In the Republic of Georgia, children who live in a community without a church now have the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ. Around the world, millions of children have embarked on their road to faith when they receive a shoebox gift. Many then begin The Greatest Journey, a 12-week discipleship course that invites them into a deeper relationship with the Savior. Learn more about how you can bring good news and great joy to children through Operation Christmas Child.
Children in Georgia Take The Greatest Journey
Vaziani is an often-forgotten community in the Republic of Georgia. Soviet soldiers had a base close by and lived in these apartments. The soldiers left after communism fell, and Georgia’s poorest people moved into the dilapidated apartments.
Although the apartments aren’t sturdy and at least one building has fallen down, people continue to live in them because they’re free.
The children in Vaziani walk to school each day. This is the second grade building. Many students dream of becoming doctors and bankers. Some of them want to stay in the community, and others hope to leave.
Thirteen-year-old Miriam (middle left) received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift and has now completed The Greatest Journey discipleship program.
“Most of the time my mom is busy, but when she has time, I’m telling her stories,” she said.
Miriam also shares what she has learned with other children, like 8-year-old Ani (right).
Eleven-year-old George has also completed The Greatest Journey. When he talked about the booklets, he told the story of David.
“This story taught us to always have faith in God,” he said, “(David) was sure that with God, he can fight against Goliath. This taught us that if God is with you, no one will overcome you.”
Nina (right) is a South Korean missionary who has devoted the past four years to ministering to the children of Vaziani. Here she is with Khatuna, a member of Operation Christmas Child’s National Leadership Team in Georgia. The team supports Nina and other teachers like her with The Greatest Journey materials and training.
“For Georgia’s future, it’s much better to teach kids,” Nina said. “In 10 years, they will become teachers themselves.”
Tamuna teaches The Greatest Journey in Vaziani with Nina. At one point in her life she was homeless with three young children, but she continued to believe in God. Because of her hardships, she can relate to the children in Vaziani, like 7-year-old Nastya pictured here.
Nina has led 50 students through The Greatest Journey in her small apartment. She reads to them from the Bible and the booklets, and she also has fun activities for the children.
“We take the story, and we paint or we make plays,” she said. “And then we get them together, and each class shows their own plays so that it makes them remember it for a long time.”
Andrey is Tamuna’s 8-year-old son. His friends made fun of him when he began attending the lessons, but he continued to go. He now shares his Good News with his friends and others.
“Once I came here and learned about Jesus, I became really happy and I believed,” he said.
Nina doesn’t just teach the children about Christ. She also tutors the children who aren’t in school. Before attending Nina’s class, 7-year-old Nastia couldn’t read or write because she doesn’t have proper documentation to attend school. Now she can read Bible stories by herself.
On a warm, summer afternoon, Operation Christmas Child arrived at the primary school in Vaziani. The children were thrilled to receive gifts and gladly shared items in their boxes with their friends.
Many buildings in Vaziani are shells of ruins. Some have fallen because they aren’t structurally sound. Others were bombed. Children said they live in fear that their own buildings will collapse on them
Franklin Graham watched the children of Vaziani as they graduated from The Greatest Journey. Skip Heitzig, pastor of Calvary of Albuquerque, and his wife, Lenya, accompanied the Samaritan’s Purse president.
After the children answered Bible questions, Graham told them that he was proud of them.
“Studying the Bible is very important,” he said. “God has a plan for you, and it’s my hope He uses you to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.”
“It’s our prayer that as you grow, you produce fruit,” Heitzig said to the children. “I pray that your lives will produce much fruit for His glory.”
The children received certificates as their names were called and they walked across the stage. For some children, this may be the only opportunity they will have to wear a graduation gown.
Skip and Lenya handed New Testaments to the children as they crossed the stage. They now will be able to read and study the Bible on their own.
Nina hugged the children as they walked across the stage. Although they have completed The Greatest Journey, they won’t stop attending Nina’s classes. She will continue to teach them and help them grow in their faith.