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Louisville’s Beechmont Presbyterian Church hosts Vacation Bible School for an international body of students

A congregation of 58 members holds a welcoming VBS for 63 students

by Debbie Braaksma, Beechmont Presbyterian Church | Special to Presbyterian News Service

More than five dozen students hailing from around the world attended Vacation Bible School at Beechmont Presbyterian Church last month. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Beechmont Presbyterian Church hosted a very successful Vacation Bible School this year! Ninety-three children, youth and adults were involved in Camp Firelight. At times, it was quite the circus — but generally a happy circus.

The program included music, craft/science and game stations, and was focused on Bible stories about people who experienced the gift of a trusting relationship with God. In addition, it taught us to trust that God will go with us, lead the way, share wisdom, give us peace, and spark joy as we celebrate the good news of Jesus in our own lives and in the lives of others. We also learned ways we can connect with and put our trust in God whenever we are afraid, challenged, or called to do God’s work in the world and share the good news of God’s love through Jesus Christ.

Craft time provides for lasting memories at Vacation Bible School. (Contributed photo)

Our remarkably diverse volunteer team included immigrants who came to Louisville from 10 countries including Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, Sudan, South Sudan, Guatemala (parent immigrated), Uganda, Ecuador, and Haiti, as well as Puerto Rico. In addition to Beechmont Presbyterian Church volunteers, we also had volunteers from the following groups: Hispanic Latino Ministries of Preston Highway, the Sudanese Fellowship, Iglesia Ciudad Apostolica (Venezuelan group) and the La Escuelita Learning Hub program. It was wonderful having Jennie Proctor as assistant director and a great staff of 30 adult volunteers (some of whom worked a day or two) in addition to those who drove, brought delicious snacks and helped decorate.

We did a fair amount of adapting the curriculum to suit our group, which included even more children who were more comfortable in Spanish than in the last couple of years, as they had been in the country for six months or less, as well as three Sudanese English-as-a-second-language students who had been in the country between 6-12 months.

We did personal communications and many home visits with the parents of children who attended to invite them and assist them with registration and transportation. This, along with recruiting, doing background checks and orienting a staff of 30 meant that the preparation work was intense and lengthy. A total of 68 children and youth registered, with 63 in attendance. Eight of the 63 were youth assistants. We organized transportation for 19 children whose parents either did not have cars or who were working and unable to drive. A team of eight volunteer drivers, most also helping with the program, transported these children and youth.

No Vacation Bible School experience is complete without roasting some marshmallows. (Contributed photo)

Our students were also a diverse group whose families came from 11 countries including Uganda, Ecuador, Ghana, Sudan, Cuba, Guatemala Honduras, South Sudan, Venezuela and Mexico, as well as Puerto Rico.

Here’s a breakdown of the 63 children and youth:

  • One was from the Sudanese Fellowship and La Escuelita
  • Three were from families that worship with both the Sudanese Fellowship and Beechmont Presbyterian Church
  • Nine were from Hispanic Latino Ministries of Preston Highway
  • Five were friends of Hispanic Latino Ministries of Preston Highway
  • Three were from Hispanic Latino Ministries of Preston Highway and La Escuelita
  • Thirteen were from Hispanic Latino Ministries of Preston Highway, BPC and La Escuelita
  • Six were from Beechmont Presbyterian Church.
  • Ten were friends or family of BPC
  • Two were friends/family of BPC and Preston Highway
  • Five were with the Iglesia Cuidad Apostolica (Venezuelan church) & La Escuelita
  • Five were from BPC and La Escuelita
  • One was associated only with La Escuelita.

The leaders extend a huge thank you to all of the volunteers within the church and our partnering Sudanese, Latino and Venezuela worshiping communities who led the program, as well as those who drove, helped to decorate, provided snacks and prayed for the program. It was truly a labor of love.  It takes a big commitment for a church of 58 members to put on a Vacation Bible School program for 63 children, and it could not have been done without such dedicated volunteers!

The Rev. Debbie Braaksma is parish associate at Beechmont Presbyterian Church.

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