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Reflections from the Publisher 

Tommy Bowden Supports Child Evangelism Fellowship (Good News Club)
Bowden is Keynote Speaker for Greenville/Piedmont District's Fundraising Banquet

By Karen Brewer

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Tommy Bowden, successful Head Football Coach and current football analyst and highly sought-after Christian speaker, was the keynote speaker for Child Evangelism Fellowship Greenville/Piedmont District's 2017 fundraising banquet, held at Covenant Baptist Church in Anderson, South Carolina. CEF's Good News Clubs share the Gospel with more than 9,000 children in Greenville, Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens Counties.

“The Gospel for Every Child” is the theme for the Child Evangelism Fellowship Greenville/Piedmont District, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017 with three fundraising banquets, including at Covenant Baptist Church in Anderson, with the keynote speaker Tommy Bowden, successful Head Football Coach and current football analyst and much sought-after Christian speaker.

The banquet also featured speakers who are CEF leaders, school district leaders, a CEF summer missionary, a CEF donor, and Good News Club volunteers, including the wife of the Pastor of Oakdale Baptist Church in Townville, where a Good News Club and their church shared the Gospel with Jacob Hall, who died at the age of six in a shooting at Townville Elementary School in September of 2016.

Wordwide, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) reaches more than 20 million children with the Gospel in every nation, with the exception of North Korea. The Christian organization was founded in 1937 by Jesse Irvin Overholtzer with the mission of evangelizing children with the Gospel and discipling them in the local church. CEF has more than 2,900 missionaries overseas, and 700 full-time workers and 40,000 volunteers in the United States and Canada.

“Child Evangelism Fellowship is a ministry that is close to the heart of Jesus,” Dr. Erwin Lutzer has been quoted. “As a matter of fact, we could say that it is actually the work of Jesus. Remember in the Gospels, when the little children came to Jesus, and the disciples rebuked them, Jesus, in turn, rebuked His disciples and said, ‘Let the little ones come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’”

CEF Greenville/Piedmont District, founded in 1987 and headquartered in Taylors, covers Greenville, Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee Counties in the Upstate of South Carolina.

During the 2016-2017 school year, more than 9,000 children, ages five to 12, were enrolled in Good News Club programs, and 953 salvations were recorded. School Good News clubs numbered 115 in 95 schools, and there were 20 community Good News clubs, with a total of nearly 1,700 volunteers.

During the Good News Spectacular, a free one-day event held in February of 2017, there were 5,355 guests (including 2,654 elementary school-aged children) and 433 volunteers, with six salvations and 12 assurances.

During June and July of 2017, more than 1,100 children were reached and seven teenaged summer missionaries led in 27 Good News Clubs summer programs, with 14 salvations and 29 assurances. Summer Good News Clubs meet in recreation centers, childcare centers, and homes.

In the past 30 years, CEF Greenville/Piedmont District has shared the Gospel with more than 200,000 children, and nearly 17,000 of those have made a decision for Christ.

Lori Gibbs, Ministry Coordinator of CEF Greenville/Piedmont District, welcomed everyone in attendance to the Anderson banquet.

“The first people I want to thank are the table hosts,” she said. We’ve had some wonderful table hosts that have worked hard. I also want to thank our banquet sponsors. If it was not for our banquet sponsors, we couldn’t even have tonight. It wouldn’t be possible. So, thank you. There is a list of the sponsors on the back of your program. We are thankful for them. There are some individuals and businesses, and so be sure to support those businesses.

“We are celebrating 80 years this year for this Child Evangelism Fellowship ministry worldwide. Also, we are celebrating 30 years of having Child Evangelism Fellowship in this district, which covers Greenville, Pickens, Anderson, and Oconee. We’re very excited about that. One of the people who helped start it is here tonight, Dawn Badger. She was the former Director. You’re going to meet our current Director, BJ, as well.

“That ministry brochure has in it a monthly prayer guide. I want to encourage you to please pray for us on a monthly basis. We covet your prayers, really above anything else.

“I also want to thank our guest speaker, Mr. Tommy Bowden. He is the former Head Football Coach at Clemson University. There is a little bio on the back of the program about him. I look forward to being inspired by him tonight.

“To get us started for the night, I would like to introduce to you James Moore. It is my honor to introduce this young man. He is going to open us up in prayer. James is a fifth grader at Belton Elementary, and he has been attending Good News Club since the third grade. Mrs. Shirley Ellison Bumpus is the coordinator at that Good News Club, and she said that he is a precious young man who really loves the Lord. I’m happy that you’re here tonight, and he’s going to open us up in prayer. I hope you have a wonderful evening and enjoy yourselves.”

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Lori Gibbs, Ministry Coordinator of Child Evangelism Fellowship Greenville/Piedmont District, with James Moore, a fifth grader at Belton Elementary School and an attendee of the Good News Club who opened the banquet with prayer.

James then opened the evening in prayer: “Let’s pray. Dear Lord, I thank you for a day that we can come here and be with friends. I pray for the Good News Club, that every person who enters the rooms in the schools can come to know you, Jesus, because, if they believe in Jesus, they believe in the truth. Thank you for sending the leaders in the school to teach us about Jesus, help us learn the Bible verses, feed us snacks, and pray for us. I pray that our friends here tonight will listen to God as he moves on their hearts to give money, so that all of the kids in the schools can learn about Jesus and get to know him. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

A video was then shown with a representative from CEF speaking of the importance of the Good News Clubs: “Children are beautiful, but they are very impressionable. You don’t have to look very far into adulthood to see the effects of childhood on every single adult there is. And children, in the world that we live in today, are being impacted like never before. Children are going through difficulties and things that, just a few decades ago, we would have thought impossible. But these are affecting the children, and they are the future for tomorrow. At CEF, we are concerned for children, because we know that’s where the biggest impact can be made upon their lives. Reaching out to children today is the ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship. We want children growing up with hope. We want children growing up with a possibility of a future, and not be impacted by all of the negative influences upon their lives. If we don’t reach children while they’re children, their future is not very good. That’s why we’re concerned for every child in every nation every day.”

