As we wound around the Kamuni River in the country of Guyana, I couldn’t grasp the splendor of the landscape around me. I rode beneath the jungle canopy, watching exotic birds sweep in front of the boat, monkeys dangling from tree to tree, and dead anacondas laying on the edge of the river. This is my job? For real? Lord, this is insanely awesome. But it would only get better.
We arrived at Santa Mission, quietly nestled on the Guyana riverbank. The beauty was surreal. Hollywood spends millions to create movie sets that look like this, but they still do not come close. We were there to observe a classroom setting of The Greatest Journey, a follow-up discipleship program of Operation Christmas Child.
Under the open-air, thatched-roof pavilion, kids gathered around, waiting for their class to begin. The volunteer teacher had walked miles to get there, and brought his three children along with him.
Besides the tropical setting, the classroom was just like any other Sunday school. There were sing-a-longs, Bible stories, memory verses, and activities. But unlike my own involvement in Sunday school, these kids were experiencing what could be their only opportunity to be discipled. Their time in The Greatest Journey classroom equipped them with Scripture to store the truth of the Gospel in their hearts so they can be spiritually ready to face whatever hardships life might bring their way.
But I was amazed to see that the discipleship didn’t stop with the children. They went home and shared the Gospel with their families, and brought their parents to church. The opportunity to share the Gospel was sparked with the shoebox gift, ignited by the discipleship of The Greatest Journey, and then spread across villages and communities like wildfire.
In the classroom, I met Samuel. Samuel had received a shoebox many years before as an infant, and he still had his favorite toy from that box. When we asked if he would show us the toy, he ran home and hurried back with a Fisher Price phone in hand. His eyes lit up as we replaced the batteries, and the phone began to ring. Years later, Samuel’s journey that began with one shoebox continues as he attends The Greatest Journey classes with his friends. In Samuel, I witnessed a joyful spirit, eager to share what he was learning about Jesus.
An Operation Christmas Child shoebox is a tool to open the door to share the Gospel, but also to TEACH the Gospel. Once each child completes the twelve-lesson program, he or she receives a Bible. For many of these children it is the first Bible in the household.
The week before our trip, the Guyanese government passed a new law stating that missionaries are no longer able to renew their visas into Guyana. So now more than ever, Guyana and similar countries, need local, self-sustained discipleship programs. It is not about the work we, Samaritan’s Purse, can implement, it is about building up the local Church. We must prepare the generations to come; by working with local churches and ministry partners to teach The Greatest Journey classes in countries like Guyana, we are accomplishing just that.
This project is now heavy on my heart because I see the importance and the effect The Greatest Journey can have on an entire nation. One day, the toys will be gone, but the Gospel does not perish, spoil, or fade.
To find out more about The Greatest Journey and how you can be a part of it, click here.