Two Vacation Bible Schools, a Bible Study, and a House

That is what the group from St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Barrington, IL's schedule looked like last week! Historically Barrington comes down every summer to lead VBS at Santisima Trinidad and every October to run medical clinics at 2 of Pastor Hernandez's churches and do some sort of construction project. In 2009 the summer team broke with tradition and chose to stay stateside; they ran 2 Vacation Bible Schools and brought a construction contingent as well. Chris and I missed out on working with them since we were in Chihuahua City interpreting for an eyeglass clinic, but we were here for the 25 of them this year as they stayed true to their new tradition and did likewise. Both this year and last, they still sponsored VBS at Santisima--aka sent whatever materials they could and funds to purchase the rest--but left the leadership up to them. The first time, an atmosphere of longing and fear reigned over the decision; Pastor Hernandez's wife Blanca was terrified to take the reins of such a popular, longstanding event. This year it is clear, however, that Santisima stands empowered; in talking with Blanca a few weeks ago, she knew she had lunch for 200-300 kids every day in the bag, no problemo.

Barrington's stateside Vacation Bible schools were at the Community Center in Sparks every morning, and then in the Kennedy Brothers Apartment Complex every afternoon. Somehow I wound up driving to Sparks every day (which actually worked out pretty well since I was free to pick up and drop off the Garcia girls for VBS), and one of the days I backed my car into the dumpster in the parking lot on my way out! I have no idea how you don't see a ginormous dumpster, but somehow I didn't. The only damage is a 3 or so inch long dent and a scratch right underneath the rear license plate. It's not really hurting anything, but I am looking into getting it fixed...hopefully for less than the $816.40 estimate I got yesterday! Our space in the Kennedys was the much smaller "meeting room" as opposed to last year's gym. After initially freaking out, we made do by expanding into the hallway and outside, and realized that it actually had its perks, like being much easier to hear than in the gym. In both places, I was amazed at how efficient the whole production was from start to finish. We ended in the Kennedys at 3:30 and one day we were in the vans on the way back at 3:39!

My role all week was to interpret for an adult Bible study led by a lady named Eileen. She and I bonded quite a bit during the course of the week, and I think she's ready for me to come stay at her house if I apply for LBT and have to go to Aurora again as a part of the process. She was on the VBS team last year, and God showed her that there was a real need to reach out to the parents and grandparents who stood around while their kids and grandkids were spiritually nourished. This year she changed that by offering the study concurrently with the VBS. Eileen compiled the whole thing, which centered on having an intimate personal relationship with God, herself and had it translated by a Puerto Rican friend of hers. Interpreting along as she led was an eye-opening and humbling, sometimes uncomfortable, experience. My suggestion for next year would be to gear the curriculum a little more towards people who have little or no familiarity with the Bible, because it actually dealt with some fairly intense topics and complex terminology, but the response was enthuiastic to say the least. We had 17 on the last day in Sparks! I think it may have had something to do with the semi truck from the West Texas Food Bank that was there giving food baskets away but still. Eileen had a case of Spanish Bibles sent down at the beginning of the week, and we were able to give them all away by Wednesday. I wish I had a couple pictures, but since most of the participants spoke little or no English, I wasn't very free to play photographer :)

OK I think it's time to let the pictures do the rest of the talking. One of my recent entries has some pictures of the slab that the construction team built on, but you'll have to refer to Chris's Barrington blog whenever he gets it up for pictures of them working. There are also some neat videos that the group put together on

Delaine and Taelor, the registration ladies.

Alexis on PowerPoint duty.

The construction team.

Music time in the Kennedys--all week at both sites the music was a bilingual blend of typical "Jesus songs," some more comtemporary selections, and a couple tracks from Mariachi San Pablo's CD's too.

There were always puppets to sing along and dance too!

Chris using his height to help a new friend sing that one song where half the kids stand and sing, "Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah!" and then sit down while the rest stand and sing, "Praise Ye the Lord!"

At the close of each day, the group did a drawing for a couple backpacks filled with school supplies. On Thursday, the last day, they also raffled off some of their craft supplies and Arch books. Eileen and our Bible study people got in on the fun too; she raffled off a Vera Bradley purse each day (if a guy won, she would offer to give him the cash value of the purse...but the one time it happened, he gave it to his mom).

Danielle having fun at the market that came to El Paso because they couldn't go to the market.

Look which 3 girls are front and center (ahem...Elizabeth, Dora, and Nadia Garcia!)...

The set-up in the Community Center, taken from near the craft tables, which were in the corner by the bathrooms.

Eileen and Veronica, one of our faithful attendees. On Thursday, Veronica asked where the best place to start reading the Bible would be! Eileen said John, moving on to Genesis and Exodus, and then back to some of Paul's letters.

Everybody in Sparks!

This little guy slept on Camille's shoulder like that the WHOLE time.

Each day after music, the group put on a skit. I was usually interpreting during them, but on Thursday we didn't start until after the skit so we could take a group picture without being interrupted. Pretty neat stuff! Here is Jesus being led away to trial.

Jesus on the cross with a criminal on either side.

He is not here, He is risen!

And He's still alive today!

Everybody in the Kennedys!

The Ysleti Awards at Cattleman's on Thursday night. The name is taken from something on "The Office" (???--I try to avoid that show), but basically the leader Dave made up some sort of honor for everyone in the group. Some were funny, others serious. Eileen won "Best New Idea" for her Bible study innovation, and Chris won "Most Likely to Have a God Complex" because he always portrayed God/Jesus in the skits!

This week we've got 25 more people here: 4 construction projects, ANOTHER VBS (I feel like I have VBS's coming out my ears), and a shoe distribution--if I can find a location--on tap. In the meantime I'm trying to make sure I have all my ducks in a row for Language Plus since we've got 17 people coming in next weekend for our first annual go at an intensive Spanish course, and we want to make a good impression. In other news, today is the day on which the gang that carried out the first car bombing threatened to do another. Nothing has happened yet, although I feel that it would probably be later on anyhow. I'll keep you posted, although if anything happens I'm sure you'll hear about it. PRAY for PEACE in the city!!! AMOR por JUAREZ!!!

Until next time, blessings!


chill said…
Not me Chris though. A Chris from the group was the winner of the God complex Ysleti
tchrchill said…
This blog made me exhausted. So many pics, so much info! Some day I'd like to meet the Barrington folks. I've heard so much -- and I would just like to know some of the folks who bring all this to the mission. Thanks for the great pictures, and the details, Emac!