The Greatest Journey Celebrates 10 Years of Making Disciples

The Greatest Journey Celebrates 10 Years of Making Disciples

“Millions of children are coming to the Lord Jesus Christ through Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey. These young disciples are sharing their faith, and the Gospel is transforming families and communities around the world.”

—Franklin Graham, President, Samaritan’s Purse

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”

Matthew 28:19

18.9 million
children enrolled

920,000
teachers trained

A Small Seed in Ecuador Blossoms Around the World

It started with a prayer.

“I had been praying around three years for a discipleship program for children,” said Pastor Ramiro Baez of the Good Shepherd Church in Pifo, Ecuador, near Quito, the capital city. “We really needed a very structured program.”

His prayers were answered in 2009 when he learned that his church had been chosen to launch The Greatest Journey, a 12‑lesson discipleship series designed by Samaritan’s Purse for Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipients.

“It was tremendous,” Baez said, to have the privilege to introduce the course to the world. And it had an immediate impact on his congregation, most of whom hail from the impoverished neighborhood around the church building.

“It was God’s miracle to ignite a fire for evangelism and discipleship in this church,” he said.

Pastor Ramiro Baez

Baez, who also serves as Ecuador’s Operation Christmas Child national coordinator, used The Greatest Journey as a tool to plant new churches, including five in and around Pifo. In all, he said, more than 100 churches have been planted in Ecuador as a direct result of The Greatest Journey.

One hundred fifty children participated in the first Greatest Journey class at Good Shepherd. Ten years later, over 13 million boys and girls in 124 countries have graduated from the program, with nearly 9 million of them making decisions for Christ. In addition, over 920,000 volunteer teachers have been trained to teach the Biblically based studies.

“Through The Greatest Journey children get to know Jesus, they grow in Christ, and then they share the love of Christ with others. And that’s when multiplication happens,” said Maribel Pumisacho, an Operation Christmas Child international field representative for South America. “During the time we’ve had The Greatest Journey in Ecuador, God has allowed us to see many transformations in the lives of church leaders. Many pastors didn’t see children as an important part of the church. But now children are very important in the life of the church. In many places, because there weren’t trained leaders, churches were closed. Through The Greatest Journey we’ve been able to see churches reopened.”

“…and then they share the love of Christ with others.”
—Maribel Pumisacho

Recent graduates of The Greatest Journey celebrate in Ecuador.

In April, 55 students at Good Shepherd became the first 10th anniversary class to graduate from The Greatest Journey. By year’s end, over 600 more boys and girls are expected to receive their diplomas and New Testaments at the church when they complete classes. Globally, more than 4 million children will graduate from the course in 2019.

“When we started The Greatest Journey 10 years ago, nobody suspected what was going to happen,” Baez said. “It started an evangelism fire.” And that blaze continues to burn bright in thousands of communities the world over.

“We have a phrase that we always say here,” Baez said. “Dream big. So big that for a human being it is impossible unless God is in the middle of it. And [the success of The Greatest Journey], for a human being, is impossible. That’s why all the honor and all the glory belong to Him.”

“And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

Isaiah 52:10

More from the Past Decade

Girls from the Buryat unreached people group in Dadal, Mongolia, enjoy the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey discipleship course. In their village of 3,000 people only five children attended Sunday School until they began offering the 12-lesson discipleship course. Now 14 boys and girls attend church in addition to 20 adult members.

A class of The Greatest Journey in Latvia receives a visit from Franklin Graham in 2010. Since then, more than 10,000 boys and girls in this Baltic nation have enrolled and trained to become young evangelists in their communities.

When Shukuran, 12, received a shoebox gift in Malawi, he soon enrolled in The Greatest Journey discipleship course. As a result of the Bible lessons, he received Christ and invited his family to attend church with him. Their pastor, Henry Mankanamba, remembers Shukuran’s gift this way: “It was a drop of love. To the family, it became an ocean.”

[Left] Girls from the Buryat unreached people group in Dadal, Mongolia, enjoy the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey discipleship course. In their village of 3,000 people only five children attended Sunday School until they began offering the 12-lesson discipleship course. Now 14 boys and girls attend church in addition to 20 adult members.

[Top Right] A class of The Greatest Journey in Latvia receives a visit from Franklin Graham in 2010. Since then, more than 10,000 boys and girls in this Baltic nation have enrolled and trained to become young evangelists in their communities.

[Bottom Right] When Shukuran, 12, received a shoebox gift in Malawi, he soon enrolled in The Greatest Journey discipleship course. As a result of the Bible lessons, he received Christ and invited his family to attend church with him. Their pastor, Henry Mankanamba, remembers Shukuran’s gift this way: “It was a drop of love. To the family, it became an ocean.”