“Every child, every nation, every day -- that’s the ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship,” said B.J. Bateman, District Director of CEF Greenville/Piedmont District. “Why? Because we teach every child with the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the single most strategic ministry that we have in God’s kingdom, and I believe that tonight is going to confirm that reality with each one of you.

“While there are many viable ways that you can use your gift, and your talent, and your resources to count for God’s kingdom, tonight, we boldly tell you that we need to raise $295,000 from this week’s banquets and specifically $75,000 tonight, so that we can reach the children in this community for the Gospel. We’re asking each one of you to help us reach that financial goal, making the greatest impact possible and achieve a lasting legacy and a spiritual dividend. Our children define the future, which makes them our most significant and enduring legacy.

“Welcome friends, supporters, volunteers, and guests. This year does mark our 30th anniversary at CEF Greenville/Piedmont District and the 80th year for the ministry worldwide. We are the most overlooked mission field. We are the most undermined mission field. And we are the most profitable for God’s kingdom. Some of you support CEF’s mission to reach the children with the good news of Jesus Christ. But maybe some of you have never heard about the ministry before and understand the importance of reaching children with the Gospel to mold their future.

                                       Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

                                       B.J. Bateman, Director of CEF Greenville/Piedmont District

“In the upstate, it’s becoming more and more important to take the Gospel to the children, specifically to where the children are in this community, because their parents are not taking them to a local church. Only two out of every 10 children attend church, and that’s only once a month. This ministry partners with the local church to reach children with the Gospel, because 85 percent of all professing Christians receive Christ as Lord and Saviour by the age of 14. So, if you want to shape a person’s life, it is through those crucial early years that life-long values and habits and attitudes and beliefs are formed. That is the greatest opportunity to shape a person’s life. So, in a world that treasures possession, and position, and pleasures, we want the children to believe that the best treasure is God and His Word.

“Each year that I speak, I share about the impact that this ministry is having, and I cast a vision, so that those who hear are excited to join us financially in the calling to reach children, and tonight is going to be no different. But, I’ve also asked a few individuals to be prepared to share with you how and why they are involved. So, as those panel guests are coming toward the stage, and taking a seat, I want you to know that tonight your heart is going to be touched, and you’re going to be inspired and encouraged as you hear each one of their stories.

“Our first panel guest is Ruben Rodriguez.  He serves as a volunteer in the Good News Club at Homeland Park (Primary School) and at Nevitt Forest (Elementary School). The Good News Club meets one day a week immediately after school on the school campus, and, through a church partnership, Ruben and other volunteers from local churches form a mission team to have a Good News Club weekly. Welcome, panel guests. Reuben, would you share what motivates you to be a part of the Good News Club?”

“When I think about what motivates me to be part of the Good News Club at Homeland Park Primary and also at Nevitt Forest Elementary,” said Rodriguez, “I have to go to scripture. In Romans, chapter 10 verses 14 and 15, Paul asks us four questions. He says, ‘How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach unless they are sent?’ And, right after that, Paul quotes Isaiah 57:7, which says, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.’ So, I believe that, if you can’t preach or teach, the least one can do is support those people who do.

                           Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

                           Good News Club volunteer Ruben Rodriguez

“Recently, in a commentary by Dr. Charles Stanley, he said that one great character of a good soldier is to share knowledge. And so, we the church possess not only the good news of salvation but also the riches of God’s Word. And keeping these lessons to
oneself not only leads unbelievers in harm’s way but also deprives fellow Christians of the necessary wisdom they need to grow. Many of our children go to church on Sunday while others don’t get to go at all, for whatever reason. And so our job is to reach out to the children and share the Gospel message. It brings me so much joy when I see the expression of excitement of these little children as they hear, some for the very first time, the good news of Jesus Christ.”

“I agree with what Ruben is saying,” said Bateman, “how important it is to evangelize and to disciple children, to be able to reach children with the Gospel at an early age, so that they have their whole life that they can serve the Lord and bring God the greatest honor and glory.

“Ruben, is there a story you could share about a child in the Good News Club?”

“I remember one boy who questioned us excitedly,” he said, “and his eyes were wide open as he exclaimed, ‘Jesus is coming back?! He’s coming back here?!’ And so these two sets of responses, just like the one about learning the truth of God, is what motivates me to do the Good News Club.”

“It absolutely thrills my heart,” said Bateman, “when I hear stories of children who are taking God’s truth and they’re applying it to their lives, and we get to be a part of that."

Ruben, would you share about the relationship that the church has with the school through the Good News Club?”

“Homeland Park is sponsored by a church,” he said. “Nevitt Forest Elementary is the only school in the area that is not sponsored. Our great group of volunteers is composed of parents, grandparents, and some of the students from Anderson College. We also mentor the children during the lunch hour in the week, and we also volunteer services of the school as test monitors at the end of the year. And so, being involved in Good News Club is what I do to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the boys and girls who might otherwise not have a chance to hear.”

“And I am so thankful for the volunteers who do want to take the Gospel to the boys and girls at our Good News Club,” said Bateman. “Thank you, Ruben, for serving and for sharing this evening. We are so appreciative of the hours that Ruben and all of our volunteers give because of the passion and the hope that they have for the future as they serve the school, the staff, and the children.

“This past school year, in our four counties, there were 1,698 volunteers, and our volunteers served over 200,000 hours. If you counted every volunteer hour for that one school year, our volunteers’ time equals 23 years. That’s what you call community impact. If you are a volunteer with the Good News Club, would you please stand at this time, so that we can thank you for your service.

“I am so appreciative of the many school Principals and administrators that make it possible for us to have the Good News Club on a public elementary school campus. We would not have a hope for reaching the children if it weren’t for those like Dr. Jerome Hudson. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Hudson for the very first time when he was a Principal in Anderson 1, and today he is Assistant Superintendent for Student Services at Anderson 5. Jerome, would you share with the group why you wanted to have the Good News Club as a Principal in Anderson 1 first?”

