Half-yearly report (July to December 2019)
Sunday School Teachers Training
For the first time in Odisha, we conducted a 2 days Sunday School teachers training camp, on the 24th & 25th of July. About 40 participants, from 13 different churches attended and were equipped to develop their Sunday School ministry.
Many people from Odisha live quite an uncivilized life, they are living in poor, backward areas, where there are a lack of medical facilities and transportation. Consequently, many children are not able to study their higher education, and there is no foresight for many of the girl children’s education.
We praise the Lord because there are a few churches who have faith in God and are teaching God’s Word to the people. During this time of training, we spend a good amount of time with the pastors, laymen and young people. Out of the participants, some are running child development centres in different localities of Odisha state, and some of them are Sunday School teachers & volunteers in their churches.
There was a keen interest to learn about how to run the Sunday School and prepare Bible lessons well. All these sessions will help them understand the value of the child and their responsibilities in teaching them well. The sessions we taught made them to understand children better and develop their spiritual lives.
TS Leaders Quarterly Meeting
In the process of training and accountability, we have conducted the quarterly meeting for the TS leaders on 2nd September, where 10 out of 12 centres’ leaders attended. We have taught them the importance of Gospel preaching. Additionally, we had other discussions concerning the running of the centre, along with lunch.
One-Day Children’s Retreat
As a new academic year starts, new children join in all the centres. To break the ice and build relationships with them, we conduct these half-a-day, or one day retreats for the children. We ran these during August & September, in all the TS centres. During these programmes, we have conducted some relay games, taught a couple of new songs and some life lessons. A couple of our staff and alumni took time in planning and conducting these programmes, where we had an opportunity to see the children from all the centre’s and interact with them. The children really enjoyed this time of recreation.
We also shared the Gospel, and about 25 children came to know Jesus personally, some children got suggestions on how to abide in Christ and the young teachers and volunteers were mentored to grow in their faith . . . it was a good time of fellowship too.
Discipleship Camp 2019
We had a wonderful four days at our ANNUAL CHILDREN’S CAMP, from the 30th of September to the 4th of October. 88 children and 23 staff and volunteers attended. Out of 12 teaching sessions, 6 sessions were taught by our own ALMUNI and their spouses, and two of the faculty were our General Body Members. At the end of camp, we were amazed at the response from the children. About 27 children made commitments to make changes in their lives and 25 children said that they’d be willing to go and tell others of their faith.
Here are some of the testimonies from the children:
1. My name is Mounika, of 10th standard, from the Malkajigiri centre. The four days at camp were a blessing in my life. Here is what I have learned:
- I never believed in Jesus, but in this camp I have learned that Jesus is The Great God, I have to listen to Him, I don’t have any authority on my life, I should live a submissive life to Jesus.
- At first I was not interested to come to camp, but after I came here, I have learned a lot of things for my life with Jesus. I loved the camp and I would really want to come back next year. I have learned that Jesus even talks to me. I use to tease and bully my friends, but here I have learned how to treat my friends.
- When we were learning about the cost of discipleship from Luke 9:57, the two words, “Follow Me” really struck me, I wept and decided to live a life committed to Jesus and be a witness to my family and friends.
- My name is Bharat, I’m studying in 10th class. I am very mischievous. I had all bad habits. I liked roaming with girls and speaking bad words. I use to do many naughty things, like commenting about teachers. Recently, also, I had a very bad attitude and things got worse. One day I came and shared all this to the centre leader (John). John gave good suggestions and also asked me to come to camp. At camp I learned many things, like how to behave with elders and how to manage my time (I use to waste a lot of time). I used to have a lot of time, but I would think more about playing, talking to girls, dancing in class . . . all mischievous things. After coming to camp there was a lot of change in me. By next year camp I will change my behaviour completely, thank you.
- My name is Aksa (or Pooja). We came to know Jesus and I have been going to church from my childhood. I made a lot of decisions in church, to follow Him, but many times I failed. I have been coming to camp for the last 3 years, but this year was very special. I was in two minds about coming to camp, but after coming God spoke to me about two things. Firstly, I was praying about taking baptism – last year I made a decision, but I failed. Secondly, spending time with God. This year I made a decision that I should have a daily quiet time. Pray for me – thank you.
Sonja Essay Writing Contest
In the process of holistic development, and to support the children by giving some educational scholarships, we conduct an annual essay writing contest in the memory of Ms. Sonja Marie Norwood on 12th November. This brings many of our children from different centre’s together. We have some fun, as well as present the task of writing an essay. After a message, some songs and lunch, the essay writing contest was conducted. This year we had 82 children from 8 different centres. Many of them came for the first time. All the children who attended got a gift worth Rs. 200/-. Twenty children were awarded with gifts and out of them, 16 received educational scholarships. This encouraged many of the children to read more books and to be competitive in their writing skills in their future.
Narsing Rao, a father of T. Nalini (who stood in the second place of 6th class) and Deva Charan (who stood in the second place of 8th class) said Shining Stars is thinking much about our children, because you prepare them to appear for these kind of programmes and give them great gifts. My children got two bags each (one school bag & one small backpack) and a water bottle, which I never thought of buying for them. We really thank Shining Stars.
