Why Vacation Bible School? And why do we structure it the way we do?
Our kids broke up into teams to train the leaders of i58 Ministries on how to effectively take the Gospel to families in the surrounding community through programs similar to Vacation Bible School or 5 Day Bible clubs.
It' a lot harder to "plan" and "run" a structured program when you don't know any of the logistics of where you'll be, how many kids you might have, what materials are available, etc. So while it's good to have some sort of plan in place, it's the intentional strategy that matters most, not the execution of a program. Our overall goal is to connect personally to the people, thus earning their trust in order to share Jesus with them.
We went through all the hows and whys of starting with a large group (getting their attention and setting the stage), a small group (finding time to connect personally with the kids), an object lesson (something tangible and practical that the kids can take home to remember and retell what they learned), and a recreational time (to get the kids loosened up, having fun, helping them connect with you in a kinesthetic way so they will want to come back for more.)
Our team was the first team that our church has ever sent to Guatemala, and we were also the first team that the church, Iglesia Vida Real, has ever hosted as a mission team. They are a constantly growing mega-church in Guatemala City (with several satellite locations just like Lakepointe Church here), but this was an eye opening opportunity for them to start taking the Church OUT to the surrounding communities rather than just drawing them IN to their existing buildings and programs.
My team was in charge of the object lesson, so we made "glasses" to go with the Bible lesson about Saul finding his sight again after he decided to follow Jesus.
After working hard out in the homes all morning, we met back up at the local public school (where the kids had recently dismissed for the day), had a quick sandwich lunch, and got as ready as we could for the day.
We set up a table to collect names, ages, and give out nametags. It literally took all hands on deck as we watched the line of local children continue to grow rather than shorten. Roughly 250 kids showed up on Day 1.
Every day we had to end up changing our strategy due to different challenges we faced, and the sheer number of kids that kept coming. By the second day, I ended up in the group of preschool children along with their moms, so we ran our program much differently than those who had the older children. I fully embraced this role, not only because I am a preschool teacher, but also because this gave us a chance to connect with the moms, as well. And they really seemed to hang on to every word we said.
Juan ended up with the older children, and the leader of his group said he really stepped up to the plate with his bilingual and bicultural skills and led the entire group of 60-70 kids with amazing enthusiasm. She said the kids just adored him. I loved hearing about my son teaching others how to have a relationship with Christ. I wish I had pictures, but I wasn't anywhere near him to take them.
And when it seemed like all had turned to chaos and no one had even paid attention, we handed out some paper and said to draw or write something they had learned. That's when we saw the fruit of our labors--they really did get it!
Of course, nothing turned out as "planned", but we stayed intentional and connected personally with the kids. We apparently earned their trust rather quickly, because they kept coming back all week. Some days a few of our teams got delayed in the homes working on the homekits, so they didn't make it back at all for VBS. We quickly rearranged ourselves and played different roles each day. But in the end, we ended the week with full hearts, knowing each of those kids heard the Gospel several times, seeds were planted, and now i58 Ministries and Iglesia Vida Real can follow up wth these specific contacts in the surrounding communities.
On the last day, we took all the leftover materials and supplies we had to divvy them up and leave a bag of supplies for each teacher in the school that so graciously lent us their classroom. We hope they were blessed and that we left a positive impression on them, as well.
This trip differed from any other mission trip I've been on. The physical labor was much more demanding, the conditions much more challenging, and the level of intimacy with the families and children much stronger. Somehow combining all of that together, leading a Bible program for kids whose homes you'd just visited and literally changed by the additions we added to them, made it so much more of an intimate experience than I'd ever experienced before. We stayed busy ALL DAY LONG, constantly drinking our bottled water in order to stay hydrated and yet not having access to a bathroom the entire day (the school had toilets, but no running water, so they just kept them locked while we were there). Yet I never once heard our team complain about absolutely anything. They were there to serve.
A group of high school kids mostly from Rockwall, Texas. They went with the intention to serve and change lives, yet I can tell you that they all went home changed, as well. I know I did.