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Is Childhood Canceled?

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The entire world has COVID-19 cabin fever. Our children are probably feeling it most of all, having come through a summer without camps or time with friends and being the private audience to how their parents are coping with the pandemic and its restrictions. While academic journals aren’t referring to children as an overlooked population, they certainly seem to be right now.
What is an overlooked population? It’s the invisible portion of our population—the person in the wheelchair, the person sitting a little longer than normal on the city bench, the one bent from depression, or sometimes these small humans running around while our eyes are fixed on tasks, worries, screens, or other adults.

Ambassadors of the Gospel

There is a very special segment of overlooked children that is drawing attention: the children of Messianic believers (Jewish people who believe in Jesus as their Savior) in Israel. In the western corner of the Middle East, the believing population among Palestinians and Israelis is less than 0.2 percent. They are considered a least-reached people group, especially as it’s illegal to evangelize children under 18 years of age without their parents’ permission. So, when only 0.2 percent of parents believe in the Lord, there aren’t many adults who can tell children about Jesus.

Enter Medallion, a children’s curriculum ministry founded by the C&MA in 1974. Medallion trains teachers and creates materials to teach children and families in Messianic congregations about their faith through an apologetics method so that children can become ambassadors of the gospel to their friends! There are several testimonies of Israeli children who became believers because of their Christian friends, read and studied the Word using Medallion materials, and celebrated their 18th birthday by coming to a church for the very first time.

On Lockdown

However, in 2020 these kids have been cooped up while their parents are stressed out and distracted. The entire country of Israel has been locked down (with police reinforcement) twice already. Everything oriented toward kids has been canceled: summer camps, kids’ clubs, and church. Childhood seems to have been canceled.

That’s why Medallion pivoted. In the business world, to pivot means to stay true to your vision but change your strategy for better outcomes. In this isolated world, Medallion wanted to create community and fun for these overlooked children and equip their teachers in more relevant ways. They changed their strategy of equipping teachers for the classroom to equipping teachers for Zoom platforms. They recognized that the teachers were now mostly the children’s parents, and so they began resourcing parents to do “church” at home with their families. They also opened a forum for parents of teenagers.

Ministering to Children through Story

Not only did Medallion equip parents, they also continued to minister over video chats. Medallion’s director, Debby, sent out a Zoom invitation for story time. With parental consent, kids across the country could log into the Zoom meeting and hear Debby reading a chapter from a book. Most of these books are stories the parents grew up on that had never been available in Hebrew before. Now generations are sharing these stories in their heart language as Debby reads them in Hebrew for the first time ever.

Debby recounts how much fun it was to see 160 screens the first time they tried it. Several screens had more than one child leaning forward and smiling from ear to ear, and even a few parents joined with their kids snuggled in their arms. The next story time Debby saw that many of the children had invited their friends to join. While attendance peaked that first night, the story times have averaged 76 participants each time. For an overlooked population in a least-reached people group, these are great numbers!

Several parents have written to Medallion sharing that the entire household’s schedule has been rearranged to make sure they can attend story time. One six-year-old left a voicemail for Medallion to say, “I really like the stories. Can you send more?” This new strategy is reminiscent of families gathered around the radio for entertainment before every household had a television, and it’s working. Not only has Medallion found a way to deliver fun to these children, but they have also created a country-wide community that has a faith-driven purpose.
As school reconvenes and families go back to work between lockdowns, Medallion will keep these resources online to watch at any time. They care so much about this overlooked population that they are personally calling families to invite them to story time, saying, “We love your children so much and want to include them in something special.”

And that’s it, isn’t it? We work so hard despite the circumstances because we love the people around us and want to invite them into something special. Thanks, Medallion, for the reminder and the inspiration!

More information about Medallion’s ministry can be found at medallionisrael.org/English.

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