‘Our hearts go out to these children and to the faithful CEF workers who are spreading the good news of Jesus Christ amid extremely difficult circumstances,’ says Moises Esteves, CEF executive vice president
For Immediate Release
July 10, 2023
ST. LOUIS — Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) workers have special challenges when it comes to reaching children in war-torn Ukraine. For starters, they can hold outreach programs only with children who are near bunkers. That’s because the Russians are sending missiles into civilian areas of cities. When the missile alarm system goes off, the children must run to the bunker, where CEF workers typically continue the club activities. Summer camps are held ideally in open fields in areas with a lower risk of attack, but even these require parents’ signed permission.
Despite the war, CEF’s Hope for Ukraine campaign in 2022 reached more than 134,000 Ukrainian children in camps, at orphanages and in online activities. More than 8,900 children attended camp in person and another 235 participated online. More than 500 children made professions of faith. There were many more camp attendees, but some churches are reluctant during wartime to report statistics.
“Our hearts go out to these children and to the faithful CEF workers who are spreading the good news of Jesus Christ amid extremely difficult circumstances,” says Moises Esteves, CEF executive vice president. “We are heartened by compelling testimonies from our people in the field.”
Tatiana, in the Kiev region, thanks people for their prayer support. Visiting children in a children’s home, Bible classes are frequently interrupted by missile sirens, when this occurs, they must move quickly to the basement for safety until the danger has passed. When the CEF workers are visiting, they help continue the fun and the Bible lessons. At night, children who are already facing mental health challenges like anxiety and autism are awakened to move to the basement where their fears are amplified, and rest is limited. Children respond so hungrily to the Bible lessons and interaction with the CEF volunteers, following them to their cars as they leave. Tatiana said, “These children lack love catastrophically. We are doing what we can to raise a new generation that will know God and not repeat the path of their parents.”
Another CEF worker, Tatiana S., is serving in the Donetsk region, where there has been heavy fighting. She sent this report:
“In western Ukraine, several camps were organized for children living 15 kilometers from the front lines. Children were taken out for rest and rehabilitation, where they can sleep peacefully at night without shelling or life-threatening situations. The camp was organized by mission workers who continue to serve in the Donetsk region under extremely difficult circumstances of warfare.
“Despite the hostilities there are many children in the area who need the Lord, care, and love. We thank the Lord for the full financial support from the brothers and sisters of the churches.”
Ukrainian churches have donated funds to send children living 10 miles away from the war frontlines to a camp for rest and evangelism. Each of the 24 Ukrainian CEF chapters has at least one camp, and one had 48 camps last summer. CEF also owns a camp where children come from all over Ukraine, with a new camp every week over the summer. The facility is used the rest of the year for youth camps, church groups, training, etc.
In 2022, more than 30,000 Ukrainian children attended a Christmas Party Club, a 5-Day Club, a Good News Club®, a program at a hospital or orphanage or Children Reaching Children. CEF distributed 24,443 pieces of literature and 45,680 backpacks or zip bags.
Currently, 100,000 Hope for Ukraine Gospel packs are being distributed. Each pack consists of a “Jesus loves you” pen and Wondersurf.com pamphlet; a Gospel postcard; a “Do You Wonder Why?” booklet and a “Meet the King” booklet. The colorful materials come in Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian and other languages. An eight-minute video has been translated into Ukrainian and is ready for distribution. A digital version of the “Do You Wonder Why?” booklet in Ukrainian is available online.
“This is some of the most important work we are doing,” Esteves says. “Children brutalized by conflict need answers to the most difficult questions, and we are printing five million booklets to address them.”
Some of the most fragile children are those with mental health issues such as autism. They are especially traumatized by alarms that wake them every night at a group home, requiring them to go to the basement.
Tanya is a CEF worker who ministers to troubled children at one of the children’s homes. She says alarms wake the children up most nights and they must go to the basement for safety. These children already struggle with acute anxiety and have been adopted away from their own families, so this is especially stressful.
“These children desperately need the love and support that CEF workers provide when they come to visit and share the Bible with them,” Esteves says. “Nothing compares to the love of Jesus as shown by dedicated believers.”
Vladimir, from the Poltava region, shared an account that shows how a changed life can change others.
“In 2017, at a 5 Day Club, two teenagers put their trust in the Lord. I hadn’t kept in touch with them and had even forgotten about it. Last month (six years later), I was training young people for summer evangelism, and one of the young ladies came up to me and said, ‘I put my trust in the Lord at your 5 Day Club six years ago.’”
“Thank God! Another of those girls is also in the service of the Lord. It is worth continuing to work in the field of children’s evangelism!”
Children are not the only ones affected spiritually by the war. People are going to church in record numbers, CEF workers report. At one church, only 20% of attendees at a Sunday morning service were church members. The other 80% were unbelievers or new believers. Rural churches are welcoming people who have fled the war zones. At the same time, many Ukrainian refugees are returning to their homes as the war front shifts.
The ministry is expanding support for 70 CEF workers in Ukraine who need basic goods and necessities that have become rare because of the cessation of regular shipments to shops and pharmacies. The need is great, so CEF is working to train more volunteers.
“This is about eternity,” Esteves says. “The Gospel is a forever message with immediate impact here on earth.”
Worldwide, CEF is continuing to reemphasize its commitment to the Great Commission with a new slate of ambitious goals. With God’s help, the ministry hopes to:
- Reach approximately 26.5 million children in 2023.
- Minister to 100 million children each year globally with the Gospel in the near future.
- Increase the number of Good News Clubs® — in 2022, CEF’s Good News Clubs® served children in 79,733 public schools worldwide.
- Train hundreds of thousands of adults worldwide to reach more children for Christ.
Child Evangelism Fellowship, which was founded 86 years ago, has been establishing Good News Clubs® in countries around the world for decades. Clubs are thriving worldwide, in countries including Australia, Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uganda.
Last year, through CEF’s combined ministries, more than 19.5 million children worldwide heard the Good News. In 2022, more than 439,000 teachers were trained around the world.
For more CEF news, see the ministry’s latest edition of the online magazine Impact.
Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is an international, nonprofit, Christian ministry that has been dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church since 1937. CEF is located in all 50 American states and in most countries around the world, with over 3,500 paid staff and tens of thousands of volunteers around the world.
To interview a representative from Child Evangelism Fellowship, contact [email protected], Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.