Through Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey, communities are uniting, families are hearing the Gospel, and once-closed villages are inviting Christians to talk about God’s love.
For example, for nearly 25 years a road divided Nyiela, a community in western Liberia. It had separated itself into two distinct parts of town. The sides didn’t talk much or cross over, not even for clean water or medical care—not even during the Ebola crisis. Tribal conflicts added to the divide.
A few years ago, things began to change when a local church decided to host an Operation Christmas Child outreach event. Instead of holding the event at the church or on either side of town, they received permission to shut down the road between them for several hours and use it as neutral ground.
Parents lined either side of the road as more than a dozen children gathered, laughing and playing, not realizing the historic moment.
“We told them we just want to share the love of Jesus,” said Pastor Alphonso Dean, National Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Liberia. “We gave these gifts to their children with no strings attached, we shared the Gospel, and children from both sides of Nyiela raised their hands to receive Jesus.”
A community leader was amazed. “He told us, ‘These gifts are exactly what our children needed,’” Pastor Dean recounts. “This convinced them to let us come back and do another outreach event.”
They distributed shoebox gifts to 150 additional children from both sides of town. Praise God that many of these children received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and a number enrolled in The Greatest Journey 12-lesson discipleship program. Additionally, community leaders donated two acres of land to build a church.
“The unity of the town has brought the children together, and now … together are receiving The Greatest Journey training,” Pastor Dean said. “The region around Nyiela has become a major place for us to work.”
The outreach has opened up opportunities to work in other places initially reluctant to
welcome Christians. Some of these once closed-off villages are now inviting Christians
to host outreach events and teach The Greatest Journey lessons.
“This has served as a channel through which we can reach other communities,” Pastor Dean said, recounting a recent Gospel outreach in a neighboring village. “There are many things that the gift boxes are allowing us to do that would never have happened otherwise.”
Pastor Dean and other local leaders pray that these connections will lead to opportunities to meet other needs, such as providing school, medical care, and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs to impoverished areas.
“We have been closed out for almost 100 years from some of these communities, and now we are receiving invitations,” he said. “They have gone from ‘No, we don’t need anything from you’ to ‘Can you come? Can you come now?’ Because they are realizing that there are no strings attached and that our God is a God of love.”