“Sure,” said Hudson. “I had the opportunity, years ago, to work with some of the local churches in Anderson 1. Sometimes, we think about Christianity and we think that the Good News is not getting out in some of the Third World countries or some of the countries that don’t practice democracy, but, as we just noted a few minutes ago, two in 10 children are affiliated or associated with a church. So, this was a really good opportunity in Anderson 1 for us to bring the Good News to our children. We did it immediately after school. We’re very excited about getting them in there. St. Francis of Assisi said that we are to preach our sermons daily, and we only use words when it’s necessary. What I wanted to do is give these young children an opportunity to see adults who could model the role models for them and just spread the Good News.

“I was really excited when I left Anderson School District 1, and I was approached by New Prospect Church about the Good News Club at New Prospect Elementary. And I said, ‘Of course, I’d love to have them over there, because I know the good work they were doing and the difference they were making in the lives of these young people.”

                                                    Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

                                                   Dr. Jerome Hudson, Assistant Superintendent for Student
                                                   Services, Anderson District 5

 “I’ve heard other Principals that shared that as well,” said Bateman. “I remember specifically a Principal from Oconee County sharing with me on a visit that I was making to the Club. He talked about the difference that the Good News Club was making in the behavior of the children. He could tell a difference in a child who was in the Good News Club as far as their grades and the discipline versus children who were not in the Good News Club. I am a former educator, and so I am very familiar with the South Carolina Department of Education curriculum standards. Many people don’t realize that the methods that we’re using in our Good News Clubs match what the teachers are doing during the school day. So there really are educational benefits that come from the Good News Club, although our focus is that we want to make a difference eternally.

“Would you share how you’ve seen a positive difference in Anderson 5 school district?”

“In the school that I worked in,” said Hudson, “I could tell the difference in the students who were participating in the Good News Club, especially after they had visited the program a couple of weeks in a row. I remember one day I heard this little boy tell this girl, ‘Remember the lady said that we’re supposed to treat people the way we want to be treated, and we’re supposed to behave in school.’ So, it’s just those life lessons that maybe somebody is not telling them back home, that you’re supposed to treat people the way you want to be treated, you’re supposed to listen, be kind, be compassionate. So, I’ve seen a difference. It’s always nice when you hear that in the halls. And sometimes, I would stand at the back of the Good News Club and just listen and see some of the students who were in there. And I knew this was the only place they were getting the Good News, at school.”

“That is true,” said Bateman. “So many times, we’ll ask children where they go to church, and they’ll say, ‘Good News Club.’ That is their church. God commanded us to go, and, as we go, to make disciples. And we are doing that with the Good News Clubs, and we’re doing that as we meet on the school campus. And one of the things that has been a benefit is that we’ve been able to come alongside the local church who is fulfilling the Great Commission. And we’re able to be a parachurch ministry to support them in that role.

“Jerome, I just want to say thank you for the different ways that
you have supported the ministry, both as a Principal and now in the school district, as well. Thank you for being here tonight. Dr. Hudson knows that the children are our future for tomorrow and that it’s so important to reach those children while they’re young, so that their future may be filled with hope as they walk in the fear and the knowledge of God. We are privileged to work with Principals and school districts who give us permission to have a Good News Club. In this past school year, we had an open door to have a Good News Club in 95 elementary schools in Anderson, Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville Counties, and, because of those open doors, there were 9,046 children who were enrolled and attended the Good News Club and 953 children who made a salvation decision and received Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

“Our next panel guests are children who are enrolled in our Good News Club. They’re going to tell you about the club. They’re going to answer some questions you may have about Good News Club, and they’re going to share with you some of the life lessons that they have been taught. Would you watch the video.”

A four-minute video was then shown of children who participate in Good News Clubs sharing how they learn about God and Jesus, and their favorite characters from the Bible through Bible stories, how they sing and pray and enjoy a review game. Identical twin boys concluded by saying, “People who want to learn about God can go to Good News Club, and none of this would happen if Good News Club wasn’t invented.”

“Just like the twins told us,” said Bateman, “Good News Club was ‘invented’, and that happened 80 years ago, in 1937, and it was founded by J. Ervin Overholtzer. He wanted children growing up with the hope, with the possibility of a future that was not going to be impacted by all of the negative influences of life. His hope for our future was to reach children with the Gospel across the globe, and his vision has spread to every country in the world, except for North Korea. And 30 years ago, his vision spread to our district.

“It was eight years ago when the vision went to the Good News Club at Townville Elementary. The volunteers from Oakdale Baptist have faithfully served, and, last fall, we found ourselves in a trust position to give hope and support to Townville Elementary and its community as it experienced the horror of a school shooting and the loss of one of its very own, a child. Carolyn Blizzard is the coordinator of the Good News Club at Townville Elementary. She does attend Oakdale Baptist, and she does that by choice, even though her husband, David, is the Pastor. Carolyn, tell us how the Good News Club volunteers in your church reached out to the community during this heartbreaking time.”

“Thank you, BJ,” said Blizzard. “I’d like to tell you about our school a little bit. The eight years we’ve been there, it’s been our privilege to share the love of Jesus and the truth from God’s Word for these eight years. And we’ve also been able to minister to the school and to the families of the school there through our church and through the Good News Club. But, now, the school will come ask us if we can help them in some particular area. So, we already had a really great relationship established for these eight years. And I think it’s more solidified now, after the shooting, but that was so important that that was established before that horrible day.

