ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) — Nearly 30 neighborhood children gathered for a week in December — a summer month in Bolivia — at Josué Roman Cavero’s home where he and his mother organized a vacation Bible school.
In addition to the week-long session at his house, Josué, who is 14, helped lead two other VBS sessions. He traveled as far as 90 minutes by bus each way to help bring Bible lessons to the children.
Josué started as a VBS student at a young age, but last year he decided to take more responsibility and start training to lead the VBS. He attended the youth leadership workshop, Equipo Sirviendo a Cristo (Serve Christ Team), offered by the Bolivia Mennonite Church.
“I loved that I got to learn about Jesus and Moses [during VBS],” said Josué. “I like to share the word of God, and now that I’m old enough, I wanted to learn how to teach the kids.”
Margrit Kipfer Barrón, a mission worker with Mennonite Mission Network and Schweizerische Mennonitsche Mission (Swiss Mennonite Mission), helps organize the youth discipleship workshops and VBS for the Bolivian churches. She sees these children and youth sessions as an important step in the formation of strong spiritual lives. Mennonite Mission Network helps fund both the youth and children’s programs.
When she started working in Bolivia in 1994, Kipfer Barrón wanted to start youth camps like she had enjoyed during her childhood. However, the Bolivian church leaders told her that camps would not work in Bolivia at that time because of their high cost. Instead, she chose to start VBS since they could achieve the same goals for less money. The church has since added camp experiences.
In order to train more VBS leaders, Kipfer Barrón and the Bolivian church developed the Equipo Sirviendo a Cristo leadership workshops in 2006. During these classes, the youth study Scripture so that they aren’t just reciting the curriculum. Then, they learn kid-friendly ways to communicate the message.
There are two workshops each year during the semester breaks. Forty participants came to the week-long session in November. Thirty of these youth helped during at least one session of VBS; some helped in four sessions. In December, 13 VBS sessions reached about 700 children.
Kipfer Barrón sees the youth leadership classes as a place for youth to mature in their spiritual lives. It is their first step as leaders in the church.
“[Josué] is a very young leader yet, but he is showing a lot of dedication to the work of the Lord,” said Kipfer Barrón.
Although it may sound daunting to lead a Bible school as a young teen, the youth are slowly encouraged to participate in ways they are comfortable.
“First, they’ll help more experienced leaders by handing out pencils and keeping track of attendance, but the next year they might start teaching a Bible lesson, and as years go by they become more responsible,” said Kipfer Barrón.
Gabriela Hurtado Vargas, who is 20 years old, first came to VBS with her siblings when she was about 7 because she was drawn to the snacks. But soon she realized she had lots of fun interacting with the other kids and learning about the Bible.
Once she got older, she wanted to help with the children because she enjoyed teaching and interacting with kids. First, she helped with Sunday school classes, and now she has attended the youth leadership classes for three years.
“[I get to show them] the love that comes from a life with Christ,” said Gabriela. “I want to reach the children to plant the seed so that when they’re older, they remember and don’t stray from God.”
Kipfer Barrón sees the youth and children’s programs as an opportunity to share the gospel with children and help prepare them to make good decisions when they are older.
“It is always a joy to see young people and teenagers growing in their spiritual life,” said Kipfer Barrón. “[They move] from listening to becoming servants and leaders. This motivates me to go on with the ministry.”
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Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, leads, mobilizes and equips the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Media may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.