During our junior high and high school years my wife and I both attended “Big Sky Bible Camp” on Peterson Lake near Bigfork, Montana. The camp was started by a couple Bible Club Movement missionaries, Miss Clark and Miss Simonton, who moved out from the East Coast. They also held Bible Clubs throughout the year in the Missoula area. It all started in 1936 when a returning American Missionary, Miss Bessie Traber, listened to the pleading of Philadelphia youth to give them a Bible Club like those she had organized in the Philippines. She and a group of volunteers met that fall to organize the first Bible Clubs for children, not realizing they were founding a mission that today ministers on five continents and 50 countries around the world with nearly 800 missionaries! Within five years of that first Bible Club in Philadelphia, there were Bible Club workers in 25 states. Then a camping ministry was founded. Soon the first edition of BCM’s complete Bible study course Footsteps of Faith rolled off the press. By the time Miss Traber retired, more than 100 missionaries and thousands of volunteers were teaching children in 16 countries. The “Mailbox Bible Club” was launched, providing Bible Club courses by mail for both children and adults. Handi-Camps were established as a camping ministry to disabled children, teens and young adults. The children’s work expanded to include church planting (more than 17,000 churches worldwide) and leadership training. To more accurately reflect its growing ministries, the Bible Club Movement modified its name to “Bible Centered Ministries International.”
When my wife and I moved back to Montana to work as missionaries with Rocky Mountain Bible Mission, Kathy and her mom, Mrs. Kutz, taught children’s classes in several rural areas of northwest Montana using Footsteps of Faith and the accompanying flannel graph stories. (By the way, flannel graph is still a very effective way of teaching the Bible!). When we started Elohim Bible Camp near Bull Lake on Highway 56, some ten miles from Three Lakes Community Bible Church where I pastored, one of our counselors for the first year of camp was Marty Windle who is now president of Bible Centered Ministries. He and his wife, Jeanette also spent a number of years on the mission field in Bolivia. Jeanette (Archer) had grown up in the rural villages, jungles and mountains of Colombia where her folks were missionaries. You may recognize her name as being the author of numerous children’s books and suspense-packed novels such as CrossFire, Betrayed, Veiled Freedom, Freedom’s Stand, and her most recent, Congo Dawn. The books are exciting page-turners, that give you great insight into life in numerous foreign countries. As one of her readers Gayle Roper, author of Autumn Dreams, put it, “When it comes to international intrigue and the impact of Christ in hard settings, no one beats Jeanette Windle.” (Check out her list of books at www.tyndalefiction.com. We highly recommend them.)
Our church at Three Lakes has supported Marty and Jeanette for many years and this past Tuesday they were visiting at the church so we got to see them again and hear the exciting things God is doing through BCM world-wide. Sometimes it gets a bit discouraging as we see the downward spiritual spiral of our country and the apathy of so many Christians. It was encouraging to be reminded of the great work God is still doing in the world and of the hunger that millions have for God’s Word. Since half the developing world is under age 21, children’s ministries remain a key focus. Nearly 1 1/2 million children hear God’s Word regularly in Bible Clubs. In the PowerPoint that Windle’s presented, they showed one lady and her volunteer helpers who teach 140,000 children each week! It showed many scenes of children packed tightly together by the thousands sitting quietly listening to Bible stories. (Try that one in our country!). BCM refers to the “four-to-fourteen window,” since about 80% of all who trust Christ as Savior do so between ages 4-14.
Jesus too, had a real heart for children. Once, when His disciples were involved in their on-going debate of who would be the greatest in heaven (Mt. 18:1), Jesus “…called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea’ ” (vv. 2-6). In the very next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel we read, “Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ ” (Mt. 19:13,14). Little children should by all means be taught the Gospel (cf II Tim. 3:15) and encouraged to come to Christ before they grow too old and hardened to understand with their hearts!
As we listened to the Windle’s exciting, encouraging presentation of BCM ministries, I couldn’t help but think–what would have happened if Miss Bessie Traber had not listened to the pleading of the Philadelphia youth to give them a Bible Club? Today millions of children, and adults, all over the world are hearing the Gospel, and being taught the Scriptures because she had a burden for children and listened to God’s call. What is God calling you to do? Are you listening? Are you willing to step out in faith and obey? Only heaven will reveal the impact and ripple effect your obedience may have.
For more information, check out bcmintl.org