“A few weeks before school started last year, the Principal contacted my husband, the Pastor of Oakdale, and he asked if our church could be a place where the parents and children could reunite in case there was an emergency. And we thought, sure, that’s fine, but we thought that would probably never happen, never be needed. But, little did we realize, just several weeks later, September 28 of last year, the unimaginable, the unthinkable thing happened. A shooter went into the school grounds and began shooting. When the situation was contained, the kids were bused to Oakdale, which was about three miles away, and we were there, prepared for them. Volunteers from our club and our church just came. We didn’t call them. It was really amazing. The kids, the staff, the teachers told us later that it was so good to get off that bus and see some familiar, welcoming faces. And then we could, and we did, act as a buffer for them from that horrible thing they had just experienced. Through the next few weeks, Oakdale was a place for kids to get counseling, for teachers to de-brief, for school officials to meet, and for funerals to take place.

“Oakdale was a unique place because the grandparents of Jacob Hall, the little boy that got killed that day, had attended our church for a long time and brought Jacob to Sunday School. The teacher of Jacob’s class had been to a course that CEF teaches called Teaching Children Effectively. She had learned how to share the Gospel with children and use that method in her Sunday School class, and Jacob heard the Gospel. But also, Jacob had come to a Good News Club the previous year, and there he heard the Gospel. And I believe God used those two things in Jacob’s life, because, just very shortly before Jacob died, he had received Christ as his Saviour.

“And, after the school shooting, and as Good News Club resumed, we were able to help kids with their anxieties and their fears of the shooting.

“Our enrollment increased after that. Maybe it was because parents were looking for some assurance for their children, or maybe just a safe place to be, but I really think maybe they just trusted us after that. We had some volunteers who had stopped working in Good News Club and they came back because they said they felt a fresh burden for the kids of our community.

“School shootings don’t happen in every school, but crises happen every day, every week in families’ lives in our schools. Death and sickness and loss of jobs, divorces, and, sad to say, arrests and incarcerations happen, as well as natural disasters. That’s our goal in the school that’s so vital, so important. It’s an open door that we have, and we feel like we need to take that opportunity while we have it.”

“It breaks my heart to see what so many of our children are dealing with today,” said Bateman, “issues that adults should be the ones who are dealing with, not children, not children. And so, it makes me very thankful, Carolyn, for you and David and for all that you all do, as well as the other churches in our area, as you partner with us and are going into the schools and sharing the Gospel. So, thank you for your service.

“I had just finished speaking last year at a luncheon in Anderson, which was attended by school board members and school district personnel as well as those who support the ministry,” Bateman continued. “We had prayed for the Good News Club and the children, and it was just a few minutes later when the shooting occurred. And, having witnessed all of the opportunities to give hope and to give the Gospel during this tragic time, I am reminded of Queen Esther’s story, ‘for such a time as this.’ God had us in a place, and God used His people and His church and the Good News Club to minister to a large part of this community.

Child Evangelism Fellowship was founded in 1937 by Jesse Irvin Overholtzer. This worldwide ministry reaches children with the good news of Jesus Christ in every nation except North Korea.

CEF Greenville/Piedmont District covers four counties in the Upstate of South Carolina -- Greenville, Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee -- and reaches more than 9,000 children who attend Good News Clubs.

Pictured at right is Carolyn Blizzard, Coordinator of the Good News Club at Townville Elementary School and the wife of Rev. David Blizzard, Pastor of Oakdale Baptist Church.  Jacob Hall, age 6, who died at a shooting at Townville Elementary in September of 2016, had attended Oakdale Baptist with his grandparents and also had attended Good News Club. Shortly before he died, Jacob had received Christ as his Saviour.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

“We have been focusing on Good News Clubs in schools, but we also have clubs in community centers during the school year, and I’m excited to share with you that, this past school year, we were able to double the number of community Good News Clubs that we have, which came as a result of teenagers who work with us in the summertime leading summer Good News Clubs. Our next guest is Audrey Axmann, who is a junior at Anderson University, and I have had the privilege of working with Audrey for the past six years. Audrey, would you share about how the summer ministry has impacted your life?”

“The summer ministry impacted my life in so many more ways than I could ever possibly count,” said Axmann. “But one of the greatest was the teaching that I received that enabled me to share the Gospel. Since I’ve been in college, I realize that the majority of my sweet Christian friends don’t know how to share the Gospel in a concise and clear way. And this struck me and took me by surprise, because I know how to share the Gospel because of the teaching that I received in the summer ministry through The Wordless Book. And, because of that, I know how to weave the Gospel into any Bible lesson and even many conversations. And I’ve actually used that tool as a way to witness to non-believers and also as a tool for other Christians to use to know how to share the Gospel in a clear way so that anyone of any age can understand. So, that has been priceless.”

“It has been such a joy for me to watch Audrey grow as a leader,” said Bateman, “to see her servant’s heart, and I’m privileged, because of working with the teenagers, that I get to hear lots of stories of children that are being reached. And so, Audrey, would you share one of those stories with our guests?”

“I have many of those, if you ever want to hear any,” said Axmann. “One story that touched my heart, and that I will forever remember, was of a girl named Laura. After the Bible lesson, we asked if anyone would like to know how to become a child of God. And one girl came to me, and her name was Laura. And she was crying so much, and I started asking her, ‘Why are you crying?’ and I asked her more questions. And she was so broken and upset by the fact that she was going to be separated from Jesus because of her sin. And I got to ask her the question t
hat every human heart wants to hear because of Jesus Christ. I got to ask her, ‘Do you want to be forgiven of your sin?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ And her tears of sorrow became tears of joy. So, that’s a story that I will never forget, because God touched her life in that way.”

“Thank you, Audrey, for sharing your heart and your passion for the Lord. Audrey was a help at our second annual community event. It was held this past February at the T.D. Convention Center in Greenville. It’s called the Good News Spectacular. Because of the extensive training that we are able to provide for the team, Audrey as well as several of the other summer missionaries were able to present the Gospel and lead others to Christ at the Good News Spectacular. This free event was truly spectacular as we met both the spiritual and the physical needs of those who attended with the help of our Good News Club volunteers as well as over 300 students from Bob Jones University who came out to serve. It is a tremendous endeavor for the kingdom because of the collaboration of community partners.

