The Word hidden in children’s hearts
Argentina | OM InternationalThe OM team in Córdoba, Argentina, has seen a decline in attendees to its local Saturday morning Bible club, Escuelita. What began with a group of 20-25 kids is now only 9-12 kids. Leadership is also suffering, as many who say they will come do not.
While Escuelita had seen many promising ministry opportunities in the beginning of the year, including two services projects for the neighbourhood, many factors have played a part in the drop in numbers. The OM team, nevertheless, is using the resources they have to continue moving forward.
During the winter break in August, OM team member Sharayah Longoria decided to give the kids a bit of incentive to participate. She painted a cereal box to look like a Bible and put little prizes for the kids inside. But there was a catch: only one prize would be given each week, and only to one who had memorised the previous week's Bible verse.
"We had always given out little cards with the verses on them; we had even given them prizes for memorising the verse," Sharayah said. "But having a visual reminder was the key, I think."
Sharayah collected verses from the year and put them in a booklet, using a map of Argentina and the verse of the Great Commission found in Matthew as the cover. After Sharayah showed the children the booklet, one little girl, Sophia, made her own for the following week. "When she showed it to me, I was surprised to see not only the verses, but her own notes about what the verses mean in the margin,” shares Sharayah.
Sisters Yohanna and Melisa, who had always come but never participated, were finally getting more involved with the Scripture memory challenge. Yohanna or Melisa won a prize three weeks in a row.
Additionally, team member Andrea Koll saw a need for more leaders in the local churches near OM’s office in Córdoba. She made weekly visits to encourage participation in a six-week course called LAPEN (Liga Argentina pro Evangelización del Niño), Argentina's version of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). Many volunteered, including a few leaders from Escuelita. On 10 December nearly 20 women graduated, eager to put into practice their new skills of creative evangelism and teaching techniques.
One of the leaders, Christina, has already decided to take on the role of sharing the lesson every week in Escuelita—something the OM leaders had been dividing amongst themselves. Sharayah was encouraged to see Christina’s enthusiasm, but also didn’t think Christina should take on the role by herself. Sharayah explained that it is important to share the teaching role, especially when some of the other leaders also participated in the LAPEN course and can practice their gift of teaching during the coming year.
For the final week before Christmas, Sharayah proposed to the children that whoever could say the most verses would receive the grand prize: the Bible box and all the leftover goodies inside.
The children were very excited and even the leaders asked if they could participate. One of the more recent Escuelita attendees, Melany, came to the leaders and said, "I am going to study very hard all week. I will read from Genesis all the way to Revelation!"
On the day of the end-of-the-year celebration, Melany came prepared. She stood before the others to say the six verses she had worked hard to memorise that week. But everyone was caught off guard when her younger brother, Abraham, recited more than half of Psalm 23, along with a few other verses!
Of the small group of kids that participate, only two faithfully attend church. The leaders are encouraged that the kids now know more of the Bible.
"Even if they don't understand it fully, the Word is hidden in their hearts,” says Sharayah. “We pray that God will use His Word faithfully when their time of need comes."