9.7 million
children praying for and sharing their faith with friends and family

Viorica (right) grew up in Moldova with an alcoholic father. Her mother—the only bread winner in her family—worked in agriculture seasonally. Food was scarce and her parents often fought. Viorica received her first gift ever in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox and went on to participate in The Greatest Journey. She learned much from her teacher Rodica (left) and soon accepted Christ as her Savior and Lord. Viorica later trained to become a teacher of The Greatest Journey herself in order to instruct boys and girls like Evelina (center) how to follow Christ and share Him with others.

When Kwale (right, standing) was a young teen in Tanzania, his classmates ridiculed him because he didn’t have any shoes. Desperate, his mother prayed. When the answer of a brand-new pair came in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift, Kwale was so moved he signed up to participate in The Greatest Journey that same day. During the 12 lessons, he became a Christian and after graduating, he trained to teach the course to other boys and girls.

Pastor José Benítez (right) didn’t let being handicapped by polio stop him from sharing the Gospel with the remote village of La Laguna, Mexico. After first reaching out through a radio broadcast, he, in time, brought shoebox gifts and our follow-up discipleship course to the unreached Mexicanero/Nahuatl people here. Mauricio (left) is one of 80 children in the village to graduate from The Greatest Journey and receive a certificate and New Testament.

[Top Left] Viorica (right) grew up in Moldova with an alcoholic father. Her mother—the only bread winner in her family—worked in agriculture seasonally. Food was scarce and her parents often fought. Viorica received her first gift ever in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox and went on to participate in The Greatest Journey. She learned much from her teacher Rodica (left) and soon accepted Christ as her Savior and Lord. Viorica later trained to become a teacher of The Greatest Journey herself in order to instruct boys and girls like Evelina (center) how to follow Christ and share Him with others.

[Bottom Left] When Kwale (right, standing) was a young teen in Tanzania, his classmates ridiculed him because he didn’t have any shoes. Desperate, his mother prayed. When the answer of a brand-new pair came in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift, Kwale was so moved he signed up to participate in The Greatest Journey that same day. During the 12 lessons, he became a Christian and after graduating, he trained to teach the course to other boys and girls.

[Right] Pastor José Benítez (right) didn’t let being handicapped by polio stop him from sharing the Gospel with the remote village of La Laguna, Mexico. After first reaching out through a radio broadcast, he, in time, brought shoebox gifts and our follow-up discipleship course to the unreached Mexicanero/Nahuatl people here. Mauricio (left) is one of 80 children in the village to graduate from The Greatest Journey and receive a certificate and New Testament.

In Namibia, Innocent (center, in blue) and his sister received Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts and then participated in The Greatest Journey where they both accepted Christ. They shared the Bible lessons they learned in class with their friends and family, and as a result, their mother also surrendered her life to the Lord.

This proud graduate of The Greatest Journey in the Philippines is from the unreached Iraya tribe, one of several groups that make up the Mangyan people of Mindoro Island.

“I learned more about Jesus through the lessons in The Greatest Journey,” said 10-year-old Daphne (right) in Bolivia. She studied the Bible stories in the course with her grandmother—her favorite being when Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. “God is Almighty,” Daphne said. “He can make miracles.” As a result, she is praying for her parents to return to the Lord.

[Left] In Namibia, Innocent (center, in blue) and his sister received Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts and then participated in The Greatest Journey where they both accepted Christ. They shared the Bible lessons they learned in class with their friends and family, and as a result, their mother also surrendered her life to the Lord.

[Top Right] This proud graduate of The Greatest Journey in the Philippines is from the unreached Iraya tribe, one of several groups that make up the Mangyan people of Mindoro Island.

[Bottom Right] “I learned more about Jesus through the lessons in The Greatest Journey,” said 10-year-old Daphne (right) in Bolivia. She studied the Bible stories in the course with her grandmother—her favorite being when Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. “God is Almighty,” Daphne said. “He can make miracles.” As a result, she is praying for her parents to return to the Lord.

8.9 Million
reported decisions for Christ

Franklin Graham addresses graduates of The Greatest Journey in the country of Georgia. More than 130,000 shoebox recipients in this Caucasus nation have enrolled in our follow-up discipleship program to learn how to follow Christ and share Him with others.

Children from Pacific nation of Kiribati take The Greatest Journey course on the island of Tarawa, the site of one of the bloodiest U.S. Marine battles with the Japanese during World War II.

This boy is one of more than 375,000 children in the African nation of Zambia to graduate from The Greatest Journey and receive his own New Testament.

[Top Left] Franklin Graham addresses graduates of The Greatest Journey in the country of Georgia. More than 130,000 shoebox recipients in this Caucasus nation have enrolled in our follow-up discipleship program to learn how to follow Christ and share Him with others.

[Bottom Left] Children from Pacific nation of Kiribati take The Greatest Journey course on the island of Tarawa, the site of one of the bloodiest U.S. Marine battles with the Japanese during World War II.

[Right] This boy is one of more than 375,000 children in the African nation of Zambia to graduate from The Greatest Journey and receive his own New Testament.

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