Tuesday, our VBS team went to the mountainside La Reforma Catholic preschool. We held a VBS with 25 three - five year olds. This is the first time a VBS has ever been allowed in this preschool. Much rides on first experiences with mission teams. If it is a bad experience, then a mission team would not be welcomed back. But if it is a good experience, many more doors will be opened for a relationship with these sweet young souls, their siblings, and their parents. Many times before this trip we prayed God would open the hearts of those we encountered.
We started our VBS with Pam Allen energetically leading the kids in Spanish kid songs like,"Yo tengo gozo." In English, "I've got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart. Where?" Our Bible story was taught by the wonderful Alli Kesler (author of 2nd blog post). She is the granddaughter of Jim and Martha Threlkeld. Then Stone Drulman entertained with his puppet "amigo mantoya." Mark Maxey taught the kids some English, which is what the school director said that the kids really need. Teresa Shaw led the kids in a craft that demonstrated how God made us all special and unique utilizing the kids fingerprints. Colin Threlkeld and Stone played a rousing game of futbol (soccer) with these little ninos.
Vivian Gamblian and Gail Ordonez, both registered nurses, taught the parents about healthy meal preparation. They demonstrated how to use fresh local ingredients to enhance the health of their children.
Galon Jones discussed ways to start addressing addictions. Alcoholism and drug use is a huge problem here. Many kids start drinking heavily at age 14. He also met with the administration at the high school to plan substance abuse classes when our second Panama group returns in July.
Our construction team was made up of Stan Gamblian, Jim Threlkeld, Bruce Dingman, Fred Clements, and some supervising by Galon Jones. Bruce made a computer table today with our wonderful missionary friend David Carter. The table will be used to hold computers for La Mesa school, the school we sent Christmas shoeboxes to last year.
The great news ... after our activities at the preschool today, the director said that it was "excellente" (excellent) and "perfecto" (perfect). That is God answering all those prayers lifted to him in an incredible way. The doors are opening, relationships grow, and the Good News can be planted in the hearts of the smallest Panamanians.
Another focus of our trip has also been to encourage the El Valle church of about 40 members. They meet in a pavilion behind the missionary’s house. Last year when we were here, the church (as well as mission team members) fit inside the Chowning's living room. Now the number has at least tripled, and would in no way fit there! God is growing this young church. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Please continue to pray for more open hearts.