TV Special Follows Music Stars, Graham on Christmas Child Journey

A TV special that began airing online Monday follows award-winning Christian music artists Matthew West and BarlowGirl to Latin America where they participate in an Operation Christmas Child program for needy children.

West and BarlowGirl go to Colombia and Belize, respectively, to distribute shoe boxes and see how a thoughtful gift can be used to help a child begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. The program focuses on a Bible study program, developed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The program is used to disciple children who receive a shoe box filled with gifts through the Samaritan's Purse program Operation Christmas Child.

"We want to disciple every child that gets a box, every child that makes a decision for Jesus Christ," says Franklin Graham, president and CEO of both BGEA and Samaritan's Purse, in the program.

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BGEA and Samaritan's Purse teamed up to create "The Greatest Journey," a 12-session Bible study program for children that is used to follow-up with youths who receive a shoe box. The program was launched last season (2009-2010) in 20 countries in the Americas and Caribbean. This year, the two organizations plan to activate the program in more than 50 countries and 28 languages and reach an estimated 1.1 million children. Students who graduate from the Bible study program receive a certificate and their own copy of the New Testament translated into their native language.

OCC's simple shoe box gifts demonstrate God's love in a tangible way and offer volunteers, local churches and ministry partners an opportunity to share the good news to children through the BGEA program.

The Billy Graham TV special includes footage of West, his wife, and young daughter shopping for gifts to fill their shoe boxes. It later follows West to Colombia where he gives another little girl the shoe box made by his own daughter.

"I've had the chance to see first-hand the type of impact Operation Christmas Child can make, not only in the lives of the children who are receiving those gifts but in the lives of the people who are back home packing those shoe boxes," says West in the program. "The chance to teach our children what Christmas is all about, sharing that, 'Hey, this time we're going to the store but we're not going to buy you something but we're going to buy something for another child that is in need.'"

The BarlowGirl's music video for their new song "Hallelujah (Light Has Come)," produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, had its world premiere on the television show.

Also included in the program is a moving segment on Haiti that features a local pastor, Vladimir Dorsainvil, who, despite losing his wife and daughter in the earthquake earlier this year, is still proclaiming the love of Christ. Dorsainvil is helping to organize a Franklin Graham festival in Haiti with other local churches that is slated for January 2011.

"Christmas in Haiti this year is going to be pretty tough. This country is still struggling, even though there have been some great things that have happened this past year," remarks Graham in the special. "We want to do everything we can to not only help the people of Haiti, but to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Both BGEA and Samaritan's Purse have deployed response teams to help provide emergency relief and medical care to Haitians after the devastating earthquake in January that killed hundreds of thousands of people and left over a million homeless.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered more than 77 million gift-filled shoe boxes to needy boys and girls, some of them orphans, in 138 countries.

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