Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Receptive hearts! (OJT Report, part 3)

If you want to work in an area with the most receptive hearts, consider the field of child evangelism. “It is still true that children are the most susceptible to the teachings of the gospel; their hearts are open to divine influences, and strong to retain the lessons received.” Desire of Ages, page 515.

Here is the story of Alyssa* who was in charge of the child evangelism for the OJT site located in the island of Luzon. The church she and her partner were assigned was small, but united in serving the Lord! On the first Sabbath, she was given the privilege of teaching the Sabbath School lesson. The topic was the sanctuary and many questions were asked! Many in the group didn’t totally understand about this important doctrine of the sanctuary and afterwards Alyssa* said, “I was inspired when God guided me to answer their questions from His Word and that they learned something from it. In the afternoon, I was asked more questions and it showed me more than ever that those dear people wanted to learn more!”

She added later on: “One lesson I learned there was to go out even if there’s just two of you, for God will surely be with you!” Friday, the starting day, came and there were still many flyers to be distributed. When she asked around for volunteers to help in passing them out, no one responded. So, Alyssa* determined to go out alone, but God touched a mother’s heart to help her. Now, there were the two of them walking the streets, inviting people to come to the seminar. While they were passing out flyers, God sent two young people to help out and now they were able to go to even more houses and invite lots of kids and adults.

That night, almost 50 children came to the meeting! As the days passed on, Alyssa* became more acquainted with the children who were attending her program each night. She commented on the experience: “This week, I really saw the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the children, convicting them of God’s holy day. When I did the Sabbath illustration using the 7 jars and made an appeal for who wanted to taste the blessing of the Sabbath, all of them heartily answered, “Yes!”

That next Friday came and because the kids didn’t have class in school, Alyssa* invited them to help her cook the food in preparation for the Sabbath. All of them were so excited to help her! What a great time with the kids she had! While helping to cut the vegetables, they laughed, told stories and asked lots of questions about the Sabbath and how to keep it. Alyssa* just loved answering their questions because it showed they were very eager to follow everything the Bible says. After cooking, they ate lunch together. As they went home, she was so happy to know that they understood that Sabbath is a special, holy day and that they would not play with their toys, cook their food or wash their clothes on the period of time from sundown Friday to sundown Sabbath.

Who has the most receptive hearts? It’s definitely the children!

Alyssa* said: “This week, we presented the topic about spiritualism and ghosts to the children. The day before, when I announced that tomorrow we would study about that, one of the girls approached me and told me that she regularly sees ghosts. Her friend confirmed that she really does and wasn’t telling me lies. After I presented the topic the following night, she came up to me and told me stories of what she had seen before. God gave me the inspiring experience of listening to her tell me that when she learned the dead are in their graves, cannot visit their loved ones and that the “ghosts” are just Satan’s angels pretending to be their dead relatives, she wasn’t afraid anymore! She told me that she just prays whenever she sees a ghost again and that now she feels that angels are in the darkness, not terrifying ghosts!”

Yes, even small children can understand the Bible truths about what happens when a person dies! 

Commenting more about it, Alyssa* said, “I learned that kids are indeed so receptive of the truth. Once you teach them the truths from God’s Word, they are very willing and even eager to accept and believe it right at that moment. And once they’ve learned about the truth, it doesn’t stop there. Their young minds burst with questions to understand even more! This is when God taught me to not skip or ignore even one of their questions. Children have such confidence in the Bible when you teach them what it says!”

And children are not afraid to take a stand for the right, no matter what anyone says. Alyssa* described an incident like that: “This week I experienced God’s love in the way He worked to bring the message to the children at the right time. The schedule of teaching about God’s health laws fell right on the day before that community’s fiesta, where the tables in all the homes were filled with abominable foods and drinks! Just the day before, the children had learned that pork is unclean, that God doesn’t want us to eat it, that it has worms inside and that those who eat it are not taking care of their bodies. The next day, some of the children told me that they had pork served in their homes, but because they already knew it was not healthy to eat, they wouldn’t touch it! Some even told me that it was “yucky”! I praise the Lord for His great love to these children to help us teach about the health message right before that important community day!”

