Ayoung girl carefully reads out loud about loving others from The Greatest Journey discipleship
workbook. This is a hot, muggy classroom
in a crowded corner of Dakar, Senegal.
The children in this class sit four to
a wooden bench. Their classroom win-
dow looks out over a busy, dusty street
in a neighbourhood that used to be better
known for prostitution than proc-
But things here are changing
for the better. And shoeboxes
filled with toys, toothbrushes and
treats are part of the change.
The children attending this
discipleship program each received an Operation Christmas
Child (OCC) shoebox. Then,
they received an invitation by a
local pastor to join this 12-week
discipleship program – a unique
invitation in this overwhelmingly
Muslim West African nation.
Operation Christmas Child
is run by Calgary’s Samaritan’s
Purse, and embraced by Canadian
Christians who love the idea of
sending gifts directly to the eager
and open arms of a child who lives
in poverty. “You give us things we
never got,” says Awa Niang, a
12-year-old shoebox recipient.
Last year alone Canadians
packed 662,312 shoeboxes, with
134,000 reaching children in Senegal in 2013.
“It’s not just a feel-good project we do,”
explains Canadian Rick Lamothe, OCC
international regional director for West
and Central Africa. Yo-yos, balloons, pen-
cils and barrettes – or whatever the boxes
contain – are discrete (and fun) ice break-
ers that indigenous churches use to build
relationship with families in their com-
munities. “In Africa, if you love the chil-
dren, you love the parents,” explains Siri,
a translator with the OCC Senegal team.
Relationships with local churches and
learning about the shoebox-receiving com-
munities also allows Samaritan’s Purse to
connect with effective, already existing
ministries with whom they can partner.
“Because we do the shoeboxes, we
knew about the boy’s club,” explains Jeff
Adams, director of communications and
creative services for Samaritan’s Purse
Canada. The Young Men and Boys at Risk
Project reaches out to boys who work and
live on the streets, providing them with
a safe place to hang out, shower, eat, do
Bible study, play games, and have a reprieve from their life of begging on the
The boys work their way through three
levels of engagement, including vocation-
al training that might mean working at
a project-run Brazilian grill restaurant.
Without this program, says one of the
boys, “My life would be spoiled.”
A couple of hours and a muddy drive
outside Dakar, Samaritan’s Purse partners
with the Beer-Sheba Project, an agro-for-
estry program that trains young Senegal-
ese farmers in sustainable agriculture and
Christian mentorship. “We are always on
the lookout for projects that people have
already started and are looking for sup-
port,” explains Adams. “It is the local
Operation Christmas Child teams that
help make those connections for us.” FT
KingdomMatters n GOOD NEWS
Historic naval enthusiasts will be fam- iliar with the semaphore flag system used for communicating between
ships. Communication happened from a
distance by means of visual signals.
Now, an international Christian co-operative of artists called the Semaphore
Fellowship ( www.semaphore.ca) has
opened the Flagship Gallery in the midst
of a hamilton, Ont., hot spot for the arts.
Exhibiting art in media ranging from oils to
clay, the artists want to communicate to
non-Christian artists and patrons who fre-
quent the arts strip, as well as the Church.
“Semaphore is trying to help the
average person in church understand the
art language we’re using,” says James
Tughan, executive director of Semaphore, an artist and assistant professor
of art at Redeemer University College.
“We [artists] need to do a better job at
explaining the language of art.”
Semaphore artists include students,
professional artists and art profes-
other, host exhibitions, and educate and
fellowship as Christians. The co-operative
also helps Christian high school artists
create an art portfolio to apply to art col-
leges and offers advice about art careers.
“There’s not a whole lot of support in the
Christian community at large for artists,”
believes Tughan, and Semaphore is trying
to slowly change that reality.
Semaphore is “working to help artists
Christian Artists Open Gallery in Hamilton
Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes
break the Ice in Senegal