The boys and girls knew to quickly pick up their chairs and scoot to the side, clearing the narrow alleyway anytime a bicycle or motorbike needed to squeeze through. These interruptions to the discipleship class happened often enough that they had become normal, and the children and their teachers carried on with worship and Bible teaching once the traffic had cleared.
The tiny thoroughfare in the middle of the slum was the only space that members of Grace Baptist Church could find to hold The Greatest Journey lessons. But they were undeterred. Every Saturday morning, they arrived to find the boys and girls waiting for them and eager to hear the Bible story they’d come to share.
THE GREATEST JOURNEY CLASSES MET IN A SLUM COMMUNITY.
God is using Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey, our follow-up discipleship program for shoebox gift recipients, to introduce children in this slum in Illoilo, Philippines, to the Gospel. Most of their families aren’t Christians, and they had never before had an opportunity to learn about God’s love for them.
New Life in Christ
Anne, a member of Grace Baptist, had never worked with children and doubted that she could serve effectively. She even wondered why God had called her to teach The Greatest Journey.
But she knew God wanted her to teach, and she wanted to obey. As the weeks went on, she came to treasure her time leading the boys and girls and watching them become disciples of Jesus Christ.
ANNE WORSHIPS WITH THE CHILDREN DURING A BIBLE CLASS.
“We’re teaching the kids not only The Greatest Journey lesson, but how to develop daily habits. We teach them how to pray and how to read their Bible,” she said. “I believe that if you touch their heart, they can serve the Lord our God.”
God used Anne and the other teachers to reach children like Glenn, who, at first, seemed to want nothing to do with the Bible lessons. His teachers weren’t sure if he was enjoying The Greatest Journey, because he stayed in the back of the group. He didn’t interact with other children or join the singing.
A NARROW ALLEYWAY SERVES AS ENTRANCE TO THE SLUM.
As the weeks went on, they realised it wasn’t disinterest that kept him at the back of their makeshift classroom.
“He’s so shy, and he is very quiet,” Anne said. “But I encouraged him. The Greatest Journey has helped the kids develop their self-confidence.”
Anne faithfully prayed for him, taught him God’s Word, and made him feel welcomed in the classes. She recognises the importance of investing in the lives of children.
“They will be the future pastors and teachers. We want to teach the kids so that they will spread the goodness and love of God.”
Glenn is among a number of children in the slum who have repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation. He learned for the first time during The Greatest Journey that God loves him and sent His Son to die on a cross for his sins.
GLENN CAME TO FAITH IN CHRIST DURING THE GREATEST JOURNEY.
Now, Glenn is sharing his faith with family and friends. “God is always with me. He doesn’t leave me,” he said. “I feel lighter now, and I don’t worry as much.”
God is also using Anne and the other teachers to share His love with adults in the community. A number of mothers, including Glenn’s, attended The Greatest Journey lessons with their children.
“We want to touch the lives of families so that they will also glorify God,” Anne said.
Anne and other church members had wanted to reach Glenn’s neglected community for a while but they weren’t sure where to start. This slum is well-acquainted with hardship, as many people can’t find jobs and those who do still don’t earn enough to make ends meet. Their small homes are pieced together with wood and bamboo scraps and precariously crammed together. Alcohol and illegal drug use is common.
The church members were concerned about the physical needs of the children as well as their spiritual needs. “Some children go to school without food. These kids are hungry,” said Charmaine, one of The Greatest Journey teachers. Her husband is also pastor of Grace.
CHARMAINE HAS CONTINUED DISCIPLING THE CHILDREN THROUGH A WEEKLY GATHERING AT HER HOME.
Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey created the pathway the church needed to begin Gospel outreach among children and parents who desperately needed the eternal hope of Christ.
“This has opened doors for us to talk about Jesus. We want them to have a personal relationship with Him,” Charmaine said.
Much to their delight, and even surprise, boys and girls in the slum never tired of learning about God during The Greatest Journey. “Even if it was hot, even if it was crowded, they were so enthusiastic,” Charmaine said.
They enjoyed the time so much that Charmaine and Anne wanted the regular gatherings to continue once the lessons were finished. They started a weekly worship and Bible study for the children in Charmaine’s home. Even children who didn’t participate in The Greatest Journey have become interested in the weekly gathering at her home.
“This has been one of my greatest joys,” Charmaine said.
Please pray that children in the slum and throughout the Philippines would come to know Jesus Christ as their saviour and grown in their faith and knowledge of His Word.