Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rethinking Jesus Trinkets

Inflammatory title maybe, but far catchier than – Rethinking Vacation Bible School Methods for Short Term Teams Serving in the Majority World towards a Sustainable Model. That title doesn’t even make sense.

I am a fan of Vacation Bible School programs, I see the importance for short term mission trips, and I am one of the few nerds who sees the world through an economic development lens. Many short term missionary teams go to the majority world bringing in tons of supplies, or as I fondly call Jesus trinkets, for a VBS program.

Here I propose a new model of VBS by short term mission groups in developing countries. I understand that this model is not the most inexpensive nor the most time efficient. I also know that each of these things is difficult – thus the name “challenges”. And, I recognize that I am not an expert – so arguments welcome.

Preparation Phase (still stateside)
Challenge 1 – Schedule a 2-week mission trip as opposed to a one-week trip.
Challenge 2 – Plan as little as possible! I don’t mean not to prepare your team. I mean that team preparation should focus 95% on team building, Bible studies, skills profiles, and prayer. Save only 5% of the time for logistics.
Challenge 3 – Pack as little as possible. Possibly try to get all of your belongings in a carry-on. (Checked bags could be saved for furniture and goodies for my family, just kidding, kind of)

Planning Phase (in country, week one)
Challenge 4 – Meet with key leaders (elders, children’s ministers) of the local church and brainstorm with them to identify an area that the congregation's children are currently struggling with or could use encouragement in (ex. Fear, slavery, pride, jealousy, etc).
Challenge 5 – Have team members work with local church members to create a curriculum for the week. Simple, Bible-based, culturally appropriate curriculum.
Challenge 6 – Have musical team members collaborate with gifted musicians in the local church to create heart-language, culturally meaningful, simple, original children’s songs.
Challenge 7 – Attempt to purchase ALL necessary supplies for the VBS program from the local markets. This could include decorations, snacks, paper, pencils, art supplies.
Challenge 8 – Employ local artisans to make simple prizes for the children. This could be simple sewn rag dolls or carved wooden toys. It may mean having an idea in mind and helping church members learn a new creative skill.

Program Phase (in country, week two)
Challenge 9 – As much as is feasible, share responsibility of the program with the local church. Encourage leadership of church members while playing a side role of crowd control, games, and building relationships.
Challenge 10 – Ask the church body for feedback.

Benefits for the Team
-learning to be flexible and rely on the local church
-knowing the feeling of scarcity

Benefits for the Local Church
-leadership development!
-a model of VBS that they can reproduce without a team
-boosted local economy

These challenges wouldn’t all have to go together. I would encourage your next group to just try one or two if you can. And truly if you can only try one – I’d really encourage you to leave the Jesus trinkets with Oriental Trading Company and buy prizes locally.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Well, I was pretty convinced that all my health issues were not simply stress related. Sure I have stress in my life right now. But what joyous stress it is - preparing to fulfil a calling on my life I've had for 15+ years.

This week I received a clinical diagnosis of Chronic Lyme Disease. The rode to recovery could be a long one that will involve plenty of antibiotics, dietary changes, and rest. But I am hoping and praying for full healing and that soon, very soon, my hands will be healed enough to sew again. After all, Easter is only a few months away and dress ideas are brewing.

Thank you to all those who have stood by me in this difficult time. Thank you for all your prayers. I would appreciate continued prayers as I continue to heal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Praise the Lord! He is faithful. These past couple months have been quite the struggle with my (Sara) health. I've needed to use what energy I've had for work and our efforts to raise support slowed. But God is good and we are ringing in the New Year with 50% of our monthly support committed and 50% of our start-up funds raised.

Thank you so much to all of our supporters, friends, and family. We are blessed.