By God’s Grace

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Ann, an active, gangly little girl walked into the suburban once-a-month Bible club, jumping up and down as she played the memory verse game with her friends. “Listen to me! I can say it!” she exclaimed excitedly. And the Gospel’s seeds were planted…

A few years later, Ann had grown from a little girl into a beautiful young lady: full of potential, uncertain of herself, eager for acceptance—in short, a teenager! “Miss Grace, can you tell me how to know more about God?” she asked one afternoon as “Miss Grace” walked her little dog through the neighborhood. “I’m too old for Bible club, but I want to keep learning.” And the seeds had taken root…

“Ann, why don’t you come by my house tomorrow afternoon and we can have a little Bible study? You can come once a week and we’ll study the Bible together,” “Miss Grace” suggested.

“Can we start today instead of tomorrow?” Ann asked. And the seeds began sprouting…

“Miss Grace” has seen many seeds during her years of children’s ministry—one week thirty years ago, she asked the children in her club, “Please stand up if you have trusted Christ for salvation through this Bible club.” Among the children who stood up was Miss Grace’s son. “Honey, Mommy’s trying to teach right now. Can you sit down?” she whispered.

Her son remained standing. “No, I can’t. You asked me to stand up if I got to know Jesus through this club.” That was when “Miss Grace” realized how far the seeds had spread—and how close to home others had sprouted.

Scattered by God’s design, planted by God’s initiative, sprouted by God’s wisdom—and all through His Grace.

Celebrating What God Has Done

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God is at work in reaching the world’s children with the Gospel! Last week was Child Evangelism Fellowship’s International Conference. It was amazing to be with 1,100 other CEF missionaries from around the world. Chicago Child Evangelism Fellowship is reaching children with the Good News of Jesus in Cook and DuPage counties. We are part of a fellowship that is advancing the Gospel in almost every country of the world. The attendees of the conference were given a God-sized update on ministry, and we would like to share it with you now.

As most of you know, our primary ministry program is the Good News Club. It is our goal to begin and sustain as many of these weekly, discipleship oriented clubs as possible. Last year we saw a global increase in Good News Clubs of 45%. In 2013 there were 62,393 held in 188 countries throughout the world!

In those Good News Clubs and in other ministries of CEF, 15.6 million children were given face-to-face presentations of the Gospel. Over 5 million of those children made first-time professions of faith in Christ!! All glory to God!

Another bit of exciting news is that CEF is on track to be in every country of the world by 2017 (80 years after our founding). In the history of the Church, there has never been a single organization, denomination, or mission that has had ongoing indigenous ministry in every country of the world. We certainly live in exciting times! Are you part of the Child Evangelism Fellowship? Get on board today! Pray, volunteer, host a club, or donate today!

Obedience in a Single Moment

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Sometimes we forget how God can use us in a single moment when we are obedient to Him. One woman attended a CEF training at a local church in Chicagoland, where she learned how to share the Gospel with little ones. After taking the class, she moved to Alabama and began attending a little church. One evening, she received a last-minute call from the pastor. “Please come teach a lesson for the children. I know it’s last-minute, but we really need you to teach!” It was the end of a rough day, and she did not have anything prepared. “God, what should I do?” she prayed. “I’m trusting You.” When she arrived at church, a large room filled with excited, active children was waiting to hear the Bible lesson. Suddenly, God reminded her something she had learned from the training in Chicago- a Christmas story that talked about Christmas trees, the cross, and the “Wordless Book”. As she finished the lesson, three boys and a girl responded to the invitation and were counseled for salvation. These children attended church regularly with their families, and now the Gospel message clicked for them.  While they were being counseled for salvation, each child was able to answer thought-provoking questions about their sin, what Jesus had done for them, and their need for a Savior-and they really understood! Within a month, each child asked to be baptized. Their pastor exclaimed, “I’ve never heard of CEF! Tell me more about it! It is incredible to me to watch the Holy Spirit use such wonderful teaching to make such a wide-spread difference!”

Isn’t it neat how God works? Four little ones in Alabama heard the Gospel and responded as a result of training she received through Chicago CEF!

Single moments when we do single actions in obedience to God—God makes these moments go so much farther than we could ever imagine. God can use each of us to improve the world in a single moment when we are faithful to obey Him and share the Gospel wherever we are. Will you improve the world today by telling a child (or an adult!) about the life-changing power of the Gospel?

