A discipleship program grows a church and trains a young disciple to become a bold witness
“Is it OK if I sing it?”
Edith could hardly wait for a response before the praise song spilled out. The 17-year-old sang a song based on John 14:1 that is a favorite for children in her Sunday school class in Zambia. Edith finds singing is a good way to help the children learn Bible verses.
Teaching about God and the Bible brings Edith an unbridled joy. When she talks about it, her eyes shine, and her smile is abiding. Even with her impressive flurry of chatter, she can’t quite form words fast enough to keep up with her thoughts.
The teaching spark goes back to when Edith was 13 years old and received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. Not long after that, Edith participated in The Greatest Journey, the 12-lesson discipleship program for children who receive shoebox gifts.
“The Greatest Journey encouraged me to teach others,” Edith said.
Edith is one of more than 225,000 children in Zambia who are graduates of The Greatest Journey.
Edith went through the discipleship program with a few other children at the church where her father, Noah, still serves as pastor. At the time, about six children came to the church, including Edith and two of her siblings.
The next year, Pastor Noah and the church hosted another shoebox distribution and different children came to receive gifts, hear the Gospel, and begin the discipleship lessons.
The shoeboxes and The Greatest Journey brought more children to church and, in turn, adults.
“The parents came because their children are coming,” Pastor Noah said.
His heart is for people to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, and in Zambia, sometimes that means sharing the Good News with people who have been in church a long time.
“Everyone will say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ But some have never heard. Some are very, very religious.”
Pastor Noah explained that some people are religious because they go to church, but they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. The Greatest Journey is helping him spread the Gospel among children and disciple them in their faith.
“If we continue to disciple these kids, Zambia will be a transformed nation,” he said. “When they know Christ is the only Savior, they will not be ashamed to share their testimony.”
A Bold Witness
Even a pastor’s daughter needs encouragement to grow in her faith. Edith remembers receiving special presents in her shoebox like Barbie dolls, but what she appreciated most was an opportunity to join The Greatest Journey.
“I still have the certificate at home,” she said.
Edith learned more about how to share her faith with others, and her boldness and excitement to share flourished.
“I had the courage to tell others,” she said. “I invited my friends to church.”
As a Sunday school teacher, Edith continues telling children about Jesus and encouraging them in their faith. Some of her students are poor, and some must walk a long way to attend church. Edith wants the children to know how much Jesus loves them.
“They know they’re not neglected,” she said. “Things might be difficult, but God is always here.”
The Greatest Journey also changed 22-year-old Suwilangi, who taught the discipleship lessons at Pastor Noah’s church, despite her initial reluctance.
“I wasn’t really the person interested in working with kids, but I decided to give it a try,” she said.
Suwilangi wanted to try because she saw how much joy the shoebox gifts brought to children. To her surprise, she had fun teaching The Greatest Journey and learned along with the children.
“I learned the Word before I went to teach,” she said. “I wanted to know more.”
The teacher saw her students learn and have fun in class. She watched as the truth of the Bible changed their hearts. One of their favorite lessons was about the Good Samaritan.
Most of Suwilangi’s students were from poor families, and their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes were their first gifts. The shoeboxes showed the students they were loved and paved the way to The Greatest Journey.
“The box touches the heart of the kids,” Suwilangi said. “Once the heart of the kid is touched, it’s easy to then speak about Christ. They realize God cares.”