Smyrna partners are reaching out to kids with the Good News!
In the Middle East, Abu Saad effectively evangelizes Arab families through a project known as “Backpacks for Arab Children.” Every summer, he and his staff throw ‘back to school’ parties for poor children, playing games with the kids and giving them their very own backpacks filled with school supplies.
While public evangelism is prohibited in this particular region, there’s no law against openly showing compassion to poverty-stricken slum children. The moms and dads of these kids are puzzled by such unquestioning generosity. Often, compelled by curiosity (or maybe something deeper), they invite our ministry partner into their homes and ask questions like, “Why did you give school supplies to my son? Didn’t you realize that we are Muslim and you are Christian? Why did you do this?”
The simple gift of school supplies opens up a conversation about the true nature of God…and the Christians are able to share the story of Jesus Christ personally, right there in a Muslim’s home! That means they are no longer open to the charge of ‘public’ evangelism! Another important outcome is that Arab children get to personally interact with actual professing Christians…something many of the world’s Muslims never get the chance to do.
In Bangladesh, Tarak’s ministry operates a school that provides food, shelter, and education for about 170 children of converts and orphans.
They have also opened the school up to the local villages, which means that about 650 additional kids are also learning about Jesus!
In Turkey, Erkan (name changed for security) coordinates a children’s summer camp, to strengthen the faith of young believers, and also to evangelize unbelieving kids. Here are some testimonies from the kids themselves:
“I did not know that I did not know what Jesus’ death accomplished for so many people. The God that Erkan shared about – his sharing about man and sin – touched my heart deeply.” – Adel, age 10
“Erkan’s sharing the Gospel led me to faith. It warmed my heart and led me to faith. I love my God and want to live for Him.” – Dan, age 12
“The greatest thing for me was having the teachers pray for the kids; I believe God was speaking with me.” – Lila, age 7
Another Smyrna partner, Pastor Mbarra in Ghana, also reaches out to children through summer camp. He shared this glimpse with us into what camp is like for the kids that attend (many of whom are Muslim):
“Yusif Iddrisu” got up early in the morning and took his bath. The sun was just rising in the east, tinting the sky a beautiful yellowish-red color. Today was a big day. Yusif was leaving his village for the first time to go the city.
His mind was filled with the many stories told him by those who went to the city. What if he got hit by a car? Or run over by a speeding motorbike? What if he never returned to his round hut’s dirt floor and grass roof? What if he never saw his six brothers and five sisters again? Yusif had mixed feelings. Although, at the age of 12, he was expected to participate fully in Ramadan, Yusif chose to attend children’s camp in the city.
He had been selected by his school to go, and when the time came he jumped into an ancient, cramped bus along with 29 other kids. They were headed to the big city! The dirt road was pocked with potholes and Yusif’s head bumped against the roof of the bus. He saw many big trucks loaded with farm produce. People sat on tops of the trucks like bees on the honeycomb. Sometimes the dust kicked up by the tires enveloped the road and he could hardly see anything. When he could see, he noticed that everybody was thickly coated with red and brown dust.
Finally, his bus arrived in the big city. Hundreds of bicycles, motorbikes, and cars crowded the streets. Yusif was stunned. Never before in his life had he seen so many vehicles in the same place at the same time! Towering buildings with glass windows and multi-color paint flashed past his gaze. Everything looked so beautiful! His eyes were glued to the traffic lights which controlled the vehicles without a policeman. He then understood what he was taught in class: “When you see a traffic light, there is something you should know: Red means stop. Yellow means get ready. Green means go.”
The bus pulled into the campground by mid-afternoon. After he registered, he was given a room with three other boys on the third floor. It was Yusif’s first time in such a huge building complex and his first time lying on a soft bed with an indoor bathroom nearby. He was also impressed by size of the camp’s auditorium – he had never heard of a “room” that could hold 1,500 people at a time!
After four days of camp with all the lessons, lectures, crafts, puppetry, songs, film shows, games, food, and real friendship, Yusif was troubled in his mind. ‘The Christianity I have been told about by my elders and people is not what I am experiencing here,’ he mused in his mind. ‘I am beginning to see and love Jesus – the Jesus of the Bible.’
The camp’s theme, God Loves Me, began to make sense to him. During an altar call at close of one of the camp sessions, Yusif gave his heart to Jesus Christ. ‘Just as the traffic lights directs vehicles, so also does the Bible directs boys, girls, and grown-ups to heaven,’ he said. On the last day of camp Yusif proudly wore his camp T-shirt with the inscription: “God Loves Me.”
He jumped back into the ancient bus, bound for his village some 87 miles away. He may face persecution when he tells his parents what he learned, but he also is filled with love for them like never before.”