With Great Expectation

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Don’t you just love Easter? This past Sunday, my pastor preached on the final week before Jesus’ crucifixion. We finished with the words, “It is finished,” and I can hardly wait for Easter! But the  children I teach on a regular basis look forward to Easter as the source of the Easter Bunny, a time of Easter egg hunting and chocolate. While these traditions are not inherently wrong, we need to be careful not to water down the true story of Jesus’ excruciating death and glorious resurrection. Do we as Good News Club teachers help our club kids anticipate Easter with great expectation? Here are some ideas for how to make Easter stand out in your Good News Clubs. The following suggestions are in outline form to give you an idea of the time frames and sequence of events (the whole program will take an hour). Of course, if your allotted time runs longer or shorter than an hour, you will be able to adjust the time however you deem best!

Introduction (5 minutes): As the children enter the room, describe to them what has been happening in Jesus’ life this past week: clearing the temple, Judas’ agreement with the Pharisees to betray Jesus, and Jesus’ awareness of His impending death. With that in mind, have the children walk over to the first station. (As the children arrive at each station, you will want to describe that particular event, and you may want to read some of the included Scripture verses.)

  1. Station One, the Passover meal (15 minutes): hand out matza or saltine crackers with grape juice. You may want to read or paraphrase Matthew 26:26-29 and explain the significance of Jesus’ words.
  2. Station Two, the Garden of Gethsemane (10 minutes): prayer time. Remind the children that during and just after Matthew 26:36 (either read or explain this), Jesus thought of and prayed for each of these children. Encourage them to thank Jesus and bring prayer requests to Him.
  3. Station Three, the trial & Peter’s denial (8 minutes): Cut out these roosters (like this one) ahead of time. Have the children color each rooster and then glue one goggle-eye to the rooster. Give each child a clothespin to attach to the bottom of the rooster as legs. Teacher, you may want to summarize Luke 22:55-62 so the children understand the significance of the rooster crowing.
  4. Station Four, the crucifixion & burial (7 minutes): Provide playdough so each child can sculpt the crucifixion and burial scenes. Read Mark 14:25, 34, 37-39, 46-47 (explain that Joseph, Mary Joses’ mother, and Mary Magdalene were Jesus’ close friends).
  5. Resurrection (15 minutes): You will need:
  • tough styrofoam plates (the type with a “lip:)
  • a picture of Jesus (such as this one)
  • a brown paper bag to crumble
  • scisors and tape

Cut one plate in half ahead of time, and cut a semicircle in one half to be the tomb’s entrance.  Help each child tape the two plate halves together. Have each child color the picture of Jesus and tape this picture to the inside of the tomb. Crumple brown paper and place in front of tomb entrance as the rock that has been rolled away.

Teachers, this is the most exciting part! As you work through this craft with the children, read or summarize Luke 24:1-7. Let your excitement over Jesus’ resurrection be contagious! Then read John 20:31, explaining to the children that Jesus died and came alive for each of them to believe in Him to take away their sins. Invite the children to believe in Jesus for salvation if they have never done this before.

As we go into Easter, I am praying for each Good News Club teacher and child. I pray that this Easter will be about so much more than bunnies and chocolate. As we think about all Jesus has done for us and has promised yet to do, I pray that we will experience Easter with great expectation.

Worth Every Effort

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My friend Jackie was going down the hallway at her local school, wondering how she could keep the Good News Club going when she no longer had a team of Good News Club teachers. As Jackie and her grown daughter walked down the school hallway, she and her daughter prayed about the situation. Suddenly a child walked up to them. “Miss Jackie, when are we gonna start Good News Club?” Jackie was amazed and excited—This needs to be a priority! She thought. The kids want this! As she continued walking down the hallway, another child approached. “Miss Jackie, I want to come to Good News Club! When is it happening?”

Jackie went home rejoicing that God was giving these children a desire to come to club. But the excitement was not over—that night, I called Jackie. “When are you restarting the Good News Club at your school? How can I partner with you?”

Please praise God for His clear confirmation and His obvious hand in this club! Please pray that God will provide Good News Club teachers and keep the children excited to attend.

