What About Our Children (Suvisheshakan Balasanghom — A Reflection/Analysis): The world population crossed the 6000 million mark on 12th May this year. More staggering, the population of a single country (that is, India) crossed the 1000 million mark in May 2000. Which means that every sixth person of the staggering world population is an Indian.
The statistics about children, particularly in India, is much more shocking. For example, more than 45,000 children are added to the Indian population EVERY DAY ! What’s more, children below 15 account for over 40% of the Indian population ! No wonder the secular world has woken up so suddenly to world’s children.
Organizations like the UN have not only dedicated certain years to children, but have also decided to designate the next millennium a time for children. Several mega-projects are being planned. Even a country like India (labeled poor) has begun to give priority to children, and also to set apart funds specifically for their welfare. The leaders of the nation have decided to make the next century a period of total freedom from the childhood curse of polio. Recently the government and voluntary organizations joined hands to give four doses of polio vaccine in less than four months to all children who are below four. By now, over 2.8 million children have been immunized in the state of Kerala alone. A regional newspaper like Malayala Manorama has successfully raised millions for the treatment of children, and money is still pouring in.
While UN wants the next millennium to usher in a period free from violence against children, smaller organizations and even the media are trying to play their role in rehabilitate suffering children. In this
secular backdrop it is high time of Christian believers to ask exactly what we are doing these days for our children. In fact many Indian visionaries have saw the future decades ago and did all what they could for the welfare of children. The best course today for many of us might be go along with
(Evangelistic Fellowship For Children)
The first person to give wings to his vision for children was the late M. E. Cheriyan. A schoolteacher by profession, he left his job to enter Christian ministry at a time when such things were unheard of. He picked up the idea of “synergy” from ergonomics, and put it to the service in the spiritual realm. Said he, “if you lit a candle in a darkroom, the entire room is lit — but only feebly. However, if you lit ten candles together, it would not remain ten feeble lights, but rather a single strong light. The result
would be more than the arithmetic sums of tend candles. That’s synergy. We are confident that the movement that we launch today would have the same synergistic effect for the spiritual upliftment of our children”. Half a century after that statement was made, his vision has become a movement of national proportions.
Even a cursory look at the movement now known as SBS (Fellowship For Christian Children) shows that it has greatly benefited a host of children. What’s more, today the alumni of SBS can be seen in positions of spiritual leadership in almost every place where Indian brethren have gone. Further, at least four dozen full-time Indian evangelists had SBS as their training ground. The question that
arises is what next ? However, before answering that, it is essential to point out that this movement has not been without setbacks.
As is common with every long-standing movement, SBS also passed through a period of slumber in the eighties. This was caused partially by the exit of experienced leaders, most of whom left India for jobs in other countries. However, a revival can be discerned in the last two years, mainly due to the efforts of two persons. The first one is Abraham Thomas (Kochi) the present General Secretary. A former SBS man, his several years of job in the Gulf enhanced his leadership abilities and insight into spiritual ministries. The second one is Prof. P. P. Scaria, a man of singular vision. A retired professor and a scholar, he has been providing a strong support to efforts at revamping and reviving SBS.
The Reviving Of SBS: Convinced that a reviving of SBS was essential for the welfare of our children, Abraham Thomas, the new general secretary called for a massive gathering, reexamination, and rededication from brethren
working among children. Everyone agreed, and in two years several developments took place:
In 1997 a massive Leaders Training Program was held at Paipad in Kerala. So great was the impact of messages, and such was the spirit of reexamination, that there were tears in all eyes on the closing day. From here began the second chapter in this history of SBS.
A group of committed co-workers have risen to help him during the past two years — some of them are in Christian ministry, while the others are professionals.
The SBS as a whole has been awakened out of slumber.
The friends at Siliguri, Assam, are now using translations of SBS material for holding classes.
SBS has now become equipped to meet any demand for children’s camp, or for conducting VBS classes.
In 1998 more than 5000 children attended VBS and other programs.
In 1999 more than 7000 children were brought under this influence.
Today there are more than 1000 dedicated volunteers who are helping various activities of SBS.
More than 30 Children’s Clubs, meeting weekly, have been established to follow up the non-assembly children who attended VBS and other activities.
Local churches are the units of SBS. Today there are more than 400 Units organized into 20 Centers, which are again organized into 4 divisions for the sake of efficiency of communication, management, and ministry.
Almost every center was able or organize at least one camp, and the number of participants ranged from 200 to 700.
The Divisional Camp at Malabar attracted 300, and the one at Kottarakara attracted a whooping 750 participants.
The State Camp held at Kumbanad attracted 1000 participants, the number reaching 1200 when regular visitors are also included. This State Camp created spiritual waves when responsible brethren of the Kumbanad assembly commented in public that this was spiritually the most disciplined SBS camp they had ever witnessed. Once again this is a testimony to what can be achieved when a band of committed and visionary leaders are available to work among children.
The closing day of the State Camp brought a time of tearful testimonies and dedications. By that time almost 70 children accepted the Lord as their Saviour. Of the senior students, 20 dedicated themselves for full-time Christian ministry. This was a direct result of three days of teaching by Dr. Johnson C. Philip on the theme of “Discover Your Spiritual Gift”.
Several regional camps then adapted the subject of the State Camp, and built their theme around “Kindle Your Spiritual Gifts”.
A one-month long Leadership Training Camp, the first of its kind in Kerala, attracted 16 full-time students. This would go a long way in meeting the need for trained voluntary leaders who can in turn train others.
Meanwhile, SBS activities received a boost when the Bahrain assembly sent a representative who not only conducted 3 camps in North India, but also trained scores of people in effective ministry among children.
Plans For Next Millennium
Being headed by a young visionary Abraham Thomas (Kochi) and an old stalwart Prof. P. P. Skaria (Kozhikode), it is to be expected that SBS would come with something unusual for the third millennium. And true to the expectation, SBS is ready to face the third millennium with a new face and new strategies, without any change in the old vision. Some of the projected activities include:
A unified syllabus for the all-round SBS activities is now in the works.
Massive training programs, additional Children’s clubs, English medium camps to meet the linguistic/spritual needs of the emerging generation, and several other millennium projects. Special emphasis will be given to equipping voluntary leaders in the art of Biblical Counseling.
The sapling planted by the late visionary M. E. Cheriyan has now blossomed into a massive tree. In the next millennium it is expected to grow into nothing less than a forest.
Report prepared by Dr. Johnson C. Philip, SBS General Media Coordinator. He is the webmaster of Apologetics Wiki, Biblical Archeology, and Apologix