Monday, August 11, 2014

Vacation Bible School in Santa Elena

We had five days of VBS in Santa Elena. Since several of the team members had been here before, we had been prepared for the difficult conditions we would need to be flexible about. One surprise (for me) that popped up was that VBS started on Sunday not Monday.  I had created a newspaper for the craft on the last day and had labeled each of the days in Spanish "lunes" through "viernes." Oops! :) Also we found out that the kids had just finished their week of summer vacation (yes, week) and would be returning to school on Monday. About half the kids went to school during the morning (half day) and the remaining half during the afternoon. So Pastor Louis accommodated by saying we would do VBS in the mornings AND in the afternoons. On one hand, we had fewer children to deal with at one time, which made things easier. On the other hand, we had long, exhausting days and our team was split between construction and VBS with many of the young men running between both as needed.

When we arrived in Santa Elena there were happy reunions between old friends. The "Norte Americanos" (North Americans) easily drew a crowd of children and a few adults. One of the first things we did was tour the grounds of the church and get some idea of what we had to work with and what work needed to be done. The first order of business was very evident--the yard in the back needed to be cleared in order for us to have any area to play.


Well, that didn't stop the kids from coming up with their own game right away. Before I knew it, a team of boys was chasing Josh and a few other young men on our team...they rounded them up and locked them in the schoolroom...we said it was like Daniel in the lion's den.


Another thing that was evident immediately was how many older siblings were caring for their younger siblings. It remained a theme throughout the week...often children would bring their siblings (even babies and toddlers) to the church and care for them the entire time they were there (running them home as needed, of course).

This picture makes me so happy...see the little girl on the far right in the pink tank top and her little brother in front of her in the orange tank top?
 I posted a picture of them in one of my first blog posts about the trip. It was taken 2 years ago. I had no idea I would have the blessing of actually meeting them!
Photo Credit: Andres Almarza 2012
See how they've grown!!  Not only did I get to meet them, but I met all their siblings and their mom. They have a 2-month old baby brother. There are 7 children in all. The mom said that 5 are old enough to go to school, but she can only afford to send 3. In a heartbreaking moment for me, she asked me for help (which I could not provide). It was hours later, at 3 am, that I realized what my first response should have been--to encourage and affirm her role as a mother and her ability to give her children what they need most, the Bible. As a homeschooling mom, I should have thought of this immediately! Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance. :( I will be praying for Norma and her beautiful family, though.

This picture also makes me smile. Micah doing what he knows best.  This little boy with the million dollar smile was cut from the same mold as Malachi, if that's even possible. His mom brought him to church every day. But he was naughty!! Mitch fell in love with his older sister, Johanna, and I fell in love with his 3-year old sister (but that wasn't returned, lol, she was very wary of me!). This boy, though, I kept both eyes on him as often as I could...

Singing at the beginning of VBS...
 Drama/story time...our teens did such a great job at this!! And Hayley did a wonderful job teaching the kids in Spanish every single day (twice a day for 4 of the days).

One of the crafts...

After some work with a rake, that back yard is looking usable!

It was so dusty...
 Soccer was one of the most popular games played!

 Two days it rained. The second day it rained a LOT. Everyone was muddy. Yet still the kids and our teens played on!


Craft time...

All of VBS was at best organized chaos. Kids were coming and going. There were often kids sneaking in the back door and even crawling through the windows to do craft again or get a second pack of juice. There was not a registration process. We didn't meet most of the parents. Children came and went as they wished. Babies were taking care of babies. Still, there was love, much love. The children loved being there and our teens loved loving them. We did the best we could in the midst of the chaos, the heat, the dirt, and our exhaustion. 17-hour days and hot nights meant that we had little physical strength to work with, but we did. On one particular day we had divided our children into two groups. One group stayed inside to practice the memory verse and do craft, while the other group went outside for games. The inside group was taking a long time to finish, and the group outside was restless. The leaders inside grew frustrated with children sneaking into the church. I set up watch by the back door to try to keep children outside and in the back yard. Frustrated with my lack of Spanish I finally just told the kids in English that they needed to wait outside until it was time to switch. It must have worked...they walked away...

One of the crafts we did for VBS was we took pictures of each student who came. There are over 200 photos! We had the photos printed at a mall in Managua, then gave each student their photo on Wednesday. I had time to do "make up" photos of the children we missed so we could have them printed and give them out on Thursday. Once we began handing out photos, word spread quickly. Some boys came excitedly trying to get my attention and led me to the street in front of the church. I met a woman who was quickly making her way down the street with a 6-month old little girl in her arms. She was smoothing the little girl's dress and her hair was damp from a recent bath. With my broken Spanish I knew exactly what she wanted. It was a conundrum...if I started taking photos of everyone in the village, where would it stop? But I could not say no over a 20-cent photo. (I don't think they even cost that much!).

It was a joy.

Here I am with part of Norma's family, see that adorable baby!

The Good News...newspapers we made on the last day...

Mitch has the touch...Micah did this too with another kid...so sweet...

Seriously, the humble furnishings of this tiny church (which was packed out--standing room only, people hanging in the windows--at the evening services) should be a lesson to ALL of us in the United States, but especially those of us at Calvary Community Church!!

Children present after the afternoon session on our last day (Thursday):

Eden and one of her favorite children, Jorge:

Mitch...Johanna is in front with the white t-shirt...


 This sweet girl, Jenifer, brought me a letter on the last day...

If this picture doesn't break your heart, you have a heart of stone...



There are many, many more photos on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephtheis/sets/72157646199645554/


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