Discipleship via OCC technology
Hannah Harrison
AFA Journal staff writer

March 2020Since 1990, Operation Christmas Child’s (OCC) main purpose has been to share the gospel through the well-known Christmas shoeboxes and The Greatest Journey (TGJ), a 12-session, Scripture-based discipleship program through which the shoebox gifts are shared with children worldwide.

At each shoebox outreach event, OCC strives to equip and encourage the local leaders to whom they are ministering. OCC trains local pastors, teachers, and other evangelical volunteers to use the TGJ discipleship program. Thus, students ultimately learn the love of Christ, and it happens under the leadership of a local pastor, rather than strangers from faraway America.

Teaching the techies
Now, OCC is using a new language that minsters to young disciples specifically in the U.S. – technology.

Through this recent app release, Greatest Journey, OCC is discipling U.S. kids. Hannah Bolvi of OCC told AFA Journal the reason behind creating the game.

“We try to be sensitive in every culture we work in,” Bolvi explained. “We must not disrupt their culture. We have to present the gospel in a way that is understandable and relevant. With American kids, the language they speak and connect best with is digital.”

Bolvi emphasized how the app is much more than a game: “Greatest Journey is designed to be a discipleship program. Not only will children enjoy the game; also, they will be trained in how to apply the Bible to daily life.

“Discipleship doesn’t say, ‘What do I need this person to know?’ Discipleship says, ‘Who can this person be?’”

The game itself was designed specifically with 5- to 9-year-old children in mind. Due to how children think and process things, Bolvi explained the importance of the game’s design.

Needing a narrative
“Because of the target age group, what you’ll find is the need for a narrative,” she said. “In the game, players will stop to see, observe, or hear something. After stopping to observe, then there will be an activity. It is so incredibly strategic.”

The app awakens children’s imagination through the space-themed story line. After creating an avatar (personal character) of their choice, players blast off through time and are transported to become part of the Bible story. The 12-mission narrative takes players to momentous scriptural events such as creation, the fall of man, the birth of Jesus, miracles He performed, His death and resurrection, and many more.

Each player is deemed captain of his/her own crew on the spaceship “Starship Emmanuel.” Captain and crew are then whisked away to witness the Bible story firsthand. However, a player cannot disrupt the actual biblical event. In order to prevent disruption, each crew member is given a drone (equipped with a visibility shield) that can be deployed to get players closer to the scene.

Upon completion of each mission, players report to “Admiral Sam” for debriefing. In return, the admiral teaches players how to apply each lesson to their daily lives.

Bolvi said, “Our primary question is who does God want the children to be? Once they’ve understood this lesson, our debriefs are focused on the themes of the game: to know the gospel, grow in the gospel, and share the gospel with others.”   

Why use the app?
When asked why parents should download the app for their children, Hannah Bolvi said, “Kids are going to be playing something. Wouldn’t you want them to play something reinforcing good values, ideas, and the faith you want them to have?”

Greatest Journey is available free on Apple and Google Play. The app requires no purchases and allows no in-app ads.