TS & NI Centre Leaders Quarterly Meetings
As a part of fellowship, encouragement and equipping our partners, we conducted the 2nd quarterly meetings for the leaders and teachers of our centres in Telangana & North India (Odisha & MP) in the first week of December. We also had a small Christmas celebration. The focus for these meetings was to revisit the importance of conducting small group discipleship in their centres. We asked them to write up a plan to start the small group discipleship, if they hadn’t already. During these meetings, we also encouraged our partners to think about self-sustainability of the centres in the near future.
Testimonies from the leaders:
- Malkajigiri Centre (TS): In this centre a young leader, Miss Likitha, is taking care of the children. She loves to serve the children, and has a vision to teach them and help them to lead godly lives. The centre was started four months ago and started with 2 children, now there are 22 coming. One of children’s parents came and shared about them. Joel and Sufi were spending most of their time on the phone, playing games and watching videos. The parents were complaining to Likitha. She slowly started teaching moral & Bible lessons. One week she taught a moral lesson about technology. She kept the parents’ comments in mind. Then she challenged the two siblings to keep each other accountable by asking each other if they are playing too much on the phone. They were scared of Likitha, and from the next day they came to the tuition on time, were reading their books, doing their homework, and they were even playing recreationally. The parents of the children observed a change, and shared with Likitha, that at home they were not watching TV or playing with mobile phones. Likitha’s brother is also studying and helping voluntarily with the children in the centre, he also came first in his class. Likitha noticed that the centre children are following the schedule better, and are more disciplined. There are more compliments from the parents of the children because she takes a low fee, they are even encouraging her to take more fees from the children because of her hard work and commitment. Another wonderful news is that her mother, father and sister are giving a helping hand in her work too.
- Gunpur (Odisha): Suman is a young pastor who lives with his wife and two young children in Odisha (in east-central India). We started partnering with Suman in 2016. He is from the state of Telangana, but moved to Odisha seven years ago to start a church in the town of Gunpur. One of the main reasons he moved to Odisha is that when he was a child he heard the story of a man named Dr. Graham Staines, an Australian Missionary (who served in Odisha) who was martyred for his faith, in a gruesome way, along with his two young sons. The burden started in his heart way back then . . . He has been running the children’s centre in Gunpur faithfully since 2016. Some families in the community have started coming to his church through their children’s attendance at the centre. Suman has become well known in the community and his church is slowly growing through him and his family’s witness. Some parents have commented that they have seen a change in their children’s behaviour as they have been coming regularly to the centre. As time went on, he has really developed a burden and vision for discipling children and has inspired three others to run centres in their villages. One started in the 2018 academic year and two in 2019. In addition to this, some of the teachers who have been serving in the centres have had their lives changed. Ludia came to know the Lord and Mohan said that, as he has been teaching the children, his life has been changing through the lessons he’s taught, and just by serving. Some of our other partner’s, that are working alongside Suman, are also training others to run children programmes in various churches and homes. They are running these purely out of a burden to reach children for the Kingdom, inspite of not having any regular source of support. Infact, some work full-time job’s and run the programmes in the evening. We are so thankful for the fruit that is being multiplied through so many faithful servants of the Lord . . . much beyond what we could ask, imagine or think.
Christmas Celebrations in the Centres
Most of our centre’s celebrated Christ’s birth in their own way, but the two centres which are run by our own staff, celebrated in a bigger way, as they invited parent’s and some of the ALUMNI of their centres.
NACHARAM CENTRE: We celebrated Christmas in the Nacharam centre on December the 21st evening. Compared to previous years, this year’s celebrations were slightly different. We invited Back to the Bible organization to run the programme. Through songs, a game, the message and a puppet show, the children learnt about the importance of giving . . . what God gave for us, and how we can give the joy of Christmas to others. We closed the programme by giving gifts to the children and teachers, and encouraged them to join in the spirit of giving.
Here are some of the testimonies:
- Venkatamma is one of our teacher’s (Venkat’s) mother. She attended the programme with two of her church friends. She shared that she and her friends were blessed, and they were happy by seeing the whole programme. Her friends commented, “How much time you and your teachers are giving to these children, working hard with them. God is watching, and He will bless. The programme was very good, keep it up.”
- Swathi is our one of Alumni’s friend’s, she shared that, “She attended a Christmas programme for the first time.” Before attending our programme, she used to think that Christmas meant the birth of Christ, that’s all, but now she learnt more about what Christmas is about. Not only the birth of Christ, but also salvation for people. So, please pray for Swathi to know Jesus Christ more and for a personal encounter with Him.
BOMMAKAL CENTRE: We have celebrated Christmas differently this year. We invited a wide range of people from Hyderabad, an old Executive Committee member from Nalgonda etc. Venu (one of the 10th class student’s, who we provide a scholarship for) shared his testimony with the children. After that, Bhaskar and Swapna (two SS alumni) shared their testimonies. Then, Mr. Isaac Ramu (a friend of the ministry) gave a Christmas massage to the children. The Shining Stars team, then presented a puppet show. They taught that Christmas is about giving, not just receiving. Finally, Mr. Peter Wiig and Mr. Janardhan gave greetings to the children. We cut a Christmas cake, then gave gifts to the children, teachers and alumni. As the children were going, we gave them a delicious snack.