After 16 years of collecting and delivering Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, Samaritan’s Purse launched its own follow-up discipleship program for the boys and girls who receive them. In 2009, this 12-lesson course called "The Greatest Journey" started at Good Shepherd Church in Pifo, Ecuador, located just outside of Quito, and today has grown to include more than 23 million participants globally.
“It was God’s miracle to ignite a fire for evangelism and discipleship in this church,” said Pastor Ramiro Baez of Good Shepherd Church.
Beginning with creation, the course takes children through a series of Bible stories with accompanying activities and Scripture memory cards that help them know, grow in, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Colorful student workbooks help guide the learning experience and include testimonies from former course participants.
More than 1 million volunteers from local churches around the world have been trained to teach the course. Equipped with The Greatest Journey Teacher Guide, they ask engaging questions to keep the students involved in each class and glean practical lesson preparation tips in order to continue teaching the Bible to children after the 12 lessons are complete.
To date, more than 11 million participants have reported a decision for Christ during the course, over 2 million of which have been in the last year.
Thirteen-year-old Shamira from Tanzania was one of them. “After getting a shoebox gift from Operation Christmas Child, I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and joined 'The Greatest Journey' discipleship class,” she said.
“This class helped me to grow spiritually and opened my eyes to God. I have witnessed to many of my friends and now all of them have joined me at church. We are so thankful for Operation Christmas Child and 'The Greatest Journey' classes.”
After completing "The Greatest Journey," children attend a graduation celebration and receive a certificate.
Most importantly, they are given a Bible that includes the New Testament and selected Old Testament stories along with a dictionary of biblical terms and a map of Bible lands. Complete with illustrations, it is often the first copy of God’s Word the child, or their family, will own.
Family and friends who attend the ceremony hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hearing the Good News and testimonies during their loved one’s graduation reinforces the changes they have seen in the students’ lives, and their families often come to faith in Christ.
GREATEST JOURNEY App
The GREATEST JOURNEY App is based on the international discipleship course created by Samaritan’s Purse for children who receive Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and is FREE, with no in-app purchases or advertisements. This is helpful because it is targeted for those five to nine years of age. It is now available (English only) on the Apple App Store and Google Play in more than 140 countries.