This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

VBS passion inspires, shapes young leaders in Bolivia

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.

Elena Salas, Ana María Roca and Basilia Toro Orellana practice making origami animals at the Equipo Sirviendo a Cristo workshop in November. They’ll later teach origami to children at vacation Bible school. — Photo by Linda Shelly/MMN
Elena Salas, Ana María Roca and Basilia Toro Orellana practice making origami animals at the Equipo Sirviendo a Cristo workshop in November. They’ll later teach origami to children at vacation Bible school. — Photo by Linda Shelly/MMN

In addition to the weeklong 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 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],” he said. “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 Bolivian churches. She sees the sessions as important to forming strong spiritual lives. MMN helps fund 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. But Bolivian church leaders told her that camps would not work at that time because of their high cost. She chose to start VBS since they could achieve the same goals for less money. The church has since added camp experiences.

To train more VBS leaders, Kipfer Barrón and the Bolivian church developed the Equipo Sirviendo a Cristo 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. Forty participants came to the session in November. Thirty of them helped during at least one session of VBS. In December, 13 VBS sessions reached about 700 children.

Kipfer Barrón sees the classes as a place for youth to mature in their spiritual lives.

“[Josué] is a very young leader yet, but he is showing a lot of dedication to the work of the Lord,” she said.

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