“Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” -Luke 18:16
“Carmen, this is the best thing we do all year.” These were the words from my supervising pastor during one of my seminary internships as the church we served was gearing up for VBS. These words have stuck with me over the years as I have had the opportunity to be involved in the Church’s ministry of Vacation Bible School in a variety of ways. Often my role was to equip a large group of teenagers to serve as leaders to the young children in VBS. Other times I supported my colleagues who supervised children’s ministry during the all-consuming season of VBS preparation. More recently I have had the joy of my own children attending VBS at the churches in which we are involved. I love seeing their delight in all the effort that has been made for them to have a memorable experience connecting with Jesus and the truth of Scripture. Often VBS music gets played in our van and home year round. Yet of all my VBS experiences, I think my favorites are the opportunities to help implement VBS events in other countries. This January’s experience in Honduras marks the 4th country in which I’ve been privileged to lead VBS. The contrast to the U.S. experience is significant.
Puerto Lempira, 4th leg of Carmen’s Excited kids in Suhi
journey to Rus Rus
In the U.S. our VBS experiences are often very elaborate. U.S. VBS experiences dazzle kids with detailed sets, themed rooms, complex crafts and assure parents with careful check in and check out procedures. In Central America kids just show up. They often walk for an hour more often carrying a younger sibling with them. We welcome whoever shows up and send them on their way when the program is done for the day. Due to the very remote nature of this VBS, translation needs and the limited luggage capacity of small airplanes (most of the team only brought a carry-on bag) everything we did was simple. Our set-up was simple, our crafts were simple, outside play was simple but we brought with us the same thing that we experience in the U.S.A.: a deep love for Jesus and a desire to share that love with the children. This years’ theme verse was Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength” and our Bible time focused on some of the key events in the Book of Acts.
In total we had the opportunity to share Jesus’ love with over 200 children. Many of these children finished this week expressing a desire to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This was the 5th annual VBS in Rus Rus (the village where our Honduras field program is based).
What was new this year is that the Holy Spirit led us to also go to the village of Suhi for 3 afternoons. Suhi is a village on the Coco River just across from Nigaragua. Our travel to Suhi was a bumpy 1-1.5 hour drive each way in the back Kia truck. My tummy doesn’t do great on bumpy roads, but as soon as we started interacting with the children and felt their enthusiasm my queasiness went away and I was so glad we made the trek. When we traveled to Suhi we brought with us several teenagers from Rus Rus who had the opportunity to be missionaries as well! Their presence was great as we were equipping them to lead and serve. It was also great to have their translating help as many children in each village only speak Mosquito. When I would try to communicate in Spanish and would get a blank look I could ask one of the teenagers for their help to translate from Spanish to Mosquito. They would also sing VBS praise songs the whole way home which made the long ride so much better.
Our whole team Singing in Suhi
Beautiful pine savannah between Queasy in the Kia
Rus Rus & Suhi
In addition to the main goal of implanting the VBS event there were a number of additional ministries we were able to accomplish during our time in and around Rus Rus. The first Saturday after we arrived we traveled to the villiage of Mahbita to distribute water filters. Clean drinking water is so important to community health so we were delighted to be a part of this and to pray for the village and God’s blessing upon it. Mahbita is also a Macaw sanctuary. It was incredible to see these beautiful birds flying free and hear a wild parrot mimicking a child’s cry during the prayer time! The local church in Rus Rus invited us to share in their services the Sundays that we were present. I had the opportunity to preach there on a Sunday evening which was a great joy. The Holy Spirit led me to talk about the goodness of God which is a topic that is always a vital reminder to all of us. We also presented Bibles to the soldiers who are stationed in Rus Rus and one of the other pastors on our team did a Bible Study with them as well.
Water filters and macaws in Mahbita
God’s Word for the soldiers
I was so thankful to spend time with the MAG staff that I had not met in person yet- the Wiles in Honduras and Carlos Paz our Director of Pastoral Ministry. I couldn’t ask for a better leader of Pastoral Ministry to work with than Carlos. He is amazing at what he does and I am excited to keep learning from him. Our whole team was also a joy. The other ladies on our team were mostly college age. It was such a pleasure to get to know them and encourage them. I was also grateful for the “unplugged” time as our team didn’t have access to Wi-Fi or cell service (though there is some limited coverage for those who live there). While that feels really weird at first, the break felt quite soul cleansing. Whenever I had a few spare moments instead of popping on to Facebook I would spend some time praying, talking to teammates or getting to know the village and the people there. It felt like such a better use of my time- I’d highly recommend a Facebook fast to anyone! We also enjoyed a few swims in the Rus Rus river with some of the local kids.
Free range pigs on the runway in Rus Rus
Our daily walk across the infamous Rus Rus bridge
Sean leaves in less than a week for his trip to Rus Rus to help with a large medical brigade there. His trip is February 9-24. Please pray for a safe, healthy and fruitful trip for him. Pray also for the rest of the family in his absence. I am so grateful to have my mom’s help while he is away. Pray also for the people who will be helped by the clinic- that they would find hope and healing both physically and spiritually.
Blessings in Christ,