SANTA ROSA, Argentina (Mennonite Mission Network) – Laughter and lively singing from Saturday afternoon’s happy hour drifted from a shed in one of Santa Rosa’s poorer neighborhoods – not bawdy bar songs of men launching into their weekend drinking spree, but the voices of children singing, “Cristo me ama (Jesus loves me)”.
On March 10, David and Starla Moyer of Mennonite Mission Network and Fabian and Rossana Gambuli began an hora feliz (happy hour) ministry, a widespread method of outreach in Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Argentina (Argentine Evangelical Mennonite Church). Happy hours for children include Bible stories, songs, games and snacks.
“It was hard to know where to start because the majority of the children had no idea who Jesus is,” Starla Moyer said. “I want to focus on Jesus and his teachings this year because so often the material that is used here has Bible stories from the Old Testament, a few New Testament miracles and Jesus’ death and resurrection, but nothing about Jesus’ life and teachings.”
Moyer prepares her lessons from a variety of sources but draws heavily on Spanish Anabaptist materials based on the Jubilee series and adapted to the South American context.
Argentine Mennonites don’t make a habit of waiting until the resources are available to engage in mission, they just plunge in with the available assets. In this instance, there was an old shed.
“When I first saw this building, I seriously wondered how in the world we could actually have activities for children there,” Moyer said. “There were birds’ nests, droppings and junk everywhere – tools, cement and old boards all covered with a thick layer of dirt and cob webs. I wish I would have taken some before and after pictures.”
Hours of hard labor transformed this place of desolation into a welcoming building with enough room for games of soccer, volleyball or basketball.
The eight children who participated in the first happy hour invited their friends; 14 enjoyed the second one on March 17.
“We are excited about the possibilities that the center holds and are expecting that things will grow. We were told that anywhere from 30 to 100 children could be expected,” Moyer said.