In the last week, a mother came to Alyssa* and told her that though she had not been attending in the program, she had still heard the message. Because she had listened every night from their little store and was so impressed with what the children had been learning!

Another thing that brought joy to Alyssa*’s heart was to see the children fulfilling the pledge they made to have a 10 day trial to try God’s health plan and see if He wouldn’t bless them too just as He blessed Daniel and his 3 friends. They told her when they came to the program that they weren’t eating the unhealthy things they had learned about and how much they enjoyed God’s plan!

Some of the precious children!
Sometimes God speaks to children as in this case that Alyssa* told about: “One child told me his dream about Jesus. He saw Jesus going to a church where there were no idols and then He invited all the children to worship there. I thought that was a great time to make an appeal, so I asked him if he had ever thought that he might be one of those children that Jesus was calling to worship in a church without idols. I also asked him what he is going to do with the truths he learned during our program and he told me, “Teacher, I will follow it!” I praise God for that!”

One of the children who attended so faithfully was the most diligent and attentive one of them all. She wanted to be baptized so badly and had already asked her father many times for permission, but he always said, “No!” Alyssa* felt convicted to talk to the father herself and see what he would say. When she did, the father still said his daughter could not get baptized. The conversation shifted to answering some of the father’s questions.

He told her this was the first time for him to hear the teachings of the Seventh-Day Adventists during the adult seminar (he had been listening from inside his nearby house) and Alyssa* was able to answer many of his questions. Then she appealed to him to support his daughter’s decision to be baptized and he agreed. Then he also said he wanted to learn more about the teachings of our church and study the Bible!

Commenting on the story, Alyssa* said, “Surely, the greatest challenge in the children’s program is how to talk with the parents when their children want to be baptized. It is only as you kneel in prayer to God and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the right words to speak, that your appeal will make any difference on their hearts. I believe that when I was talking to that girl’s father, the Holy Spirit was speaking to him and he listened. He also told me that he had been into many religions and was really searching for the truth. Now he was very open to study more about what the Bible says.”

Most likely, that young child will eventually lead her father into God’s true church! Children are instrumental in reaching their parents. What a joy it was so see that girl being baptized on the last Sabbath of the seminar!
That special girl

Alyssa’s advice to others was:

“In handling the children, it is not only them you are working for. It’s very important to visit their parents and build good relations with them, too. Invite the parents to the adult program too because it will be easier for them to decide to follow the truths together with their children than if the children only learn them alone.”

Keep watching for more stories to be posted soon!

*Not her real name.

Amazing Facts in Africa (part 1)

Amazing Facts in Africa? Yes! Keep reading! 
In less than three months, more than 80 teachers of the lower division have been trained in doing the Child Evangelism program of Amazing Facts. These trainings were conducted in three different sites, on three different dates and on three different occasions. Kenneth Ouma, a graduate of Philippine Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism (PAFCOE), was deeply impressed with the Child Evangelism program in the Philippines, that’s why he planned and organized so that the same program can be brought to Africa starting with Kenya. Two child evangelists from the Philippines, namely Renelyn Mendoza and Mayvilyn Ramos travelled to Kenya to spearhead the child evangelism program.

The first training was held at Newlife SDA Church where more than 30 teachers from 8 different churches around Nairobi participated. This was held last July 26-28 and August 3-4, 2013 at University of Eastern Africa – Baraton Campus then at Newlife SDA Church respectively. Pastor Philip Gai, the director of Publishing and SOP of East-Central Africa Division was one of the trainees. Elder Tom Ouma, the chairperson of the Children’s Ministries Department of Newlife SDA Church organized the event.

The second training was done at Mwangaza SDA Church last August 6-9 during the church’s annual camp meeting. More than 20 teachers attended and participated in this training. While the kids were at school, we grabbed the opportunity to train the teachers every morning for 4 consecutive days. This was organized by Jared Ochieng, one of the dedicated teachers from the church.

