A Child's Faith

Young people around the world discover Scripture.

Photo by David Singer

The party for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is coming to a close in the Nasugbu municipality of the Philippines. The brightly colored packages from America have been distributed and gleefully opened. Joy lights up each young face. And each pair of little hands now holds a new and precious possession: a Bible to own and cherish from the American Bible Society.

“The Lord has given us such a blessing,” says Billy Riel, whose five children are among the happy recipients of the shoe boxes. “It has been good for my whole family. I'm grateful that God has brought us together for this. If it were not for him, my kids wouldn't have gotten these gifts. More than anything else, though, my children got copies of God's Word. Through their Bibles they will learn right from wrong.”

There is something extraordinary about happiness on the face of a child. All the more wonderful when the source of that joy is Scripture. The American Bible Society has been active in searching out new partners who are also eager to provide Scripture as a key ingredient in ministering to young people — sharing the Word by speaking to the next generation.

The Meaning of Christmas

The excitement that Mr. Riel expresses shows the power of these new partnerships. This type of outreach also reaches parents through their love for the children.

Operation Christmas Child, a program of Samaritan's Purse, draws families to-gether around God's Word and targets unchurched children from poor neighborhoods. At the OCC parties, children receive shoe boxes from church members donating from Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and the U.S.

Each shoe box is packed with clothing, small toys, candy, crayons, school supplies, dental hygiene items, a Bible-story comic book and, if the donor of the box chooses, a photo and a personal note. OCC parties are a festive way to kick off an introductory Bible course or to honor the children who have completed it.

The partnership brings together the expertise and passions of the Mailbox Club, the American Bible Society and churches in more than 60 other countries where the boxes are given and/or received. During the 2006 season the Mailbox Club worked with OCC in 57 countries worldwide, and enrolled 1,349,322 children in a primer Bible program. That same year the American Bible Society contributed 400,000 New Testaments to children who had completed the program. Each received Scriptures in his or her native language.

In the U.S., tens of thousands of Christians have discovered that participating in OCC is an opportunity to become involved in global evangelism. Any church can take part; all that is required are empty shoe boxes, a variety of small gifts and a desire to bring God's love to hurting children in all parts of the world.

The results would melt the hardest heart. In Mr. Riel's case, since his children began a three-month Mailbox Club Bible study program, they've been reading the Bible together as a family every day and attending church together.

Back to School

There are other program partnerships through which the American Bible Society is able to extend Christ's love to poor children. In the U.S., the Bible Society works with the Salvation Army to provide Scriptures at back-to-school bashes at the end of summer camp programs.

Patrick Patey looks over a gymnasium exploding with children at the back-to-school bash near Dallas-Fort Worth. Some 300 or more of them are trying to hook plastic fish, getting their faces painted, shooting baskets and having an all-around good time. The children, who attended a Salvation Army summer camp, are going to receive a knapsack filled with school supplies — and a Contemporary English Version Bible from the Bible Society.

“It's a fantastic day,” says Mr. Patey, who is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Salvation Army Metroplex Command. “Most of these kids are from single-parent homes with six or seven siblings. I can remember my nervousness each year, facing the first day of school. These kids face the same anxiety but without having proper school supplies.” Mr. Patey appreciates the assistance in providing each of the children with a Bible, which for some children will be their first book. “Nothing could be more important. Nothing else can even come close,” he says. “We're so deeply grateful for our partnership with the Bible Society.”

American Bible Society Bibles are also given out at the beginning of some of these camps. The letters of thanks from the children are touching. From Camp Mount Crags near Los Angeles, a girl named Jennifer wrote, “I'm so happy now that I have my own Bible to read. . . . I will always remember this summer when I read my Bible.” From Camp Gilmore near San Diego, Khadija wrote, “I just want to say thank you for giving us Bibles so we can learn, know, love and trust the Word of God. And if you obey it, then you will be okay once again.”

Read and Learn

Hanny White was in charge of the second grade Sunday school class at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Coatesville, Pa. Her church provided each student with a Good News Bible. The children would faithfully do the Bible reading assignments she gave, but she began to wonder what would make them read the Bible on their own.

The breakthrough came from an unexpected place. Ms. White had one autistic student who never read the assignments but who loved to hear books read to him. After some research, she found the colorful Read and Learn picture Bible, produced by the American Bible Society in partnership with Scholastic, the world's largest publisher of educational materials for children. Designed and written for four- to seven-year-olds, the Read and Learn Bible consists of 102 paraphrased Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments, and each story is given over largely to lively illustrations in vibrant color.

Ms. White bought a copy for her special student, who quickly took to reading it on his own. So she recommended to the Christian Education Committee that the Read and Learn Bible be adopted for the whole class. The results last year exceeded her expectations.

What made this Bible most effective, Ms. White found, were the sections in the back that parents could read to their children. Topics included Teaching Forgiveness (Genesis 31-33), Serving Others (John 13), Tell Jesus' Story (Luke 2.8-14), Facing the Fear of Life (Luke 8) and Wondering About Wonder (Genesis 1-2). “Parents knew the Bible stories but didn't know where they were located in the Bible,” says Ms. White. “One mother, Heather Clark, told me she'd learned a lot about the Bible by reading it nightly to her daughter, Makayla. So this Bible became useful education for both kids and parents.”

Four months after its introduction, the Read and Learn Bible became Scholastic's No. 1 seller. It has been so successful that Scholastic worked with the Bible Society to build a family of educational Bible materials around it, including a Spanish-language version and an interactive CD that allows children to construct their own illustrations for 30 Bible stories.

From new publications to time-tested partnerships, at home and abroad, the Bible Society is walking every road to make sure that young people can encounter the life-changing message of the Bible.

Wow Jam Fiestas

Winning Our World International (WOW) grew out of Steven Tavani's vision to create an evangelistic outreach to urban youth. During the past 18 years, it has engaged a million people with the gospel. “WOW Jam events put the churchto work,” he says. “They bring the church to the streets and the streets back into the church.”

Volunteers from dozens of churches recently brought a thousand people to an afternoon of free food, contests and recreation at Dilibos Soccer Park in the heart of the Hispanic community of Fresno, Calif. The fun included family photos, haircuts, free groceries, bicycle repair and manicures. It was followed by moving song, tears, testimony and preaching.

More than 300 WOW Jams such as this have reached hearts in more than 40 cities, engaging more than 200 churches. This past summer, thanks to the Bible Society and its supporters, 25,000 people who made decisions for Christ went away with CEV New Testaments, 8,000 of them in Spanish.

More than 300 WOW Jams such as this have reached hearts in more than 40 cities, engaging more than 200 churches. This past summer, thanks to the Bible Society and its supporters, 25,000 people who made decisions for Christ went away with CEV New Testaments, 8,000 of them in Spanish.

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

Help us share God's Word where needed most.

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