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The Greatest Journey – Making Disciples by the Millions

Dear Friend,

Every year, Samaritan’s Purse delights millions of children around the world by delivering shoebox gifts packed by people like you, through our Operation Christmas Child project. As exciting as it is to bring the joy of Christmas into a barrio, a mission hospital, or a refugee camp, the story doesn’t end with the shoebox—that’s just the beginning.

Our church partners around the world have always handed out Gospel storybooks along with the shoebox gifts. It’s a great evangelistic tool to reach children and their families for the Lord.

Ten years ago, Samaritan’s Purse launched a follow-up discipleship program called The Greatest Journey, a 12-lesson series that churches use to teach Bible stories, memorise Scripture, and become soul-winners in their communities. We praise God that nearly nine million boys and girls in 124 countries have made decisions for Christ through The Greatest Journey. That’s something only God can do.

A BIBLE OF HER OWN: Graduates of The Greatest Journey, like this girl in mexico, receive a certificate and a new testament in their language to help them grow in their faith and guide them as they share the Gospel.

I’d love to tell you some of the ways God is using graduates of The Greatest Journey to make disciples, change their world, and multiply the Gospel impact of shoebox gifts.

Let’s start in the Middle East with a little girl that we’ll call Selda. (We can’t use her real name, for her protection.) Her family fled from fighting in their homeland and are living as refugees. They settled in a place where Samaritan’s Purse is working with local believers to provide relief to families in need. Selda received a shoebox gift from Operation Christmas Child at a local church and enrolled in The Greatest Journey. We praise God that 37 of the 40 children in her class came to faith in Jesus Christ.

Selda then had the joy of leading her mother and father to faith in Jesus. That angered some in her extended family, and they came and challenged her.  Selda courageously asked to share the Gospel with them and the Lord used her bold witness to lead them all to Christ. Even as militants came and threatened her family, they repented and accepted Jesus after they heard her testimony! In the midst of so much danger, 52 individuals have come to saving faith through one brave little girl who completed The Greatest Journey.

In the South American country of Ecuador, where we launched The Greatest Journey 10 years ago, more than 650,000 children have made decisions for Christ through the program, and many more have heard the Gospel from our graduates.

A Samaritan’s Purse team recently visited the town of Pifo, Ecuador, where those first classes were held. This is an impoverished community outside the capital city of Quito.

Two of the original 150 graduates are headed for seminary. David Paillacho was eight years old when he received his Operation Christmas Child shoebox, heard the Gospel, and prayed to receive Jesus into his heart. He enrolled in The Greatest Journey to learn more about how to live out his new faith. Now he is following God’s call to become a pastor.

Thousands of churches in Ecuador now offer The Greatest Journey classes. “You never know if the next Billy Graham is in one of these classes,” said Pastor Ramiro Baez of the Good Shepherd Church.

One of our team leaders in South America said, “The perspective of the entire church in Ecuador has changed because of Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey over the past 10 years.” They are making evangelism more of a priority than it used to be, starting with the example set by their children.

ROOTS OF A CHURCH: These children in Botswana met under a tree to study The Greatest Journey lessons because there was no church in their village. Through their prayer and witness the Lord has now planted a church where they live.

This year, more than 4 million children worldwide are enrolled in The Greatest Journey. Samaritan’s Purse provides graduates with a diploma and a copy of the New Testament in their local language, to help them to continue to grow in their faith and share the Gospel with others. Incredibly, all of this, along with teacher training and providing other necessary materials, is accomplished for only $10 per child!

The Greatest Journey is also a crucial part of our four-year plan to take the Gospel to a thousand islands across the Pacific Ocean. One of our teachers in the Philippines is a woman who has a calling to disciple the children on Hilantagaan Island, which is home to just 3,000 people who live in primitive conditions and must catch rain for drinking water. Every weekend, she rides a boat to the island to lead Bible lessons. Starting with The Greatest Journey graduates and their families, she has planted the first church on the island.

In the African nation of Botswana, one of our teams handed out shoeboxes in a village on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. This village was also a spiritual wasteland, as superstition, traditional religions, poverty and alcoholism have kept people from hearing the Gospel.

Many of the children had never received gifts until our local team in Botswana visited the village to hand out Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. Then we organised The Greatest Journey lessons, where several of the village children came to trust Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Now, a church is being planted there.

As God provides, we are working to train more volunteer teachers, translate materials, and offer The Greatest Journey lessons to more and more children, to fulfil the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

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Franklin Graham