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Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God " (Luke 18: 16 RSV).

Little children were not left out in the beginning of WMU Convention activities. Mrs. Mojola Agbebi was the first president of Baptist Women's Missionary League. She had special interest in little children. She gathered little children together in her house and sometimes under the shade of a tree to teach them Scripture verses and choruses.

"Egbe Irawo Kekere" (a society of tiny children) was included among the five societies organized in 1916 by the Reverend A. Scott Patterson, Southern Baptist Missionary from America . Mrs. George Green, wife of the first Baptist medical missionary to Nigeria , had great interest in little children and did a lot to encourage young people.

 

When Baptist Women's Missionary League was organized in 1919, ~gb~ Iraw9 was recognized as part of this League. So the Sunbeam Band has grown up with Women's Missionary Society. Little children were also loved by Miss Neale C. Young, Southern Baptist Missionary from America . She was the third president of Women's Missionary Union of Nigeria. In 1922 she led a Sunbeam Band in Ogbomoso with children from various churches in the town attending. Gradually groups of children were brought together in village and town churches and they were taught Scripture verses and choruses. Some of these groups were called Star Societies. At the 1923 WMU Convention the Isokun Stars were presented and demonstration Sunbeam meeting was given.

In 1955, Mrs. Aduke Akinola later became the Young Peoples' Leader. She travelled with the missionaries to different parts of the country to teach churches and associations on how to organize the different societies belonging to young people (Sunbeam Band inclusive). As the years roll by each organization i.e. Sunbeams Band, Girls' Auxiliary , Lydia and WMS has a director.

In 1976, Mrs. Novella C. Bender, a Southern Baptist Convention Missionary (retired) became the Convention Sunbeam Director. She was kind and patient. She worked successfully with the Sunbeam leader for a number of years. She wrote beautiful and interesting programmes for Sunbeams in Nigeria . The Sunbeams and wide knowledge of Mission activities and they became mission-minded.

After Mrs. Novella C. Bender retired, Deaconess E.K. Laosebikan voluntarily became the Convention Sunbeam Director in 1982. She did the Sunbeam work with zeal and joy, writing meaningful and interesting programmes for the children. She also travelled a lot to near and far places in Nigeria to establish Sunbeam Band Organization in churches, associations, conferences and mission fields. It was during her WMU Sunbeam Band built a Missionary Residence in Auchi, Afemai Home Mission Field. The house was dedicated and handed over to the Nigerian Baptist Convention in January, 1988. In 1992, Deaconess E.K. Laosebikan retired after ten years of dedicated service to the Sunbeams of the WMU of Nigeria.

Mrs. J.O. Ogunjide became paid Convention Sunbeam Director in May, 1992. She builds progressively on all that the past Sunbeam Directors had done through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The first attempt of programme helps was to include a section for young people's groups in the Yearbook which was primarily a programme book for WMS. These helps were references to Bible stories and selected Bible verses to be studied during the month. This continued to be the source of Sunbeam programme book until 1948 when a Sunbeam programme book was published. New programmes were written every two years. The demand for Sunbeam Weekly programmes is now very great because many Sunbeams Band Organizations have come to existence in our various associations and conferences due to church planting exercise of the Nigerian Baptist Convention churches.

As WMU Field Workers and Supervisors through the years have encouraged leaders of Sunbeam Bands and association young People's leaders have promoted Sunbeam Band, enrolment has gradually increased.

The WMU handbook stated that children three through twelve years of age were eligible members of Sunbeams Bands. In 1953 the present age division of children four through nine years was set up. A few years later the grouping provided for Beginner Sunbeam Bands for children four through six years and for primary Sunbeams Bands with children seven through nine years. By 1999 enrolment of Beginner Sunbeam Band was 29,000 and that of the Primary Sunbeam Bands was 26,579. It is a great growth indeed compared with past records in the fifties and sixties.

