- Category: history
- Published: Thursday, 05 January 2017 11:26
- Written by Super User
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Beginning History of
Ecclesia Children’s Ministries
It was February 1997. The sound of the jet engines droned in my ears as we flew 36,000 feet above the ocean. This was now the third time that I had taken this thirty six-hour flight to the great nation of India. Though these flights were long it was a good opportunity for reflection and preparation for the sights and scenes that awaited our landing. Even this time of the year the temperatures would be at least eighty degrees. A wave of heat would greet us when we walked from the air-conditioned airport to our waiting hosts.
It had now been two years since our mission had begun to focus on the continent of India. Our mission had worked with Indian believers in reaching out in different ways to their people. On short-term mission trips we had distributed Bibles in villages and shared our faith with Hindu and Christian families. By working with a local orphanage, visiting schools, and reaching out to women in need, we had come to love the Indian people. Once again we had the opportunity to serve by helping host a pastor’s seminar and crusade among Telegu speaking pastors.
A stewardess came by to offer a beverage and a pack of peanuts,… schools…education…children…Christians…education…schools…children thoughts began to come clearer and clearer into my mind and heart. As they did an excitement began to mount in contemplating the possibility of such a venture. Was this really the Lord speaking to my heart?
In the following months the vision to work among the needy children of India began to form more concretely in my mind. But how did I know that this was really God? What if it was just a good idea? “Please Lord”, I prayed, “show me if this is really you and not just a good idea of my own.” Little did I realize the way that the Lord would show me that this dream was indeed from Him.
It is not often that I have dreams that have significant spiritual meaning. But one night I dreamed I was in India. I was watching a group of young people distributing some clothes to a group of thirty needy village children of all sizes.
When the young people had completed their distribution project, they turned to leave and I was left standing looking at these children. The only way that I can describe how I saw these children is that they were “empty little bodies with no life in them.” They were not smiling, jumping and excited as most children usually are; rather they were standing quietly, lifeless and empty.
Waking from the dream I began to ask the Lord what the meaning of the dream might be. I believe the Lord showed me that, “it is not enough to give them clothing. You need to fill them with My Word.”
This specific word of the Lord would lead me to leave the United States and to live in India for six months and begin children’s Bible programs among rural coastal fishing communities.
Another encouragement to step out of my comfort zone came to me. Once again it was in the form of a dream. This time I was in a large cathedral type church. I noticed that it was nice and warm. The church had that warm cozy feeling, a place where you would love to be on a cold day. I also noticed that I was the only one in the church.
Then I was outside the nice, warm, inviting church building. I was standing in the courtyard. Outside the walls of this warm building it was very cold. I was facing a plastered cement wall six feet tall, with an attached cement bench facing the church. This wall ran around the outside of the church. Sitting tightly against the cement wall was a row of individuals who were huddling together to stay warm. I noticed that they were covered with snow and ice and I had the impression that they were freezing to death! After I woke up and prayed I understood the dream to mean two things.
One was that these people who were freezing to death were so close to the church and yet they were not coming into the warmth and security that the churches fellowship provided. Such situations are seen within the rural Hindu communities of India. Hindu’s are so close to the church and yet do not understand the message or pass through the church’s doors. They needed to be brought into the church’s warmth and fellowship. The other meaning was of a more personal nature.
Over the past years I had been in a secure and warm place by being a part of the Christian community. I believe that the Lord was saying it was necessary for me to go outside the warmth of the church and to bring others into the church. What struck me was that these individuals were so close and yet they were perishing! Freezing to death! These dreams strengthened my faith to overcome the fear and apprehension of going and living within another culture in a foreign land.
Along with the blessing and confirmation of leadership, these dreams led me to network with India Evangelistic & Relief Fellowship and to begin a twenty week Firm Foundation children’s Bible program. Our relationship was one of strengthening a common vision to work with children.
Our ministry schedule started with weekly Bible programs in eleven village centers. We used a circuit rider approach to children’s evangelistic programs. Each village center was given the same lessons. Each week’s lesson built on the previous lessons.
Attendance varied from 850 to 1,000 children coming to the programs each week depending on local holiday festivals, school and home duties. During this time it became clear to the local leadership, to me and to other believers that God was doing a work in this area among children. We were entering into His harvest field of children.
After having been in India for four months discouragement began to set up camp in my mind. I began to wonder if what I was doing was really effective. During a time of wondering what the result of this program might be, the Lord gave me assurance in my morning devotion time.
II Chronicles 15:7 "But as for you, be strong, and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded."
I knew that God had seen my distress and I had the assurance that the results and fruitfulness was in His hands.
I saw this promise fulfilled as the networking relationship continued to grow between Ecclesia Children's Ministries and India Evangelistic & Relief Fellowship.
During the life of this program approx. 7,200 children attended weekly Bible programs at 130 ministry locations - 60% of the children being from Hindu backgrounds. Volunteer children’s Bible teachers from different churches and denominations worked together to reach the children of India with the gospel.
Our prayer is that God will continue to bless these efforts and that many more children throughout India and the world will hear of His Love and Salvation.
In November 2000 when leaving India after spending six weeks among the villages, the Lord gave me assurance from Psalms 115:14.
"The Lord will increase you more and more, you and your children.”
There was continued interest in the Firm Foundation teacher manuals and children’s Student Bible Workbooks. 500 Firm Foundation Teacher’s lesson books were printed in the Telegu language with an accompanying 10,000 Student Bible Workbooks. Student Character Workbooks were developed for the teaching of specific character qualities.
Another strategy for ministry to children in India is the use of character and Bible character programs among public schools. School assemblies and character programs help to soften the ground. As people show interest, opportunities to participate in a weekly Bible program can be offered.
One day after a time of concerned prayer for these coastal area children, a word of reassurance came to me for the safety of these programs. Psalms says,
"I will contest with those that contest with thee, and I will deliver your children."
One night while on a mission trip to China I dreamed that I heard one of our staff say out loud, "this program is going to explode!" When I came back and told the dream to that individual, he said that he had been talking with one of the other staff about that very thing while I had been gone.
Our program goal is to have 21 character qualities being taught from a Biblical perspective. These materials along with use of the Character First! Education materials can be field tested by Bible/Character teachers for their particular area.
The teachers can give feedback and ideas for character lesson illustrations that come from the nature and history common to their culture. Every four to five weeks a new character quality can be studied along with reviews from the Firm Foundations Bible chronological lesson materials.
Opportunities are open across the globe. The work with children began in India. Opportunities continue for the expansion of children ministry in India, Ghana, Nigeria, South America and the United States.
Come and join us!