Tonight in countries around the world, children will go to sleep hungry and cold, without parents, without homes...without hope. Now your ministry group can send a simple, tangible expression of God's love to those in need.
Group Publishing, the premier publisher of children's Bible curricula, including Sunday school and VBS, believes that some of the best ministers to children who are experiencing disaster and hardship are other children. Through the Operation Kid-to-Kid (OK2K) program, Group partners with nondenominational Christian ministries like Biblica (formerly International Bible Society) and World Vision to provide opportunities for children in North America to share God's love with other children in difficult or disastrous situations. In 2009 alone, Operation Kid-to-Kid reached almost one million children. Since its inception 12 years ago, Operation Kid-to-Kid projects have impacted over 4.5 million kids and their communities all over the world. Highlights include:
- Over 100,000 care kits distributed to countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Albania
- More than 380,000 gift boxes sent to needy children worldwide
- Over 310,000 pairs of shoes and 200,000 pairs of socks given to orphans across the globe
- Over 1.5 million Spanish Bible books delivered worldwide
- More than a million cuddly prayer bears and copies of The Survivor's Bible provided free of charge to underprivileged children all over the world
"Operation Kid-to-Kid is a great way to teach kids compassion and service," says Joani Schultz, cofounder of Group and OK2K. "Children learn by doing. It's one thing to drop a nickel in the offering plate, but when kids make a gift with their own hands, when they can be creative and personal, this leaves a real impression on both the givers and the receivers."
This year's OK2K project is a simple no-sew fleece blanket that proclaims "God Loves Me!" right in the fabric. Each 56" by 42" blanket will also include a hidden surprise-a little white heart concealed between the fleece layers. The heart is a sweet secret kept by those who create the blankets, one that symbolizes God's love for the world and our love for others. Project participants are encouraged to pray specifically for the unknown person who will receive the blanket as they tuck the heart inside.
The OK2K blanket can easily be incorporated into any Sunday school or VBS curriculum. This year, the "God Loves Me" blanket is included as a special activity in Group's two new 2011 VBS programs, Egypt: Joseph's Journey from Prison to Palace and High Seas Expedition. The multi-generational participants will learn about the 40 million children around the world who are desperately vulnerable because of the AIDS pandemic and the effects of extreme poverty. Through Group's partnership with World Vision, blankets created this year will reach children in Africa coping with the pandemic's effects on their communities or families, including those who have been orphaned. Instructions for delivering the blankets to World Vision for distribution are included with each blanket kit. To make the gift extra special, churches can send a personalized "God Loves Me" coloring book with each blanket.
Over the years, OK2K has become one of the largest forces mobilizing children in serving other children around the world through gifts of school supplies, Bibles, hygiene kits, Christmas gifts, Bible coloring books, and socks and shoes. But the ministry opportunities are not just for kids. Between recent natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and the lingering effects of the global economic crisis, there are more opportunities than ever for Christians to show the love of Christ to others in need-and not just for a VBS event. Operation Kid-to-Kid can mobilize service projects any time of the year. Because the "God Loves Me" blanket project is so simple and practical, it is a perfect fit for a variety of ministry opportunities, from youth or women's groups and short-term mission trips to neighborhood outreach initiatives and ministry to the homeless. With a little imagination, a ministry group of any size and age can customize the project to support its own ministry vision.
"For many of us, a mission-focused heart is something that develops over time. Like any aspect of Christ's character in us, loving others like Christ loves them takes practice. This is a lesson for adults as well as children," says Schultz. "Hopefully, OK2K service projects like the 'God Loves Me' blanket will encourage Christians of all ages to commit greater time and resources to missions."