The first Standard of Excellence Chart was marked by pasting stars to indicate points reached. A new chart made its appearance in 1957, having the picture of a Sunbeam girl carrying a baby on her back. The chart was coloured indicating points reached during the year. Later, another new chart was introduced having the picture of a church that was coloured to indicate growth and achievement.

The Sunbeam Memory Work Contest held each year created must interest. Contests are held in churches, associations and conferences. This Memory work exercise helps the Sunbeams to do well academically and spiritually.

Sunbeam Recognition Certificates were introduced in 1949 for the purpose of giving special recognition to Sunbeams who had completed their memory work in their different groups. Sunbeam Baby certificates are for new babies born in the churches to enlist the babies as Sunbeam babies. When they are four years of age the mothers should enroll them into the Beginner Sunbeam Band. In 1996 Sunbeam Special Recognition Certificates were introduced to be given to Sunbeams who take part in Convention presentation. These certificates were awarded to Sunbeams in 1996 at Benin Convention for the first time. The Sunbeams were really excited.

Sunbeam Day Camp Packet is printed yearly. The Sunbeam are really interested in this annual programme. The number of children attending Day Camp increases year-by-year. The Sunbeam do nvite their non-believer friends to the Day Camp doing their own part of evangelism with the use of their Wordless Books and Gospel Heart. Many more Children thereby join the Sunbeam Band of the churches attended Day Camp in 1997.

Sunbeam Prayer Calendar was introduced in 1994. Since then most of our Sunbeams learn to pray on a specific prayer point each month during their weekly meetings in churches, and in their different homes.

Sunbeam Weekly Programme was introduced in 1997 in order to have uniformity of activities in various churches that observe Sunbeam Week. More churches have seen the importance of this Sunbeam Week Programme, and many parents do see the need to send their children to Sunbeam Band meetings for spiritual growth.

In 1993 the Sunbeam Committee recommended that Sunbeam workshop started in 1994. The Convention Sunbeam Director has to travel to conferences to conduct the workshop. The workshop centres are: Camp Young , Ede - for conferences near Ede ; Jos for the northern, Owerri / Ahoada for Animoe and Rivers and Benin City / Sapele for Delta and Edo . The workshop is done every three years. Response of participants has been very encouraging. New development came up in the year 200 when a Nation Wide Sunbeam Leaders' Workshop was conducted at Camp Young - Ede . It was a great success. All of the participants took the decision to have a Nation Wide Sunbeam Leaders' Workshop annually. Nevertheless the Convention Sunbeam Director can be invited by any conference to conduct this type of workshop for her Sunbeam Leaders as necessary.

The Sunbeams have their own uniforms, badges and caps which they use on special occasions, ego Focus Week Sunday, Conference Sunbeam Presentation, Convention Sunbeam Presentation etc.

As at now the Sunbeam Band has three awards. The first award (a giant golden cup) was donated in 1995 by Barrister Alfred lyam, c/o Uzebu Baptist Church , Benin City. The beautiful cup was first won by the Sunbeam Bands of Oyo West Conference (first position) at Benin Convention, 1996. The second award (a beautiful plague) was donated by Mrs. ldehen, a lover of children from Edo conference early 1998. The plague was first won by the Sunbeam Bands of Osun Conference and Delta Conference (second position) at Jos Convention 1998. The third award was donated by Deaconess Erinle of Ondo Conference in 1999. The beautiful shield was first won by Lagos Conference in AD 2000 at Abeokuta Convention.

 

 

 

Sunbeam Leaders guide children who enrolled in their Sunbeam Bands to carry out five aims of the organization. They arrange to teach the Sunbeams the recommended mission book every year. Thus the Sunbeams learn about children in the Bible, children in Nigeria and in other countries of the world. They learn all phases of stewardship. They learn to pray, help and give money to promote the gospel. They keep God's Word in their hearts and make special decisions as they grow spiritually in their different local churches.

 
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