By Mark Datson, who works in the UK office as the Operation Christmas Child International Manager. He visited the Operation Christmas Child National Leadership Team in Liberia earlier this year to learn more about their teaching of The Greatest Journey.
For those of you who have visited Liberia, you will know that this expression is a commonly heard exchange between Christian brothers and sisters. God is a large part of life here, as can be seen by the numerous churches and missions throughout the city, and the boldly printed Bible-inspired names of schools and small businesses such as the God is Great stationery store or the God’s Hand beauty salon.
Yet perhaps for those who have lived through 14 years of civil war, responding with “I thank God” is a very real sentiment, implying, “I’m glad to have lived to see another day.” Liberia has a long path to walk to lift itself up out of poverty, and compared to some other countries in West Africa, it still has a long way to go. But today there is much to be thankful for—roads being built or repaired, private investment in trade, and improving conditions for government teachers.
Still, peace is fragile, and the presence of UN forces is still deemed necessary. Children are still at risk of being exploited, missing out on education, and being exposed to malaria and other avoidable illnesses.
Reaching children with the hope of the Gospel is important, as is taught at our training day for teachers of “The Greatest Journey.” We are sharing God’s heart for ministry to children, knowing they are able to understand the amazing Good News of Jesus, to follow Him, and to share Him with others even from a young age.
It is great to be able to encourage and equip those volunteer teachers who are so glad for such a quality resource that is being made available to them. More than 50 people attended the training given in Monrovia, and two people were approved as teacher trainers, meaning that trainings can be organized more often.
Danielle, who works in the Child Protection office at Samaritan’s Purse Liberia, said that “The Greatest Journey” is just what they need as a follow up course for their Vacation Bible School program. It provides a way of reaffirming the link between the children they are in touch with and the church.
I asked Danielle about the varying reading abilities of children in classes and was glad to learn that she thought that even those with lower abilities loved the material, valued the fact that they had their own copy, and understood and remembered the stories from the wonderful pictures in it. Attendance at “The Greatest Journey” classes is better than at other courses Danielle runs—a fact she attributes to the students having their own books.
We look forward to beginning “The Greatest Journey” classes in two new counties this year—Nimba and Bong—where people are waiting eagerly to be trained and to be given the materials. The Discipleship Coordinator in Liberia has a growing job on his hands to oversee the program as it expands. We pray that he will find people who can share the privilege of encouraging and keeping in touch with the 100 teachers who will soon be launching into action.
How are you today? I hope that along with me you are you thanking God!