Seeking Peace in the Midst of Violence

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Normally we write these blog posts in a relatively formal voice, but today’s post will be much more reflection in a raw, processing, first person voice. Warning, this post is describing a first person account of an inner-city shooting

Bang, pop, pop, pop, pop. Five shots rang out not 15 feet from where my wife stood with our not-quite-2-year-old-son. Granted, she was inside in the kitchen, and the shooter was on our sidewalk. “Ben, I’m prety sure I’m hearing gun shots!” my wife shouted at me. I quickly gather my little family in our bedroom and told them to crouch low. At that very moment I was thinking, “praise God we have a brick house. If my wife and boys crouch below the window level, they should be safe from any potential stray bullets.”

Suddenly I felt foolish. Where they just firecrackers? If a shooting had taken place it was surely a few blocks away at least. We live on the edge of Bellwood and Maywood, and our block is full of people we know and trust. So, I slowly crawled to the front of the house and poked my head up to look out a window. Nothing. “Silly me.” I proceeded out the front door. The only company I had was the gray sky. I walked back inside and gave the “All clear!” I then saw a Bellwood Police officer driving slowly down the street. I jogged outside to ask him if he was responding to reports of gunshots. He solemnly nodded his head. I told him what I knew. He then drove down our alley and stopped. Blood. My neighbor and friend walked over with me. Splatter. Right beneath our basketball hoop where we gather neighborhood kids to play.

Before I can process anything, three more police SUVs and two detective cars pull up. As I stand by, the police rope off most of our property and alley with yellow “police line” tape. The man who appears to be in charge asks another cop if he wants to go to Loyola hospital and interview the victim. He’s awake and alive. Good. Thankfully, all of this occurred before the school bus was scheduled to come down our street to drop off the neighborhood children after school. I stood on our sidewalk, praising God that we all were safe, and so were the neighborhood’s children.

This confirms that we are exactly where God wants us to be, in a neighborhood of need. The building that CEF is seeking to purchase as a ministry outreach center is less than three blocks from our home. Does this community need the presense of God manifested through His people? Absolutely. What is our response? We will do as the prophet Jeremiah commanded the people of Israel, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” This place needs Jesus. The children who are growing up in this context need Jesus.

My wife and I just reviewed the fine points of what to do if you hear gunshots. Our boys are four and one. I understand the sacrifice that God is asking us to make by living in this place. Should I move? No. This is what God has asked us to do. What is God asking you to do? Many of you are giving financially to allow us, or one of the other missionary-staff to minister in this place. Thank you. Many of you are praying for us. Thank you.

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Piled Shoes

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The shoes were piled into a jumbled heap inside the front door. Loud laughter and excited chatter filled the living room as the neighborhood children settled into their spots on the living room floor, waiting for their weekly Good News Club to begin. As the weeks flew by and the seasons changed, the children continued to come, piling their shoes by the door as they entered and leaving each night with their hearts more softened by the wonderful love of their Savior Jesus. The best moments on those nights included children raising their hands in enthusiasm to answer a question about God’s love for them or something they had learned from the lesson, and the quiet conversations held one on one with a child in the home’s bungalow hallway as the child received the free gift of eternal life. These moments happened many weeks in the neighborhood home where the children met for Good News Club. While their local school might have been closed to the Gospel, the hearts of the children were not closed to the Gospel message. As the club continued each week, many children in the neighborhood trusted Jesus as their Savior from sin. One young boy who attended the neighborhood club each week was asked about why he came back to his neighbor’s house each week for GNC. He replied,

“When I come to Good News Club it makes me want to be better.” The same Holy Spirit that indwells each adult believer also indwells each young believer. God the Holy Spirit was prompting this boy to live differently, and his Good News Club helped him live for Christ.

The Gospel made a difference in the lives of these children in their Chicagoland neighborhood. As Chicago CEF prayerful pursues the purchase of a ministry outreach building in a neighborhood of need, we look forward to more stories of hope like this one that comes from a neighborhood Good News Club. Our goal and desire is to reach children where they are at, whether in their local school, a park in the summer, or in a neighbor’s home or apartment building.

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To Reach the Children

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At 12:04 pm one night in November 2011, shots were fired on South 19th Avenue in Maywood, hitting the driver of a car. The driver veered off the street, plunging headlong into a building where 14-year-old Dominique and her brother were fast asleep on the living room couch. When Dominique’s older brother, Bryant, and her mother ran into the room, they found the car on top of the two children. Dominique’s brother, Levon, was brought to the hospital in stable condition. But Dominique was pronounced dead at the scene. Bryant  collapsed on the doorstep when he was told his little sister was gone. “She liked volleyball, all types of sports. She liked cooking. She was just a normal 14-year-old girl,” he said. Dominique made As and Bs in school, doing her very best at everything. Teachers and mentors said she had a beautiful smile and was taking classes in engineering.

