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Child Evangelism Fellowship Reaching Children in the Midst of Crisis

by Staff
May 30, 2011
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WARRENTON, Mo., ( -- Joplin, Missouri is leveled by a tornado. Alabama is devastated by tornadoes making 37 of its 67 counties disaster areas. Eastern Japan is struck by a combination earthquake and tsunami. Christchurch, New Zealand and Haiti also endure earthquakes. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, bombings. Natural and man-made disasters leave thousands in desperate situations and humanitarian workers tirelessly attend to their basic needs, providing food, shelter, clothing and other essentials. Is this enough? Are such supplies all these victims need to make it through the crisis? Child Evangelism Fellowship, the largest Christian ministry to children in the world, attends to another need just as pressing: The desperate need to understand why God let this tragedy happen.

"When tragedies occur children ask the same questions adults do: 'Why did this happen? Does God care?'" said Mr. Harry Robinson, Vice President of International Ministries at CEF. "The emotional and spiritual pain they experience is as intense as the pangs of hunger. CEF wants to reach these children and provide them with the answers that will bring real emotional and spiritual healing. And strengthening them spiritually helps them endure the physical hardship of the crisis."

One of the best ways CEF has found to reach children has been through the distribution of its booklet called "Do You Wonder Why?" This booklet, which has proven particularly effective in answering the important questions children have in the face of tragedy, was written in the wake of the September 11th terrorist bombings. A small team was sent from CEF to New York City to meet with firefighters and pastors to learn from their experience in order to craft a succinct and appropriate booklet for children. Its message conveys the Christian understanding of tragedy: its roots in humankind's collective choice against God; the hope of the gospel; and the wonder of a God who loves them, watches over them and will never forsake them.

CEF is committed to distributing these booklets to as many children as possible, and as quickly as possible, in the wake of a crisis. In each of twelve locations around the continental United States, CEF has stockpiled 50,000 "Do You Wonder Why?" booklets. From each of these locations it is no more than eight hours to anywhere in the continental U.S. CEF has volunteers at each of these locations who have committed whenever necessary to transport the booklets within an 8 hour radius. Booklets which are currently being distributed in the tornado-struck areas of Alabama, were driven in from Commerce, Georgia. Twenty thousand booklets arrived in Joplin, Missouri on Thursday from the CEF Headquarters in Warrenton, Missouri. Sometimes, 50,000 books are just not enough. In the aftermath of Katrina, CEF distributed over a half million booklets to victims of that tragedy.

Overseas, CEF is also well positioned to help. In Hawaii and Alaska, CEF has stockpiled 20,000 booklets each. With a presence in 176 countries, CEF can reach almost all of the populated world. When a disaster occurs in a foreign country, the booklet is quickly translated into the native language and printed where necessary, sometimes at the CEF Headquarters in Warrenton, Missouri, as was the case after the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010; sometimes in the affected country as in Christchurch, New Zealand or Eastern Japan both devastated by earthquakes earlier this year.

Once the booklets reach the disaster struck area they need to be distributed to the children who need them. This is an enormous task which CEF accomplishes by partnering with other organizations, both formally and informally. In different crises around the world, CEF has received assistance from the Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Relief teams, Christian newspapers, local churches, schools, stores, and supermarkets. This has certainly been the case in Alabama, where even a power company distributing food was eager to help. The majority of the booklets in Alabama have gone to three distribution centers in Birmingham, which are massing supplies and distributing them throughout the devastated counties. According to Mr. Doug Clarke, the CEF State Director for Alabama, these distribution centers were more than willing to distribute the booklets; they had nothing to provide the children to help them through the crisis. The reputation of the booklets effectiveness is spreading. When Mr. Sean Miller, CEF Central Alabama Local Director, approached Church of the Highlands in Tuscaloosa, about assistance with distribution a church member remarked, "I know these booklets. We passed them out in Haiti." The church was more than glad to assist.

At present, CEF is simultaneously ministering in the aftermath of four major natural disasters. In addition to Joplin, Missouri, where it is starting its efforts, and Alabama where it has already distributed 30,000 booklets and has demands for still more, it is distributing 10,000 booklets in Christchurch, New Zealand, and 50,000 in Eastern Japan. Always the goal is to minister to children as quickly as possible in a crisis. Ms. Libbye McGhee, team leader of a CEF Good News Club in Alabama, recounts one such story:

Gracie, age 8, was affected by the tornado's destruction that hit Alabama on April 27 in a personal way. Her grandparent's home was devastated in the wake of the storm, leaving questions of why did this happen to them, and why did this happen to my town? Gracie loved attending the Good News Club at her school, and was visited by her Good News Club leader a few days after the storm. As the leader saw Gracie and the family going over what was left of her grandparent's home, she was able to place into Gracie's hands a CEF "Do You Wonder Why?" booklet. She was so appreciative, and her mother was also delighted for Gracie to receive the booklet from CEF that would help answer questions Gracie would have. CEF responded within 24 hours of the tragic storm to this community in Alabama, responding to meet the spiritual needs of the children.

While these booklets are designed for children, they are not the only ones who benefit from them. In January 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti, CEF distributed over 32,000 booklets. It was not just the children of Haiti who benefited. One parent told a CEF worker, "You should not only give those [booklets] to children! We as adults need this too! I have been struggling with emotional despair since after the earthquake, blaming God for what happened. I stopped praying and going to church. But this booklet answered my questions! Please, do not only give it to children, we need to know too. Thank you!"

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