August 24, 2015 Joggery Gelu and Teresa Costello
A recent Adventist evangelistic series in Sarawak, Malaysia featured a unique variation on ministry to children. As church leaders in Kampung Simboh prepared for the August 2-8 evangelistic series, the original plan focused on adult programming. However, they soon realized children’s programming was also needed to more fully reach families in the surrounding communities.
When it was suggested that they run a nightly Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the children, the rest of the organizers enthusiastically agreed. Although VBS is more traditionally used during the daytime hours of summer seasons or school breaks, the leaders discovered that it complimented the adult programming well with few adjustments needed.
How did the children respond? The first night 89 children attended, but the following night the attendance among both the children and adults increased. The theme “Kids of the King – a Royal Adventure” seemed to enthral the children as they learned through games, crafts and interactive stories.
VBS attendance increased each night until it reached 135 on Friday night. When the VBS leaders invited the children to attend the final program the next day, they weren’t sure how many would actually come because it would be on Sabbath morning.
To their surprise, 179 children came with many of the regular participants bringing friends and relatives who had not previously attended. As surprising as this was to the leaders, the responses of the children brought even more joy. The children shared that they were very happy to have this kind of program because it was active and they felt they had a special part. The children expressed hope that there would be another program like this next year.
Their responses made an impact upon leaders. “I was happy to share in the joy and celebration that we had during our recent Women’s Ministries and VBS evangelism,” commented Pastor Joggery Gelu, Children’s Ministries director for the Sarawak Mission. He added, “Every night the attendance of both the children and adults increased until the average attendance was 300-350 in spite of their busy schedules. Really though, it is not the attendance totals that are most important but the experience and things that they learn for their future life and a spiritual connection to the Creator and Lord Jesus Christ.”
With a total of 69 baptisms from the evangelistic series, organizers have learned that family-centered programming with a particular emphasis on children’s ministry can be a vital tool in religiously diverse areas.
Kampung Simboh is located approximately 23 kilometers from the Sarawak Mission headquarters in Kuching. Malaysia is a predominantly Islamic country but Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, various Chinese religions, indigenous religions and Christianity are also freely practiced among its population of over 23 million people. It is home to 28 Adventist churches and over 5,500 members.