey the very different principle noted in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
This truth from God’s Word is sticking in the minds of the boys and girls who join the program. So different from what they have known, it is piquing their interest in the discipleship course and giving them a desire to continue attending.
Saved and Now Sharing Their Faith
Munkhbold, 11, and Enkhriilen, 9, were among the children who received Christ into their lives during The Greatest Journey course at Living Stone Church. They each independently noted on their graduation day that Genesis 1:27 was their favorite of all the memory verses in the course.
Munkhbold had attended church for seven years before he enrolled in the discipleship lessons, but the 12 Bible stories became the tool God used to change his life.
“I know that I’m a sinner. I’ve done wrong things, but God saved me and I became a Christian during The Greatest Journey,” he said.
“God saved me and I became a Christian during The Greatest Journey.”
Now Munkhbold is bringing his four younger sisters to Sunday school. He is also telling his classmates, friends, and neighbors about Jesus. He said, “I shared what I learned with my best friend, Dulguun, and the next day he came to church with me,” said Munkhbold.
Dulguun also enrolled in The Greatest Journey and today he is following Christ, too!
For Enkhriilen, all the lessons in The Greatest Journey built up to a dramatic ending (or perhaps, better stated, an exciting new beginning for her).
“I learned what God created and other stories that are in the Bible,” she said. “I got to know about people whose names are Adam and Eve. Also, I learned about the birth of Jesus and how He was born.”
As each story unfolded, it paved the way for her to make a life-changing decision. She said, “When the teacher told us about Jesus’ death on the cross, I was so sad. When she talked about the resurrection, I was so happy and I really wanted to follow Jesus. I invited Jesus into my heart.”
This prayer opened up a whole new world to Enkhriilen. She began enjoying a forever-relationship with Jesus Christ and learned that she could also ask God about anything that was on her heart. One of her first prayers after her salvation was that her mom would visit her.
Enkhriilen’s parents live in the countryside of eastern Mongolia, while she lives in Nalaikh with her grandmother, brother, sister, and nephew.
“Even though I’m far away from my mom and dad, every evening I call them and talk about what I learned from The Greatest Journey,” she said.
Her mother plans to go to Living Stone Church with her daughter when she visits and Enkhriilen is hopeful that she, too, will give her life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Starting From a Gift-Filled Shoebox
The Greatest Journey discipleship program has its genesis, of course in the evangelistic outreaches where Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts are distributed.
“Every year, our church gets between 50 and 100 shoeboxes, which means we have the opportunity to reach 50 to 100 children and their families,” Buyankhishig said. “Shoeboxes actually help open people’s hearts.”
She has seen firsthand how they make a significant impression on boys and girls. Many of them decide to follow Jesus as a result of their gift or The Greatest Journey follow-up discipleship course. Even those who don’t gain a positive impression of Christianity and are more likely to attend church services in the future, she said.
“I believe what you’re doing is a big deal,” Buyankhishig said. “Maybe it can be so simple to pack a shoebox, but it’s actually really important in terms of God’s Kingdom. Your reward will be great in Heaven.”
Pack a Shoebox! National Collection Week is coming Nov. 13-19, 2023.