The third training was conducted at Monato SDA Church in Got Rabour, Homabay last September 30 to October 2. This was done on the final week of the evangelistic campaign in the place. 26 teachers, 3 pastors and 1 Anglican pastor attended the said training. Pastor Philip Gai, the main speaker of the evangelistic seminar organized the event in coordination with Pastor Duncan Wawo and Pastor Hellen Owino, directors of Publishing and Children’s Ministries departments respectively at Ranen Conference.

The Child Evangelism program is designed to equip lower division teachers with a variety of Bible-based techniques in teaching and evangelizing boys and girls.   The main goal of this program is to train lay persons to have the confidence in handling children’s programs so that every adult seminar will have a parallel program for the children. In that way, the spiritual needs of everybody in the community is met.

Three points are being emphasized in these programs.

1) Teach Bible doctrines. Even children should be taught important doctrines such as Sabbath, Law, State of the Dead, Tithe, Hell, Antichrist and even Mark of the Beast. Do away with fictitious and superficial stories where the children gain nothing. At an early age, if properly taught, they can be established in the church so they can do the purpose of evangelizing other persons.

2) Jesus must be uplifted. John 12:32 says “and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me”. If Jesus is lifted up in all discourses, even children can be drawn to Him.

3) Let topics coordinate with adult evangelism.  Wherever possible in evangelism, let the topics be coordinated so that the children are learning the same truth as the adults are learning and when they go home, parents and children alike can discuss the same topics that they both have heard from the evangelistic programs.

Everyone who attended received a certificate of attendance and the complete files for the child evangelism program which includes the powerpoint presentations, scripture songs, craft pages and coloring pages. Recipients of these trainings have given positive feedbacks. They really appreciated the beauty and the holistic approach used in the program. They are more than thankful and happy for the new insights gained and for the materials that they can use in evangelizing boys and girls.

They all embraced the challenge to step forward and preach the message not just to adults but most especially to children because they have the greatest time on earth to serve God and to share the message about salvation. Children’s minds are just like sponges. They just absorb readily all the truths that they are hearing and they just not keep it to themselves but they also share it to their peers, families and relatives. Indeed, more people are reached by the message when we share it to boys and girls.
The Amazing Facts team are excited to hear child evangelism reports from everyone who attended the training. Below are more pictures:

  Check back for more stories from Africa and from OJT!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Surviving the Super-Typhoon! (OJT Report, part 2b)

“The storm that hit the island made a wave for Jesus and filled the whole church!”

So what were the 2 students going to do after the super-typhoon came through their area and caused devastation and destruction everywhere it went? 

Keep reading!

What a great challenge lay ahead of them! They had no power, no water, soaked materials and devastation all around them, plus much more! The church members couldn’t help them because all were living far away from them and all the roads were blocked with fallen trees. When they tried to make contact with others through calling, it wouldn’t go through. Amazingly enough, all the text messages they kept sending me throughout the day came through and they received mine, as well. But there was SO much to do!

Obviously, they couldn’t start that night [the same day the typhoon hit]! The next morning (Sabbath), they still met for church and told the church members they would try to start their seminar the following night and encouraged everyone to come. They had no generator and their laptops didn’t work at all. Their host told them no one would come to the seminar because everyone was busy fixing their houses and cleaning everything up. Sunday came and they decided that one of them would cross over to the main island and get some assistance from the other PAFCOE team located on that island. The other stayed to prepare everything for their target starting date (Sunday night).

Imagine the work there was to do! Cleaning up, drying things out and so much more! The one who was left on the island to clean and prepare prayed earnestly that her partner would make it back to their place by 3 pm so they could start the program that night as planned. All day, she worked hard and in the afternoon went to the seashore to see if her partner was coming back. Upon not seeing her, she went to their house and prayed again that God would send her soon.

While the one student was on the boat going to other island, she saw 2 beautiful rainbows stretched across the ocean before her. She remembered the story of Noah and how God promised that He would not send another flood again. It brought such comfort to her to know that God was telling her that there would be no more typhoons while they were doing their OJT.

At 3:00 pm, she arrived back at the island! Two volunteer missionaries came with her and a generator, too! They borrowed a laptop to use for the meetings. Though they were 2 nights late, they started their program amidst all the trials and challenges. Because they had the only power in the island (or at least in that place), once it was dark, the little SDA church was the only lighted building in that whole area!