“So, whether it is a community event, such as the Spectacular, or Good News Clubs in schools or community centers, or summer Good News Clubs, and all of the training and materials that come with each of those, we are a faith-based ministry that does ask God, and we tell His people about our needs and ask them to support those.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Audrey Axmann, Good News Club Summer Missionary

“It has been a privilege for me to be able to meet our next guest, Gloria Bryant," said Bateman. "I met her at a luncheon just two years ago. And, at that time, we were just launching our fundraising activities here in this part of the Upstate. And, as I shared the ministry presentation with our guests, it was evident that Gloria’s heart was touched as she heard the stories of children whose lives had been changed because of the Good News Club. As a financial partner, Gloria is helping this ministry reach the next generation with the good news of Jesus Christ. Our monthly donors and our one-time donors are a very important part of our financial base. So, Gloria, would you share with our guests why you give faithfully to support the work that our ministry is doing?”

“Well, the main reason we give to CEF is because it’s such a fruitful ministry,” said Bryant. “And I have observed the well-trained leaders and the excited children. I volunteered as a grade shepherd for three years, and my first time there was really an experience. There were 200 children in the gym for the first time, trying to find their group leader, and leaders trying to find their groups, and I was a grade shepherd. And grade shepherds have the same children every week. They get to know them. I took a picture of them so I could try to remember their names, and we help them write their prayer requests and get snacks, and they say their Bible verses. Well, that first time I was there, it was very chaotic. When all of the children sat down, and when that teacher started, they sat there still as anything. She had their full attention. And I was so impressed with the teaching that they did. That year, my first year, 27 children were saved in this Good News Club.”

“Wow,” said Bateman. “200 children attending, 27 children saved. What an opportunity for you to be able to volunteer and to see the fruit of your labor, and then to be blessed to see those children come to know the Lord as Saviour.

“Most people don’t realize that going to the Good News Club is like taking a mission trip. If you were to take all of the hours that we go to a Good News Club for the school year, those would equal the amount of time that’s in a week, if you were taking a mission trip, without packing your bag or taking a passport or any money, just going to the local elementary school.

“Gloria, what would you say to our guests here tonight if they are wanting to know about supporting the ministry financially?”

“Well, we see all of the volunteers at the club,” said Bryant, “but there is also a lot of other expense behind the scenes. They have training, printing, filming, equipment, salaries, and some school districts charge as much as $2,000 a year just to use their facilities one day a week for six or seven months. Some of us can volunteer. Some of us can give. Some of us can do both. But, like any mission field, some can go and some can send, and, like it says in I Corinthians 12, we are all part of Christ’s body, and one part is just as important as the other.”  

"Gloria," said Bateman, "I just really appreciate that you give and that you have set that example and you are doing so in such a way that honors the Lord. So, thank you for being here tonight and for sharing. In fact, would you all please thank all of our panel guests at this time.

Pictured at right is Gloria Bryant, who volunteered as a grade shepherd with Good News Club and became a Child Evangelism Fellowship financial partner.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

“God has gifted the staff in our district to be one of the leaders for Child Evangelism Fellowship across the United States. And one thing that is evidence of that is the ‘Grow Up’ Booklets. This is a new booklet that our office has written as a discipleship tool for children who are new believers who are growing in their walk with Christ. The booklet is to be completed with each child after their salvation decision. And we have not only written a booklet for the child but one also for a leader who can work with a child or a group of children, as well as a parent guide, so that the whole family can be a part of the child’s eternal decision. We introduced those to our volunteers at the workshop just a couple of weeks ago. These booklets are available in ESV and KJV, but our vision is that these booklets are to be translated into other languages, so that every child in every nation every day can be discipled in the Good News Club or in a local church or at home.

 “We’re doing all of this because there is a generation that is turning their backs on the local church. And we want to do everything that we can to establish those children in their faith. It’s becoming harder and harder to stand for Christ in a world that honors pleasure and position and possessions above God. In CEF, we are concerned for children, because we know that that’s where the biggest impact can be made upon their lives as well as to further the kingdom. Reaching children with the Good News of Jesus Christ is the ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship. We want children growing up with a hope. We want children growing up with a possibility of a future, and, if we don’t reach those children while they are children, their future is not very good. And again, that is why we are concerned for every child, every nation, every day. This evening, it is our hope that you will invest in CEF with your financial gifts as we work to change our future by reaching and discipling children in the name of Christ. We are asking you to be a part in making a difference because the children are our future.

“The children need us to show them that God loves them, no matter what. That is their only hope. We want to impact their future with this truth. In the last few weeks, if the hurricanes have taught us nothing else, then certainly we have all learned that we cannot put our hope in possessions that will get washed away in the storms of life. Personally, it gives me a greater sense of urgency to do everything humanly possible to reach every child now. And that is why we need your help to us reach our banquet goal of $295,000. Some of you may want to support us by designating your United Way pledge to CEF. Some of you may want to support us with a one-time gift and with a monthly gift. And we’re going to ask you to prayerfully do both of those, to give a one-time gift to help us jump start our fiscal year, which started September 1, and a monthly gift, which automatically makes you a part of our advocate club of monthly donors.

“We’ve had the opportunity to share with you about the impact of your giving. And I just want to step out and say one more thing. I’ve shared with you that our goal is $295,000. And, as we counted from the banquets that we had Monday night and Tuesday night, and knew that we were about at $217,000, a staff person said to me, ‘We’re not going to make this goal.’ And I thought to myself, and then said to her, ‘You have taken your eyes off of God, because, if He has given that to us as our goal, then we will put our focus on Him, and we will believe Him for what He is able to do. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. And help me to be obedient in what you have asked us each to do. It’s all about the Lord and the children.”

She then prayed, “God, you are faithful, and what we do now, we do for the children, but, most of all, for your glory, to make your Son’s name known, in whose name I also pray, Amen.”

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Child Evangelism Fellowship staff members lay hands on Good News Club children as Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride prays.

