The Faith of a Child

May 27, 2012 • Uganda

The Greatest Journey discipleship program teaches boys and girls in Uganda about salvation through faith in Jesus

Down one of Kampala’s myriad dusty, red dirt roads lies Ntinda Christ Witness Church. Five hundred eager young children gathered under the tin roof on a hot summer afternoon. They came to sing; they came to dance; they came to hear about Jesus.

Their clear, strong voices drifted through the cement blocks as they sang. Sixty children swayed and stomped on a low stage, clapping as they echoed their leader’s words in Luganda, Uganda’s national language.

As the song ended, the children formed a line, ready to file one-by-one and receive something they had never owned before. The 60 graduates of The Greatest Journey, Operation Christmas Child’s discipleship program, beamed as each was handed a colorful New Testament and graduation certificate.

“It’s very applicable for kids, with pictures and short stories from the Bible,” Phiona Nambwele, one of the Sunday school teachers at Christ Witness., said of The Greatest Journey. “Even teachers learn something they didn’t know.”

The program, offered to children after they receive a shoe box gift, was implemented in Uganda—one of the first countries to use it—three years ago. Many of the churches, including Christ Witness, never before had such extensive Bible teaching material.

“The Greatest Journey material is not only going to impact the children, but also is going to add skill on the teachers who have been doing the work,” said Abel Muwanguzi, discipleship coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Uganda.

The children are grateful to receive their own materials. Each child in a discipleship class receives a booklet with 12 lessons when they take part in the course.

“Sometimes I photocopy the lessons and give them to my friends that are not in the class,” said Rachael Sanyu, 10.

The lessons are so popular, in fact, that Phiona said the class filled up quickly, and they hope to receive even more lessons next year.

“I encouraged many children from outside the church, at an orphanage, to read the lessons,” Phiona said. “More and more children started coming to the church after we started teaching The Greatest Journey.”

The lessons present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a simple way that is easy for children to understand. Those ages 8-12, Phiona noticed, especially love the lessons because they can look at the pictures and understand the story.

“They can read on their own and understand better, then come to us and we explain. It helps them to grow spiritually,” she said.

According to Phiona, many children in Uganda believe that if their parents are Christians, they are too. The Greatest Journey helps the children understand that they need a personal relationship with Christ in order to receive salvation.

“It tells children that Jesus came to deliver us, and that children are important,” Rachael said. “He’s the Son of God, God’s plan to deliver the people from sin.”

Her favorite lesson is Lesson 3, when she learned about Jesus preparing a place for her in heaven.

One of the key lessons of The Greatest Journey is teaching children how, after they accept Christ, to share their newfound faith with friends.

“Once a child becomes a disciple, he can disciple other children,” said Paul Mwesigwa, a representative for Operation Christmas Child in Uganda. “Their lives are completely changed.”

After her graduation, Rachael was excited to exercise her newfound skill. “I will tell my friends about Jesus,” she said.