This was over the course of a week at the annual Holiday Bible Club hosted by the Lenasia Church of the Nazarene. It seems like not even the icy winter cold could dampen the enthusiasm of the children – and the leaders recount, with a smile, how the queue of children wanting to come into Holiday Bible Club just didn’t end!

Zeenat, one of the leaders shares: “As the leadership prepared for this Holiday Bible Club, we felt lead by the Lord to take the children back to basics. There is such a spiritual need in this area. We felt the need to help every child, at every level, understand and remember what the Bible is about – and that is why we chose otLIVE as our teaching theme for the children this year. We, as adults, and as a congregation did otLIVE – and were so excited about what we had learnt in such a short time. We realized the amazing potential otLIVE would have with the children.”

Another leader at the Holiday Bible Club, Janelle, relates her impressions: “I was so impressed with how the otLIVE instructors related to the children. They taught them the Bible stories and the hand signs to help them remember. But they also brought the stories back to the real lives of the children. Children need something they can relate to. What does it mean to obey God like Moses did? What do I learn from Joseph about forgiving my brothers – and what does it mean to have honesty and integrity like he did? We also want to teach life skills to these children – things like respect, safety, obedience. We are planting seeds in the lives of the children. This is such an opportunity to speak life over them and call out their potential. It also really helped that the instructors were able to switch between Zulu, Sotho and English – and relate to the children in their own language.”

“What is amazing is that the kids remember most of the otLIVE lesson and are really motivated. The hand signs really help.”       – Deon, Leader Teen Boys

According to Rev Vincent Kandan from the church:
“Walk Thru the Bible has really helped us by coming on board and taking care of the teaching and curriculum for the 1900 who attended this year’s Holiday Bible Club. It relieved some of the pressure for us as a church, and enabled us to focus on the many other logistics involved in organizing and running an event of this size and nature.”

Ministering to spiritual and physical needs

Lenasia Church of the Nazarene’s heart is to bring the hope of Christ to their community. This is vividly demonstrated in their commitment to minister to both the spiritual and physical needs of the children. The Holiday Bible Club was held at two different venues in Lenasia – in areas with very diverse populations. Many of the children came from poverty stricken informal settlements. Some are from Muslim and Hindu backgrounds. The children are welcomed with breakfast and a hot drink as they arrive in the cold early mornings that characterize winter in Johannesburg. Those who arrive without adequate warm clothing are provided with shoes, jerseys or jackets as required. The children are also given another meal before they go home.

A contingent of 200 volunteers are trained to assist in the running of the Holiday Club. They work in areas such as catering and kitchen work, first aid, security, clean up and the leading of small groups. Many of the volunteers who now serve at the Holiday Bible Club (with many even taking leave from work to do so) attended the Bible Club themselves as children. Now they send their own children to the week long event. Other volunteers are members of the community who see the value of the work and are eager to get involved.

God at work in the lives of the children and volunteers

After worship and otLIVE teaching in the bigger groups, the children break up into smaller age appropriate groups with their leaders (pre, school, middle school and teenagers). This is an opportunity for reinforcing the lesson, reviewing hand signs, discussion, crafts, games, song and dance. It is these settings and other quieter moments, that provide opportunities for one on one counselling and sharing.

As one leader testified: “Just this morning, I talked with a 10 year old girl who was suicidal – her family are of another faith – but I shared with her the purpose that God has for her life and taught her about talking to God through prayer. Many of the children come from very difficult home circumstances. Our heart is to serve them and show them love as Christ loves. We have to bear in mind what they had to go through just to be here on this cold morning. It is also wonderful to see how God is at work, not just in the lives of the children – but also in the lives of the volunteers.”

A testimony to the Lord

Lenasia Church of the Nazarene has a long legacy of running Holiday Bible Clubs in the area – with the first one being run in 1963. Rev Vincent is himself a product of Holiday Bible Club – having come to know the Lord as a young boy in a similar environment. His associate pastor, Rev Peter explains how difficult it was to initially break into the area, which has a strong presence of other faiths.

The church has a weekly attendance of 160 – 200 people.  What a testimony to what the Lord will do with hearts and a people who are willing to serve and reach their community with the love of Christ. Rev Vincent also testifies as to how the church has grown through the Holiday Bible Club: “As we reach the children, we reach their families and many are drawn to coming to church. We want to bring hope to Lenasia.”

The annual Holiday Club is something the Lenasia Church of the Nazarene spends the whole year preparing for – raising funds, collecting clothing, preparing themes and activities, gathering community support and local authority approval and training leaders and volunteers. And by half way through the week, Rev Vincent, already with a glint in his eye, is making plans for next year…

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