Gibbs then asked the children in Good News Club who were present to come to the front of the room. “And if you are CEF staff here, please come up front, and we are going to ask you go lay hands on these children,” she said. “And I’m going to ask our Sheriff, Chad McBride, to come up, and we want to pray over our chapter, and we’re going to pray over these gifts that were given, and the Good News Club for this school year.”

Sheriff McBride then prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, Lord, we just come to you tonight, and we ask you to bless these contributions, these donations, Lord. We know that children are a blessing from you. And what better way to invest in our children than with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lord, we pray that these contributions, these donations, go so much further than anyone in this room could ever imagine, and we hope that many children come to you, Lord. And we just pray for great outcomes and great success for this club. Thank you for blessing all of us, Lord, as we have all heard the Gospel in this room and help us to share that with our friends and our family and our children, but also other children and other families that are not as fortunate as us. Lord, thank you for this evening. We thank you for all of the blessings that you’ve given to us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”

                                                              Photograph by Karen Brewer
                                                               A young boy meets Tommy Bowden.

Bowden then delivered the keynote address, beginning with humorous stories and then sharing about the importance of sharing the Christian faith and supporting Child Evangelism Fellowship and Good News Clubs.

“I am very honored to be here this evening for the Child Evangelism Fellowship,” Bowden said. “We’re going to talk about the importance of it as we go a little bit longer. I spent 19 years as an assistant coach, trying to become a head coach. I used to tell myself, if I can ever become a Head Coach, if I’m fortunate enough, if God blesses me enough to become a Head Coach, I think I can win some games if I can teach my players five things. If I can teach them something about commitment, accountability, responsibility, discipline, and sacrifice, if I can teach them those five things about character, I think I can be successful.

“Accountability and responsibility. Decisions have consequences. If I can teach them about those things, and to learn about character, I think these things will help them make good decisions.

“How many times do you pick up a newspaper and see where a college player is making bad decisions and getting in trouble? I said, ‘If I can teach these guys to make good decisions, and I think these five things will help them make good decisions, then I think I can be successful.

“If you make good decisions, you can be successful in about anything, business, choosing friends, school, as a play caller. I was a play caller for a long time. I called more good plays than bad plays.

“If you make good decisions, you will be successful. As I got into coaching, my players had to learn this. I wish they would have been taught, but they had to learn them. You don’t inherit these things. You can’t buy them. And the longer I coached, what I found out, they didn’t have those five things. They weren’t taught them like my parents taught me.

                                                   Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View

                                                        Tommy Bowden

“In coaching, you’re a leader, whether you like it or not. You’re thrust into a leadership position. If you’re a mother, if you’re a father, a Christian, if you’re in business, you’re a leader. Most everybody here is in that position of leadership. Billy Graham said this about leadership: ‘The moral meltdown in the United States comes from a lack of leadership.’ He said, ‘It would be tragic to divorce character from leadership.’ You can’t separate the two. If you’re going to be a leader, you’d better have character, you’d better have integrity, you’d better have morals.

“The NCAA, which is the governing body of college sports, limits the amount of time that, as a coach, you can spend with players. I’m held accountable for them 24/7. If one of my players messes up at 1:00 in the morning, then I’m held accountable. But the NCAA will only let you spend 20 hours a week with them. So, as a Head Coach, I said, ‘If making good decisions helps my players, then I need as many resources as possible to help my players make good decisions. If they’re going to restrict me, and I can’t have them that much, then I need some help. I need some more resources.’

“That’s why I got in the habit, I went to church once a year with my team. I was going to make them go to church. The reason being, church is a place of not perfect people but people trying to make good decisions. And I can remember, after a couple of years, the ACLU found out about me going to church. I was taking buses and taking the whole team. And the ACLU came in and had a meeting with the Athletic Director and the university lawyer and myself and said, ‘Hey, you can’t take school buses to go to church.’ I said, ‘Okay, no problem.’ The ACLU said, ‘Okay, that was pretty easy.’ Well, the next week, we went to church in cars. But we were going to church. So we found a way to do it.”

Bowden said that he took his team to Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, where he attended for about 10 years, and also took his team to visit other churches, once a year. “I wanted them to be around people who were trying to make good decisions.,” he said. “I encouraged my players to go to what they call the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They were a bunch of athletes that were trying to make good decisions. I encouraged them to get involved with a weekly Bible study, a bunch of people trying to make good decisions. I was trying to help them make good decisions.

“If you look at the five things that I mentioned, commitment, accountability, responsibility, discipline, sacrifice, where else is there some similar characteristics? What about the Bible? What about the life of Jesus Christ? Sacrifice, commitment, the Bible teaches about accountability, responsibility, discipline. In my opinion, athletics and Christianity, what a great marriage. The things I needed to be successful as a coach is what God talks about in the Bible, in the life that Jesus lived. So, I tried to get as many resources as possible to help my players. I was fortunate. I was taught those by my parents.

        Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

   Tommy Bowden                                                                 

“And I was raised in the traditional family. For thousands of years, whether it was Africa or Asia or North America or South America, the traditional family was the biological mother and father in the home.” He noted that his parents and his wife’s parents have been married for over six decades, and that he and his wife have been married for 40 years.

“I recruited 32 years in college football,” he said. “I’ve been out eight years. So, 40 years ago, when I started going into homes, and recruiting a young man, it was not uncommon for the biological mother and father to sit down on the couch in the den, and I sell my school. They might ask some questions, and that’s just how it was. And then, as time went, the less and less I saw of the biological father and mother in the home.

“The traditional family is under attack -- the mother and father, the way it’s been around for thousands of years in this world.

“I happen to be a Christian. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to mention that. I was raised as a Christian. Even if you take Christianity out of the equation, the family unit for years has consisted of what I just talked about. The more I recruited, the less and less I saw of the positive father in the home. I saw a single-parent home, usually. Thank God Almighty God gave us strong women. Right now, there are a lot of women who are raising their children on their own, without the help of a father. Psychologists say the most influential parent is the same-sex parent

“I believe Confucius said, ‘The strength of the nation depends upon the integrity of the family.’ I don’t care how much money we put in our defense, our military, how much money we put in public education. And we need money for our public education. We need money for our defense. We need money for social programs. We need money for those things. But, until we realize that the family unit is the strength of this nation, then I think we will continue to struggle. We’ll continue to struggle morally.”

