I will never forget a little guy I met a couple of years ago. His name was Pavel and he had his pockets stuffed with cookies as he walked over to talk with me. I asked him why he had so many cookies—he said he was hungry and did not really believe that there would be more at the next meal. I told him that there would be enough for him to eat some everyday for the next week—he smiled and turned around and listened to the bible lesson as cookie crumbs etched his face. A few days later he still had his pockets crammed with cookies and had attended all the lessons, and was ready to believe what was being taught because we had told the truth about the food. I know it sounds crazy, but in places where life is difficult, truth is a rare commodity and real care for people is even rarer. That is why we work with local believers and help them disciple the people around them. We don’t just want them to have Bible facts, we want to care for them physically as well, in fact we want them to be transformed so that their lives are different as a result of spending time with those who walk with God. Pavel left the camp that week with one of his pockets holding a children’s bible and the other three filled with cookies—just because.
Every summer for the last 18 years I have seen God do some amazing things in the lives of children around the world as they spend time in Christian Summer Camps put on by local churches.
And each time I am amazed at the process as I watch transformation happen when loving people live out compassion to those who have not had it expressed in such a way. They call them by their names, hug them, set with them, play games with them, eat with them, run with them, tell stories to them, ask questions to them, laugh with them, drink tea with them, and yes have cookies and candy with them! Again, I know it sounds like normal things to do, but when there is no one to care for you, and the local church is providing such an experience, everyone in the community tends to show up. That is why I am amazed—God has given us a simple way to reach those who desperately need to know about Jesus, and this week of discipleship is life changing.
A couple of years ago we noticed something else—the caregivers–the grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and some parents wanted to see what was going on with their kids. They had seen the difference when they came home, how they acted, responded, talked—even praying for meals. They were interested too. So we put together a program that would impact them in a positive way—we provided eye exams and gave away reading glasses. Don’t laugh; this was life changing for these hard working village people. Some people we seen had not received medical care for years, and now they had a chance to see a doctor and get free glasses. For me, as I watched the teams from America interact with the grateful people I was reminded that our purpose on this journey of following Jesus is not just about telling, but putting tools into peoples hands so that they can learn about Him—and if they can’t see to read the free Gospel of John we provided—well that is why we gave them the appropriate powered reader glasses. Simple, yet effective as we have a way to communicate with another segment of the population and begin the discipleship process.
So this summer we are doing it all again, with new teams, new people, new churches, new children, but we are expecting more amazing results because that is what Ephesians 3:20-21 talks about as we participate in the ministry of the church as it makes disciples. They have a big vision to reach their communities and we believe God that he will provide the resources necessary to have enough cookies, bibles, glasses, and gospels. Would you be willing to be a part of this strategic ministry by praying, giving, and making it possible for our GSG teams to deploy to new areas?
We look forward to what God will do thru our partnerships on the ground in Central Asia and Moldova, but want to make sure that our American partners, like you, are involved too. We look forward to hearing from you as you think about your involvement; maybe your church or small group would like a project they can be involved in. Let us know how we can help you be a part of what God is doing this summer around the world as many begin to follow Jesus.