NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, those involved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14, ESV)
Teaching God’s Word to children has been an important part of our work since the Reformation, when Luther wrote his Small Catechism. In the United States we have a number of ways in which we bring God’s Word to children, and the same is true of our churches overseas.
Sunday Services and School
The churches in India are brimming with children. On a typical Sunday, as villagers begin to gather for church, those who are the first to arrive begin singing God’s praises. One person takes a microphone and leads the song so that the singing is broadcast to the surrounding village. Others carry the beat with a hand drum or with the clash of cymbals. These songs act as a call to gather and hear God’s Word. It isn’t only the men and women who lead the singing, but the young boys and girls are also eager for their turn at the mic to sing God’s praises.
Most of the children who are old enough to read have their own Bible, which they bring to the service and eagerly open to follow along with the Bible readings of the day. Some even volunteer to read the passages or read verses referenced during the sermon. Many of these Bibles were provided free or at a reduced cost through the Mission Development Fund (MDF). The Bibles we provide become treasured possessions and make the children wise for salvation.
After the Sunday service, the children go to Sunday school where they learn more about their Savior.
Luther’s Small Catechism is an important tool to instruct children and adults in God’s Word. Most of my work consists of traveling to the different districts to teach continuing-education seminars for the pastors. This includes reviewing Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, and the expanded explanations of Bible teachings, so that the pastors are better equipped to teach the men, women, and children in their congregations. At one seminar this past May, six young boys joined the pastors at the seminar. They eagerly followed the explanation of the Lord’s Prayer and took copious notes. Maybe one day some of them will desire to be pastors as well, so they can teach the life-giving Word of God.
Vacation Bible School
Like we do in the United States, the churches here also have Vacation Bible School (VBS) in the summer. Through the MDF and Project KINSHIP the CLC provides many thousands of copies of Bible lessons, boxes of crayons, and other materials for these VBS programs for children in the BELC and the CLCI. The children hear about their Savior through the lessons, the color pictures that reinforce what they learn, and the songs about their Savior that they are taught. At the end of the VBS sessions, the children from different congregations gather for big VBS conclusion celebrations in several areas. These celebrations consist of singing, groups from the different churches performing action songs, and a short message from God’s Word, usually given by the CLC missionary.
Mission Helper Program
Another important way in which we bring God’s Word to the children overseas is through the Mission Helper Program. During the trip, which usually lasts two to three weeks, the mission helpers divide up into groups of four or five people. During the day, the pastors who come on the trip may teach a seminar for the local pastors. In the afternoon or evening, the group travels to a church and conducts a special children’s program that begins with creation and goes all the way through Christ’s return. On the 2016 Mission Helper Trip, this message was shared with over 1,500 children in Southern India.
Imagine being thronged by smiling children eager to hear what you have to say, and eager to try out their English by asking, “What is your name?” or “How are you?” The presence of foreigners and the sounds of English (followed by a translation into Telugu and/or Tamil) draws children and adults from all around the village, even those who would not normally come to the church. It is a great opportunity to be Jesus’ witnesses to the end of the earth.
The next Mission Helper Trip to India will be the summer of 2019. It is not too early to pray about it, nor to make plans yourself to come share God’s Word with the children here. This trip will make a lasting impression on you and, most importantly, on the children who hear God’s Word through you. If you are not able to come, considering sponsoring someone else so that they are able come to India.
Participating in and/or supporting the Mission Helper Program, contributing to the MDF and/or Project KINSHIP, and supporting the CLC general budget through your local church’s contributions to the synod are all ways in which you can help bring the little children to Jesus so that the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Peter Evensen is a full-time foreign missionary. His home is in Chennai, India.