“It’s such a shame — innocent kids always seem to be the victims,” Dominique’s neighbor, Anna Enrique, said. (Click here to read the full story.)

This has been the observation of Chicago CEF as well: innocent children always seem to be the victims. This is a large motivating factor in bringing Christ’s love into Good News Clubs—Chicago CEF wants to see God’s love transform and comfort broken communities—and every community has been broken.

As Chicago CEF has asked God for more opportunities to give the Gospel, God gave us the idea of a community center where Good News Clubs could be held, interns/missionaries could be housed, and new ministry ideas could be tested and developed. What better place to do it than the building where Dominique was killed? Chicago CEF wants to see God transform this building into a place where God’s love reaches and transforms lives, especially the lives of innocent children.

As we try to buy this building, we need your help! Will you pray and give to make this happen? God provided a $20,000 donation in seed money to start us out, and raised an additional $20,000 towards the building through our annual banquet! Now, we’re seeking one more $20,000 goal, and we want to do it one person, one twenty dollar bill at a time. Would you give $20, and ask 20 of your friends to do the same? Together we can bring the hope of the Gospel to children who so desperately need it. You can click the thermometer below to give your gift. Thank you for your partnership!

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Do They Remember?

SMO-Week-1-of-March-finalLet’s face it: as teachers, we are not always sure how much our students remember. The boy poking his friend, the two little girls giggling in a corner—how much do they absorb? We prepare fascinating lessons; we teach with excitement; we pray that God grows the seed. But do they remember?

In one Good News Club, we have been covering the Guard Your Heart series. This series talks about the ear gate and the eye gate in the sense of protecting the information you expose your heart to, in the same way that ancient cities used to guard their main roads from unwelcome intruders.

Last night I was not thinking about Good News Club; I was attending a women’s Beth Moore Bible study. When I got there, I didn’t know everyone, so I introduced myself. A woman immediately responded: “I know you, Miss Marvella—my daughter is in your class. I know everything about you.” (Teachers, imagine having a complete stranger say this to you!) The woman continued: “I know all about the ear gate and the eye gate. My daughter told me she can no longer watch her favourite dance TV show because the main character curses and my daughter wants to guard her heart and watch what goes into her ear gate and eye gate. I even taped that show for my daughter and she wouldn’t watch it. She made the decision herself.”

I was blown away. I couldn’t believe it!

What a wonderful reminder: they may poke and wiggle, whisper and squirm, but when God intends certain Bible lessons for certain children, they remember.

A Rich Legacy

 

Social-Media-2_14-wk-4_Final“‘Belle! Get that water, girl!’ Little Isabella Baumfree stared at her new master. This was all so different; three days ago she had been sold away from her mother. Belle and her mother only knew Dutch, but this new master, named John Neeley, spoke English to her, and if she did not obey him perfectly, he beat her. Belle stared at John again, wishing she could understand.”

This is the beginning of the story of Sojourner Truth’s life. Sojourner Truth, or Bella, as she was called while growing up, was freed as a young adult. After God renamed her Sojourner Truth, she began traveling the country speaking to large groups of people about human rights—without any formal education.

In Sojourner Truth’s time, women were not allowed to vote, and many women could not hold jobs. But Sojourner Truth said, “And ain’t I a woman? Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could [get ahead of] me! And ain’t I a woman?”

During Black History Month, I’ve been thinking a lot about Sojourner Truth’s rich legacy, especially as we have been teaching clubs all over Chicagoland. In fact, CEF Chicago’s Good News Clubs began requesting Gospel-centric lessons, including teachings from the Bible, about famous African American Christians, and we chose to write a curriculum about Sojourner Truth. As I researched this extraordinary woman, it was not hard to see how her dedication to God and His transforming love could inspire the children in our Bible clubs.

This story is already touching lives. “I’m not a slave to sin,” Tyrone (name changed) protested.

“The Bible says we all have a sin problem,” his teacher gently explained. “But God had a plan to free us from sin, just like He freed Sojourner Truth from sin and slavery…” There is no greater thrill than teaching a child how he or she can be freed from slavery to sin.

CEF is excited about our rich African-American legacy of volunteers and staff and our exciting future in ministry to children like Tyrone.

If you are interested in this curriculum, please let us know and we will get it to you!