Growing in Faith

March 9, 2012 • Peru

Peruvian teachers witness God’s hand at work as their students learn The Greatest Journey curriculum

Ask Sunday school teachers anywhere in the world, and they will agree that there’s no greater reward than to see their students come to faith in Jesus Christ and experience real change in their lives.

For Lucy and Tania, teaching The Greatest Journey discipleship program at the Assemblies of God Church of Light and Hope in Lima, Peru, has produced a spiritual harvest beyond anything they anticipated and has confirmed their calling in ministry to children.

Last year, their pastor learned of the 12-lesson Bible study curriculum being offered to boys and girls who had received shoe box gifts from Operation Christmas Child. The more the Sunday school teachers heard about the materials, the more excited they became.

As director of the children’s ministry at the church, Lucy has overseen the implementation of The Greatest Journey and had the privilege of teaching some of the classes this spring.

“The children are praying now and giving praise to God,” she said. “They have a difference in their attitudes, even in the way they sing. It is beautiful to see.”

That enthusiasm is not the initial reaction of some children, Lucy said. They are reluctant to attend, and arrive with the assumption that they will be bored. But by the end of the second or third lesson, they are eager to return—and they bring friends too.

“When they see the lessons are fun, they change their attitude and want to come to the classes,” she said. “They see God’s love for them and then they love themselves and know that they are special. When they feel important, they reach out to others with love.”

One of her students invited his 8-year-old friend, Juan Pablo, to attend the discipleship classes. He repeatedly said no, but when Juan Pablo saw his friend change his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to come to one of the classes.

“Since then Juan Pablo has accepted Jesus as his Savior and he is attending our church,” Lucy said. “He is involved in our children’s drama activities.”

Tania has taught Sunday school at the church for the past two years, but The Greatest Journey curriculum presented new challenges to her. She realized that she needed to spend additional time in God’s Word and prepare her own heart spiritually before she could teach her young pupils.

“The children love to ask questions, and that helps me to learn too,” she said. “As a teacher, I have to know the Bible in addition to preparing the lessons.”

Tania estimates that as many as 90 percent of the families living in their district are not believers. Reaching the children is the first step in bringing their parents to Christ too.

In many cases, mothers and fathers are learning the importance of prayer and forgiveness through the examples of their children.

Karen is a 10-year-old girl who was abandoned by her mother and angry at God. Karen had been raised by her grandmother and had little contact with her mother. When her mother reappeared last year and insisted Karen live with her, the child balked at the idea but had little say in the matter. She was consumed with resentment and rebellion.

“Karen went to The Greatest Journey classes, but didn’t want to know anything about God. She was mad at Him,” Lucy said. “But because of the lessons, she has started to understand what it means to forgive and love. Now she attends the Sunday school and participates in prayer. Her mother drives her to church and just recently she started coming to the services with Karen.”

Both teachers have seen previously reserved students stand up in class and ask for prayer for situations that are difficult for them to talk about—an alcoholic father, a relative who needs surgery, a brother who gets in fights at school.

Diego went to Tania’s classes despite his father’s disapproval and prayed to receive Jesus as Savior. But he didn’t stop there. He also prayed his parents would stop arguing, and he prayed for their salvation.

The heartfelt prayers of the 8-year-old child were answered. Through Diego’s example, his father became open to the Gospel and committed his calloused heart to God. He sought peace—with Christ, with his wife, and with his children. They even began attending church together as a family.

A surprise blessing came recently when Diego’s family was able to move from their rented room in a run-down house to their very own apartment. Over the past several months, his father became more responsible with his earnings as a taxi driver and began saving money. Combined with his mother’s income as a teacher’s assistant in a public school, the family finally had the resources to afford a nicer place to live.

“Diego told me he was so excited to have a kitchen and his own room,” Tania said. “As you can see, every child has a story. What they are learning in The Greatest Journey has become a real adventure that they can apply in their own lives. And they know that when they have problems, they can take them to God in prayer.”

Success stories like these have enlarged Lucy’s own faith in the Lord and encouraged her to recommit her dreams to Him.

Now in her 20s, she has attended Assemblies of God Church of Light and Hope her entire life. She remembers attending services in the original sanctuary with its sparse furnishings and sand floor.

“Even then, I remember praying that my church would grow,” she said. “God is answering my prayers and I praise Him.”

As a child, Lucy came to Sunday school classes in the church and heard some of the exciting Bible stories that she now teaches to kids in The Greatest Journey program. Teaching the lessons has given her a renewed passion as she guides young people to begin their own personal walk with Jesus.

“God has brought me closer to Him and I see the needs of children in a new way,” she said. “Children want to know that God is close and loves them and is their friend. This is the ministry that He has called me to do.”

Launched in Latin America in 2010, The Greatest Journey discipleship program has been translated into dozens of languages and will be available in more than 50 countries this year.

Samaritan’s Purse partners with in-country churches to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes and to provide the discipleship program as a follow-up outreach to children in the community. In Peru alone, over 1,000 volunteer Christian instructors like Lucy and Tania have participated in an in-depth training program to equip them to teach the curriculum.

As the children learn about God’s gift of salvation, many become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Through the Bible lessons, the harvest of souls multiplies as these boys and girls are encouraged to pray for others and to share the Good News with their family and friends.