He then stressed the importance of programs such as the Good News Clubs through Child Evangelism Fellowship as what this nation needs, and said that he can see it, from an athletic standpoint.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Tommy Bowden, keynote speaker for the Child Evangelism Fellowship Greenville/Piedmont District 2017 Fundraising Banquet

“My father left me a good legacy,” he said, adding that he could remember, as a young person, seeing his father read the Bible while sitting at the table. “I was very fortunate,” he said. “He left me a good legacy. Back in Biblical times, it was not uncommon to have four generations living in the same house. And the effects of the mother and father, the matriarch and patriarch, and all of those children, the generations, stayed with the family. The legacy was passed down from family to family to family. My father is 87. He lives in Tallahassee. I’m 63. My son lives in Atlanta. He’s 35. My grandson is having a birthday, Bobby Bowden, my grandson, is four years old. That’s four generations, my father, myself, my son, my grandson. It would be like us living together and my son and grandson and me continue seeing my father and the influence and legacy. That’s the way it used to be. But it doesn’t happen anymore, and that’s why this club, what it does and what it represents, is so needed.

“Like I said, my father was my professional role model, my personal role model. From a discipline standpoint, my father was always gone. He was a coach. My mother was the disciplinarian. My parents had six children within 10 years. We were all packed in there pretty tight. We had girls on the end, four boys in the middle. We were always fighting, always in trouble. There is a reason my mother was called ‘The Enforcer.’ She handled all of the discipline.

“I was raised in a very small church up in West Virginia, when my father was the Head Coach up there. The church was small, 50 people on one side and 50 people on the other, just a small Southern Baptist church, the only Southern Baptist church in Morgantown, West Virginia. We had to go. When the doors were open, we were there. We were called ‘five-star’ Christians: Sunday School, church, training union at night, and church, and Wednesday night, we were there.

“My brother Terry, who used to be the Head Coach at Auburn, and I were closest in age. I’m a year and a half older than he is. And when we would go to church, we were usually late, because we had so many kids. And when we would come in, in a Southern Baptist church, the only rows that are open are usually in front. So we came in late, and the only place to sit was right in the front. And, when we came in, there was always a pecking order of how we were supposed to sit. As we came down, my mother would come first. My two sisters would come next. Steve and Jeff, who didn’t fight, were right there, and then Terry and I, who fought all of the time, would have to sit by my father, who sat on the end.

 “I remember one time, I must have been 12, Terry must have been 10, and we were sitting there in church, and I remember the Pastor was giving an eloquent sermon on the importance of faith. He looked down at my father and he said, ‘Sir, do you have faith?’” Bowden's father nodded his head. “He said, ‘Okay, now I’m going to take a 30-foot I-beam, six inches high and six inches wide, and I’m going to put it on two bricks over here and two bricks over here and raise it off the ground that far.’ He said, ‘Sir, would you have enough faith to walk across that I-beam?’ My father said, ‘Yeah, I have enough faith to do that.’ He said, ‘Now, I’m going to take that I-beam on the two tallest buildings in New York City, 1,000 feet up,’ and he said, ‘Sir, now do you have enough faith to walk across?’ And my father said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I’ll give you $1,000 if you walk across this I-beam. Would you have enough faith to walk across that I-beam for $1,000?’ My father said, ‘No way.’ I remember the Pastor said, ‘Okay, now I’m going to take one of your sons, and I’m going to hold him up over the edge.’ He said, ‘Now, do you have enough faith to walk across that I-beam?’ I remember my father looked at me, and he looked at Terry, and he looked at the Pastor, and he said, ‘Which one?’ He was going to drop one of us.

 “But I was raised in the church. I was raised in that environment. They gave the statistics now of how many of our young people are unchurched. One thing I told my children, whatever you do when you get married, number one marry a godly man or marry a godly woman. And do not get disconnected from the church. There is a disconnect right now with our young people and the church.

“And that’s what this (Good News Club) does -- it connects. It’s the most important thing they could do at this age. It’s very important that we find some way to continue to support the Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Tommy Bowden, keynote speaker for the Child Evangelism Fellowship Greenville/Piedmont District 2017 Fundraising Banquet

“My parents have 19 grandchildren. They’ve got nine great grandchildren.

“My father was a great motivator. Being a Head Coach, you’ve got to be a good motivator. Motivation is key. I remember when I played for my father at West Virginia. I played wide receiver. A lot of coaches won’t give their motivation talk on Friday night. He’d give you a great motivational talk on Friday night (instead of Saturday before the game). He wanted you to dream about it. He wanted you to think about it, go back into your room, after he talked about it, and dream about the big catch or the kick or the throw or the tackle, and you’re the guy that’s going to win the game. But he was an excellent motivator.

“I can remember one time – like I said, there were six children, and we were all packed in there pretty tight. At one time, we were all married, and my father had no grandchildren. He was big on leaving a legacy. We were having Thanksgiving dinner one time, with all six brothers and sisters, plus our spouses. And my father was talking at the head of the table, fixing to say the blessing to eat, and he was talking about his disappointment in not having any grandchildren and not being able to leave a legacy. He said, ‘I tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll give $10,000 to the first of you that gives me a grandchild.’ And then he bowed his head and said a prayer, and he lifted his head up, and all of us were gone. He was a tremendous motivator.

