Aug 21, 2008

Two weeks of vacation Bible school

We just completed two weeks of vacation Bible school.

According to information gleaned from the Web, the first vacation Bible school was held in 1894 at the Methodist Church in Hopewell, Illinois (30 minutes from Peoria) under the supervision of Mattie Miles. A former public school teacher who had married the Methodist minister, she also taught Sunday school, but was frustrated by the time constraints of teaching one morning per week. Forty children enrolled for her first summer event, which ran for four weeks.

Two weeks were enough for us.

We presented the same five-day program in La Caramuca from August 5 to 9 and at Corpus Christi Lutheran Church in Barinas from August 12 to 16. Closing ceremonies in la Caramuca were held Sunday, August 10, in la Caramuca, and Sunday, August 17, in Barinas.

In la Caramuca, 62 children attended our first day of vacation Bible school. The Scripture lesson was Genesis 1:37 and the theme was how God instituted marriage and family.

Second-day attendance was 63. The lesson was the story of Noah and the Ark from Genesis, chapters 6-9, with the theme being that God preserves families in difficult situations.

We saw our record attendance on Thursday with 69 children. That day we focused on an explanation of the Fourth Commandment ("Honor you father and mother").

Attendance was down a little on the fourth day with 54 children present. The Scripture text was 2 Timothy 3:15 and the theme was the family circle as a place to read and study the Bible.

Finally we had 55 children in attendance. The Scripture text was St.Luke's account of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem. The theme was the church as God's family and the sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion) as the means by which we become part of this family. The Scripture text was chosen because it represents Jesus' coming of age in the faith and because the children we expect will be ready for confirmation this fall are all about 12 years old.

These older children were involved as assistants in organizing activities for the younger ones. Eduardo and I were responsible for leading opening and closing devotions, while Luz María's daughter, Yepci, was in charge of crafts. Charli, another one of Luz María's daughters was in charge of physical recreation, while Luz María related the Bible stories. In addition, we
also had help from several members of the Corpus Christi congregation.

Our older children from la Caramuca also helped facilitate vacation Bible school in Barinas the following. Attendance at Corpus Christi was not as high, ranging from about 15 children up to 28. Luz María, Yepci, Eduardo and myself also were involved in VBS at Corpus Christi.

Luz Maria at national VBS meetingThe curriculum used in both locations with an overarching theme of "In Jesus Christ we are children of God", was developed at a national church meeting at La Fortaleza Lutheran Church in Maracay. Luz María played a leading role at this event because she is the Lutheran Church of Venezuela's national coordinator of Christian education.

The VBS curriculum focused on Biblical teachings on marriage and family because of a concern over the high level of family instability in Venezuela. Part of the problem is a cultural legacy: Unlike European settlers in North America, the Spanish conquistadores seldom brought their wives and children to the New World with them. Rather they sired children with a series of native women. Thus began the tradition of "machismo", which means a really strong, virile man does not let
himself get tied down to one woman and her children. Added to this is the problem of rapid urbanization, which has affected Venezuela as well as other developing countries. People (usually men) leave their families behind supposedly to seek higher-paying jobs in the cities.This weakens existing social ties and leads to a great deal of infidelity.

Also, the civil law in Venezuela does little to strengthen marriage as an institution. A man and a woman may move in together and have children with all the legal benefits of marriage for as long as they want to play house. But if one or the other wants to move out, there are no legal penalties. If they go through the civil marriage ceremony, then one or the other may sue for divorce, alimony and child support. So naturally many people (usually men) try to avoid a legally binding commitment if at all possible.

The result is that many Venezuelan children grow up in an environment characterized by adultery, jealousy, heavy drug and alcohol consumption, physical and verbal abuse, and lack of any solid values and relationships.

This year's VBS program is aimed at teaching the children that their families are a blessing from God, even if the families that they have often are highly fractured.

Pastor Ted Krey, his wife Rebecca, and Edimar BritoSigning the flagWe also were blessed Sunday, August 17, with a visit from newlyweds Pastor Ted Krey and his
wife, Rebecca. She had been a research scientist in their native Canada, but now has committed herself to living in Venezuela for as long as Pastor Krey serves here. They brought a Venezuelan flag for everyone at Corpus Christi to sign.

Luís Gabriel Orellana PinzónThe day before, Saturday, August 16, Lusveidis Pinzón de Orellana, a longtime member of Corpus Christi, gave birth to her first child, Luís Gabriel.

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