Since most of the people had completely lost their homes, some moved right into the church and just as the song at the beginning said, the storm that hit that island really did make a wave for Jesus by bringing in people to the church (literally!)!

Because they had the only generator in the area and people wanted to charge their cell phone and flashlights, many would come to the meetings just to charge their devices. Of course, they wouldn’t leave their gadgets there for fearing of someone stealing them, so they ended up getting their souls charged as well as their devices! The church was full every single night – full of people hungry to hear the Word of God.
The little lighted church.

Before they had been told the area was full of people with hard hearts who weren’t interested in the Bible, but after the storm came through, everything was changed! Many, many people heard the messages from God’s Word because even if they didn’t sit in the church, they could hear the sermon from their homes since all was dark and quiet everywhere else. 

That first week was a real challenge! But God saw them through every difficulty that crossed their path! Food became a problem since all the plants and vegetables had been blown away in the terrible winds. The price of food went sky-high and for awhile, the students wondered if they might go hungry. But God always provided just enough and never once did they go hungry! God took care of them!

During the 2nd week of their time there, help from different organizations came to give assistance to those who were affected. Relief goods were distributed to the people. One old Grandma visited the students one day and asked why their church hadn’t given anything to the people like the other churches who were giving the relief goods. The students explained that they had been giving things to the people – not material things, but spiritual blessings. Someone later told them, “It’s because of your prayers and you praying for us that the relief goods arrived. The others care about our physical needs, but no one prayed for us. Ever since the storm hit, you have visited us in our homes and prayed for us and that’s what we appreciate the most.”

Yes, sometimes people value a kind, caring, praying friend more than a person who gives them food or clothes. It makes a difference to know someone is praying for you! And that’s what the students found on their island.

During the 3rd week, they experienced trials with their electronics. Because the generator was old, sometimes it would just quit in the middle of the presentation. But after they prayed that God would make it work again, it did! Also, they began to realize that the money in their budget would very soon be gone from paying the high prices of the gasoline for the generator every night. What would they do?
The children who came to the children's program every night.
They started trying to call their friends to ask them for financial help, but their calls would never go through. They tried so many times and never could reach anyone and were getting concerned. Finally they were able to contact several of their classmates who sent some money to help with the gasoline expenses.

One night as they were walking home in the dark after the meeting, J2 had a terrible stomachache. Her partner was walking ahead and she called out to her and asked her to wait up. J1 did and just then a motorcycle came by and shone his headlights on the road before them. Right in front of J1 was a huge snake. If she had not stopped just then, she would likely have stepped on the snake and gotten bitten. God was certainly keeping them safe!

Even the last week they had challenges, and yet more ways to see God work for them! Many people around them got sick, but God helped them be strong and healthy the whole time. After the typhoon hit the city of Tacloban (another island), some of the prisoners escaped from their cells and began roaming around, looking for trouble and mischief to get into.

Still smiling, even after the storm!
Unfortunately, some of them found their way to that island and of course, everyone was scared that something bad would happen to them. It was another way for the devil to try to keep people from attending the meetings. There was still no electricity anywhere, so the parents were especially cautious to send their children to the nightly children’s program. The students prayed earnestly for protection and the people still kept attending, though the numbers were fewer than before.

Yet despite the challenges, God still triumphed and at the end of that one month, more than 10 souls accepted Jesus as their personal Savior and were baptized! The storm was what it took for the people in that island to be interested in the gospel.

J2 summed it all up when she said this: “Be still. Fear not. Keep going even when it’s tough. Whatever disturbances there may be around you, fix your eye upon the Lord. He always will deliver! Victory is always sure in Him!

And when J1 and J2 returned to PAFCOE to share their experiences, they were glowing with smiles of what God had done through them! Both were so thankful that they had gone through the challenges with God’s grace right beside them! As one of them said, “I love the work!”

No matter the challenging circumstances around you, God can still use them to bring about His plan!

More exciting stories soon to come!