Saturday, June 29, 2013

Operation Christmas Child in Senegal... bringing LIGHT into the Darkness

The below story is from Operation Christmas Child Canada, and tells of how God's love is going forth even into a nation that is 95% Muslim.

Maxime Kouda, a church pastor and head of the National Leadership Team in Senegal, Africa that coordinates Operation Christmas Child in the west African nation, is thrilled that more than 341,000 shoe boxes from Canada have been distributed there during the past six years, after 9,000 in Year One.

However, he wants the number of Operation Christmas Child  shoe boxes contributed by Canadians to continue growing each year because he knows first-hand how many hurting children there are in Senegal, Africa and other parts of the developing world for whom an Operation Christmas Child  shoe box can be life transforming.

"It tells them they are loved," Kouda says. "It gives them hope." And often, "it introduces the children and their families to the saving power of Jesus Christ."

When distributing the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes in partnership with local churches, in Senegal, Africa Samaritan's Purse offers each child an illustrated booklet in his or her native language that tells the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Children aren't required to accept the booklet, but many do.

Also, a couple of weeks after Operation Christmas Child  shoe boxes are distributed, local churches partner with Samaritan's Purse in offer a voluntary Bible study - known as The Greatest Journey - to children and families.

"People here in Senegal (where the population is 95 per cent Muslim) are generally hostile to the Gospel," Kouda explains. "But when we distribute the Operation Christmas Child  shoe boxes, and show we really care about the Muslim children as well as the Christian children, we see an openness that wasn't there before."

For example, in one Senegalese village where an Operation Christmas Child  shoe box distribution happened in 2005, the village chief - a Muslim - remains one of the program's biggest fans of Operation Christmas Child.

"I'm very happy to work with the Christians (including local church leaders)" to help children receive Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes," says Salion Gueye, 81, who joined the local Islamic imam in officiating at the 2005 shoe box distribution in their village. "We're glad to have received shoe boxes, and we thank the people of Canada."

Gueye still has the photos of the mother and daughter from Canada who packed an Operation Christmas Child  shoe box that his grandson received in 2005. "I'd like to meet those people and say 'thank you' to them for the happiness they brought to my grandson and my village."

Kouda says at least 2,000 children and adults in Senegal, Africa have publicly committed their lives to Christ through Operation Christmas Child and its discipleship program.

"Entire families have made commitments," adds Pastor Victor Dyatta, another member of Senegal's National Leadership Team for Operation Christmas Child.

Dyatta recalls one child who dedicated her life to Jesus, then began attending a local church. Her mother wasn't happy with this, and arrived at the church one Sunday to order her daughter home. The mother couldn't get her daughter's attention, and had to wait until the service ended before speaking to the girl.

By then, Mom had heard the pastor's message of salvation. It pulled on her heart so much during the next few days that she began attending church with her daughter, and eventually made her own commitment to Christ.

"We have many stories like this," Kouda says. "Operation Christmas Child is helping our churches grow in Senegal." 

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