 “I think it’s important for us, as Christians, to take a stand and have a backbone and have a little character about our Christian heritage, especially in this country, our American heritage, our Christian heritage. As many problems as we’ve got, and we’ve got a lot of them, the United States today is still the most powerful country in the history of the world. We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We are the most educated country in the history of the world. We are the most charitable country in the history of the world. In Mexico, where they had the earthquake, we’ll have people there. Down in Puerto Rico, Americans will stay longer, we’ll send more people, and we’ll send more money. We’re the freest country in the history of the world. People are dying to get in. They love this place. We are a great country. Do you ever wonder why? Why the United States? Why not some country in Asia, or Europe, or Africa? Why the United States? If you go back and look at our history, our forefathers had a fear and a respect and honored a Creator, God. We’ve been blessed. It mentions a Creator in the Declaration of Independence. I think over 70 percent of the people in the United States profess Christianity. This is the Bible belt. There are probably more than that in this part of the country. We shouldn’t be embarrassed. And you don’t have to be Christian, but -- and I don’t know why we’ve had trouble saying this in Washington, DC -- we are a Christian nation. Seventy percent of the people profess it.

 “If our ancestors would have come from the Middle East, they didn’t, but if our ancestors would have come from the Middle East, we wouldn’t be 70 percent Christian, we would probably be 70 percent Muslim. We wouldn’t worship God. We would worship Allah. We wouldn’t worship Jesus. We would worship Mohammad. We wouldn’t read the Bible. We would read the Koran. But that’s not our history.

“Our history is, in the 1500’s, the church of England was persecuted. They said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here. They’re trying to tell us how to worship. I heard of some place called America. Let’s go over there.’ So, in 1620, in August, they got on a boat called the Mayflower. It took 66 days. They go off the coast, about November, and they said, ‘Let’s write down why we came.’ Down in the captain’s cabin of the Mayflower, they wrote what they called the Mayflower Compact. It’s in the Archives of Washington, D.C. And part of the Mayflower Compact says, ‘We came to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.’ And
there they come, the Puritans, the Amish, the Quakers, the Protestants, the Catholics. That was our country. That’s our history. You can’t go in a building or a monument in Washington, D.C. without seeing some kind of Bible scripture or prophet. You can’t pull out of your pocket a bill or coin without seeing ‘In God We Trust.’ This is a Christian nation. And it’s important that we don’t stray away from that, or I think we’ll pay, and I think we’re paying a little for it now. What you’re doing (Good News Club) brings us back to home.

“Many of you have probably heard this saying – ‘the providence of God.’ I heard this definition one time of the providence of God: ‘the intervention of God with man through natural occurrences to achieve the will of God.’ Somebody in here last year wrote a check to Child Evangelism Fellowship. It wasn’t in the newspaper. It wasn’t on the internet. It wasn’t on the radio. It wasn’t on tv. Somebody in here wrote a check. ‘The intervention of God with man through natural occurrences to achieve the will of God.’ That check that you wrote let one of those volunteers go to one of these schools and start one more Good News Club program. Can you imagine, when you wrote that check, the smile on God’s face, knowing what’s going to happen? You know what happened? That boy that got up and read that prayer, James? That’s what happens. You talk about what this country needs, that’s what it needs -- Good News Clubs, Child Evangelism Fellowship – ‘The providence of God, the intervention of God with man through natural occurrences to achieve the will of God.’ You just saw it achieved.

 “As you’re debating, can I help, should I help? And you’re feeling that little tug at you, what you should do, I’ll leave you with this story. A little boy, about nine years old, went out with his father, and they were flying a kite. It was a perfect day for a kite. The wind was blowing, low-hanging clouds, and the father was helping him spool that thing out. He let the little boy hold it. That boy had that kite way up there. And, all of a sudden, the kite went behind one of those low-flying clouds. The boy looked up there, and he said, ‘Hey, where’s my kite?’ And the dad says, ‘It’s just up there in the clouds.’ And the boy says, ‘Well, I can’t see it.’ And the dad says, ‘But you can feel the tug.’ As you’re debating, how can I, will I help this, make sure you answer the tug. Because as a guy that has witnessed firsthand the need for the Good News Club and the Child Evangelism Fellowship, there couldn’t be a more critical time in our nation. You can put as much money as you want and faith in the government, but the answer is what you’re doing here tonight, and I hope you would seriously consider supporting it.”

He then closed the evening in prayer. “Our dear heavenly Father, we thank you for the opportunity tonight. We thank you for the people that are associated with this. God, you know the need for it. And I think we know the need for it. And through the providence of God, we pray that you would put that together. We thank you for what you’re doing here in this community, the organizers, the volunteers, the people who go above and beyond to advance the kingdom of God. We’ve got one job, to be an ambassador for you and to advance the kingdom. And, if there is ever a time, a place, a need for our country at this time, it’s for clubs like the Good News to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We thank you for your Son, your grace and your mercy, your sacrifice of your Son for us. We pray that you give these people safety as they travel home. We pray that you will help them feel the tug. And again, for the people in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, they’re facing a loss of life and some a loss of everything they’ve owned. We pray that you will give them hope. These things we ask in your name. Amen.”

    Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine                                                                            

         Tommy Bowden prays to conclude the CEF Greenville/Piedmont District 2017 Fundraising Banquet.         

Sponsors for the Child Evangelism Fellowship Banquet were Cliff and Gloria Bryant (Silver Sponsor), National Radiology Solutions and Gladys Sullivan (Bronze Sponsors), and Concord Produce, Randy’s Automotive, and Bill Davis’ Morning Men’s Group (Friends).

Advisory Committee members were: Jane Cahaly, Bill Davis, James Dyar, Renea Mayes, Cory Williams, and Dorine Wilson.

Banquet Committee members were: Gloria Bryant, Mary Mattress, Wyona Moss, and Kay Sporrer.

The men from Haven of Rest Ministries served during the banquet.

Tax-deductible gifts (monthly giving, legacy giving, IRA rollover giving, a gift of stock or securities, or giving through the United Way) may be made to Child Evangelism Fellowship Greenville/Piedmont District, PO Box 575, Taylors, South Carolina  29687.
The office address is 4 West Main Street, Taylors, SC  29687.  The telephone number is 864-292-5842. The website address is  The e-mail address is

“There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.”  Jeremiah 31:17