India has over a billion people who don’t know Jesus and over a third of them are under the age of 15. Seeing the opportunity for broad Gospel ministry, Patrick Shannon, a member of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, initiated a partnership with Truth78 and Child Evangelism Fellowship India. In only a few months’ time, they reached over 112,000 children with Things Hidden, an evangelistic study for children on kingdom parables produced by Truth78.
Patrick and his wife Kimberly have been partnering with local churches in India for over 10 years--trying to help churches to be better equipped to spread the gospel. Through their engagement, including facilitating VBS programs, one of the things they found was that the churches often lacked updated materials for children. “The materials were somewhat outdated, but also not as theologically sound as I would like them to be.”
Through their involvement at College Park Church, the Shannons discovered Truth78's curriculum. David Michael, Truth78 founder and Next Generations Pastor at College Park Church, recalls learning about the Shannons’ ministry in India when they volunteered to teach. “It was just an ordinary conversation with a new volunteer small group leader for our 3rd grade class. The Shannons were an answer to our little prayer that God would provide the people we needed to launch our 2016/17 year of Sunday School.”
As the Shannons taught that 3rdgrade class, they saw how they could address the need they observed in India. “We saw how powerful the curriculum is and the impact it can have on children, in terms of opening up the gospel and the glory of God.” Putting the two pieces together, Shannon thought, "If there was an opportunity to get these resources translated in local languages in India, it could be a significant tool to teach children about Jesus."
During their ministry in India, the Shannons saw how children come to faith through VBS programs. “It's a community event that not only provides an opportunity to share the Gospel to children but also to the entire community.” They found VBS programs to be a great way to reach unreached people groups, since people throughout India, especially in rural areas, will allow their children to participate in Christian meetings or VBS programs. “Normally, at the end of the event, the church and the pastor have an opportunity to explain what the children learned and what the Gospel is.” Shannon explains. “Through that, hopefully, people understand who the Lord is, and the message of salvation.”
For over 80 years, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) has been working to reach children with the Gospel and to disciple them through the local church. In March, Shannon set up a meeting in Bangalore with the director of CEF India, Immanuel Prabhu, to network and try to understand what they were doing to reach the children of India.
Through the conversation, Shannon and Prabhu found a win-win opportunity in partnering together. As Shannon saw how CEF India was looking for materials to fill a void of activity in the summer months, he recognized how VBS can keep CEF India and children engaged throughout the course of the year. “We both quickly came to the same conclusion; if we could use the Truth78 materials and move forward with a translation program, that would be a unique opportunity to reach numerous children with the gospel.”
They decided to focus on Things Hidden, Truth78’s recently revised evangelistic study for children on Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom. The study, designed for VBS and Backyard Bible Clubs, uses hidden treasure as a metaphor for spiritual truth and exalts God alone as the source of spiritual sight and an undivided heart.
CEF India took on the legwork of translating, printing, teaching and distributing the Things Hidden curriculum.
Translators interpreted the curriculum into Hindi (the country’s official language, predominantly spoken in northern India) as well as three languages spoken in southern India, Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada. Partners in Discipleship collaborated with CEF India to ensure the theological integrity of the translation.
Once the translations were completed and approved, CEF India took on the significant project of printing and distribution. Through their broad local contacts, network, infrastructure, and relationships with pastors, they facilitated printing, teaching, training, and getting materials in the hands of people throughout the country.
From the conversation between Shannon and Prabhu in March until the end of June, CEF India completed the translations of Things Hiddenand conducted 952 seminars, trained 11,429 teachers, and reached 112,400 children.
“I praise God for the wonderful privilege He has given us to reach boys and girls with the VBS materials from Truth 78 ministries,” reported Prabhu. “I have been thrilled to see the work of God in our VBS program (which we name Summer Bible School).”
In follow up discussions, Shannon found that the materials were well received. “The teachers were very grateful to have sound biblical materials to teach,” he said. “The primary objective was to quickly get Things Hiddentranslated and get people trained and materials disseminated to spread the Gospel. Now there's a lot of enthusiasm building about future materials, programs, and distribution.”
Shannon explained that CEF India will use the materials they have already translated for another program in November (when the Dhassara festival will be celebrated) and then in villages where they didn't have a chance to distribute the material initially.
“We have done only 5% of VBS programs this year,” reported Prabhu. “God willing next year we will have at least 50% of VBS ministries in India through our 50 chapters.” In all, CEF India’s objectives for 2019 are to reach five million children with Things Hidden.
“The numbers are astronomical, in terms of the ability to reach India through ministries using Truth78 materials and the great thing is, once the materials are translated, they can be used for years.”
Shannon hopes to build on the VBS project with another program in multiple languages. “I’d like to expand to a curriculum that could be used to equip the local churches to effectively teach the next generation the Word of God throughout the course of the year. That's where we want to get this ministry to, where we have a curriculum in the local language and teachers trained to teach children of various ages.”
Shannon sees great need and opportunity for this expansion. “There is a great need and the church is crying for biblical materials.,” he said. “I'm excited about the opportunity to help equip and disciple the Indian church. I just think there's a wealth of material here and it's just a matter of how to package it locally and then with some oversight and God’s provision let the church in India run with it.”
“I am very grateful to you for having given us the privilege to reach our children with the Word of God through Vacation Bible School ministry,” Prabhu said in reporting on the initial rollout of the project. “May the Lord bless you for having given us the support and prayers for reaching the perishing little ones for the Kingdom of God.”
“The partnership between the Shannons, CEF India, and Truth78 is exactly what we have hoped and prayed for,” said Brian Eaton, executive director of Truth78. “providing our resources to be translated so that the global next generations would set their hope in God, trusting in Jesus Christ alone.” Eaton added that in addition to the broad distribution CEF India is leading, the translations they produced will be available on the Truth78 Website for free distribution for further ministry use.
“Reading the report on Things Hiddenin India took my breath away with praise to God for Patrick and Kimberly Shannon,” said David Michael, Truth78 founder and board chairman, “and it leaves me graciously humbled in worship before our God who is not only ‘able’ but always doing ‘far more abundantly than all that we ask or think….’ (Ephesians 3:20).”
“In that first conversation with the Shannons, I prayed that their ministry would be fruitful,” said Michael, “but never imagined that the fruit would include the translation, printing, and distribution of Things Hidden into Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada for reaching 112,400 children in India—not to mention the gift of a friend for life and a true partner in pursuing the joy of the next generation!”