Network 211 Launches Effort to Reach Children Worldwide
Network 211 has released the first two series of the Journey Bible Stories books for kids, which combine actual photos from the Holy Lands with fun illustrations while teaching kids about the Bible.When Network 211 recently decided to expand its reach to include children, it’s “almost” like God had it all planned out. As far as Center for Holy Lands Studies director and AGWM missionary, Amy Flattery, is concerned, that’s exactly what God was doing as Network 211’s development of JourneyChildren will also be the home of the new Journey Bible Stories for kids.
JourneyChildren will provide Bible-based content that empowers families to teach their children about Jesus and raise them as His disciples. Journey Bible Stories was produced to be the first outreach of JourneyChildren.
But what’s remarkable about this Bible story series, designed for children roughly ages 4-8, is that adults, including those who’ve attended church all their lives, will very likely discover things even they didn’t know about the Bible — for example, did you know the stone David used to take down Goliath was roughly the dimensions of a golf ball and could be slung with accuracy nearly a quarter mile?
HOW IT BEGAN
Amy has studied for years in Israel and two of her children were born in Israel — she is steeped in the culture and millennia of traditions espoused in Israel among the Jewish people. She also has an in-depth knowledge of the geography, language, and history of the nation and people that few others have obtained.
“Over the years, I’ve led thousands of leaders and students on teaching tours through the Holy Lands,” she says. “But over and over again, I found myself having to explain things, including to those with advanced degrees, about the Bible that even the children in Israel knew. So, why not make those biblical truths available to all children?”
Amy believes that children are more than capable of being taught biblical truths in a simplistic, but fully accurate, manner that will lead them to understanding the important roles things such as culture and context play in understanding the Bible. She also believes that the more children are exposed to the sometimes “hidden” truths of the Bible, the more they will want to know.
“And don’t forget the role the Holy Spirit plays in revealing God’s Word,” she adds. “He can give children, not just adults, wisdom and understanding.”
Yet, even though Amy has longed for decades to see that type of resource developed for elementary-aged children, her searching always came up empty.
And what some may find surprising, God not only fulfilled Amy’s desire, but over the years, He gave her the experiences, abilities, and connections to not only author the Journey Bible Stories for kids series, but to illustrate the books and offer them to children around the world translated into their own language!
It was about 25 years ago that Network 211 (pronounced 21-1 — 21st century technology to communicate the 1st century gospel) first launched its global evangelism and discipleship outreach via the internet. Its focus was on individuals seeking to discover a relationship with God. Since then, the site has seen more than 54 million visits, there have been more than 2.7 million evangelism responses, and more than 450,000 discipleship connections. It is also home to Warrior’s Journey, an online resource to the military community, launched in 2016.
But until the creation of JourneyChildren and the subsequent Journey Bible Stories series, elementary children had not been an outreach focus for Network 211. However, AGWM missionary Mark Flattery, Amy’s husband and president of Network 211, believes the new series will not only be well received in the U.S., but have an exponential impact on children around the world.
“Journey Bible Stories present solid biblical truths that are taught often only to adults. We want to imbed in the children visuals that are from the lands of the Bible and combine them with truths that are in-depth and not just reiterate superficial content,” Mark says. “We believe that the series will have a great impact on children because it brings the family together with devotions that present biblical truths in a fun and interactive way. This will be impactful, especially in nations where they rely heavily on the family unit for survival and support.”
“The sale of the physical Journey Bible Stories books, which are written in English, will fund the creation of an online series translated into at least 14 of the most widely spoken languages in the world, that can be downloaded or viewed online,” Amy explains. “What’s more, as the books are written using grade-school English, they will be far easier to translate.”
Amy and Mark both marvel how God has gifted each of them in different areas to help continue each of their God-given dreams — Mark’s passion and vision for Network211 to reach the world with the gospel message and Amy’s passion for reaching the children of the world with the truth of the gospel — in His timing.
“The beginning of the Network211’s vision statement states that we want to ‘proclaim Christ to everyone,’” Mark says. “This necessitates reaching children . . . and Journey Bible Stories is a God-given answer to effectively reaching children and their families.”
JOURNEY BIBLE STORIES
The series comes in sets of three books. Currently two sets are completed and a Christmas series as well as a series on Moses are in production. Each book features actual pictures from the Holy Lands where the biblical event took place along with child-friendly illustrations and artwork incorporated into the scenes of the picture. A friendly animal character, such as a camel or donkey, engages with children and guides them through the biblical account, such as the story of David and Goliath, while sharing facts and asking fun questions.
And through it all, as was Amy’s desire, the culture, traditions, geography, language, and history of biblical times are accurately communicated in ways children can understand, perhaps without even understanding the full significance of what or how they are learning.
Toward the end of each book, there’s a Bible verse and prayer, coloring pages, and a list of questions that kids are encouraged to go back and find the answers to if they don’t remember. But what adults may appreciate the most, aside from learning new things themselves, is at the end of the book there is background given to the story so when questions arise — and what child doesn’t have questions! — they can have answers ready.
As Network211 is an online ministry, video plays a significant role in its outreach. Journey Bible Stories fit right in.
“Another neat thing about this series is that each book also comes with access to an online video we’ve created to show in greater detail the actual places talked about in that particular Bible story,” Amy explains. “The Journey Bible Stories are really an engaging multimedia event for kids that helps them accurately envision and understand God’s Word at a very young age.”
And what enhances the family impact of the Journey Bible Stories series is that in addition to having its own website, the series is also linked to Network211’s Who Jesus Is evangelism site and has a home on Network211’s JourneyOnline site. On these sites, people curious about learning more will have access to a wealth of free resources that are designed for those unfamiliar with Jesus, those seeking a relationship with Jesus, and those wanting to grow their relationship with Jesus.
“Network211’s JourneyOnline site already offers JourneyAnswers, The Jesus Path, JourneyBelieve, JourneyGrow, JourneyPrayer, JourneyWorship, and JourneyBelong with JourneyChildren to be our latest addition,” Mark says. “There, videos and articles on some of life’s most challenging questions can be found. We are currently developing the site in French, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, and Hebrew.”
Amy says that her goal is to be able to produce up to 12 books a year (four sets) and have them translated and placed online in multiple languages as funds are raised through the sale of the physical books.
“I think children will want to read or have the stories read to them again and again,” she says. “And the fact that kids around the world will have access to the stories and will basically be learning how to study the Bible accurately, brings joy to my heart.”