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Pato, Pato, Gonso!

June 6, 2012

Tuesday morning was my day to help with VBS. Beverly had been doing a fantastic job getting everything organized and prepared before our trip, and she oversaw the entire schoolhouse each morning we were there. Devin and I had been assigned to help lead the Bible stories, crafts and games for the day, and our theme was, “God listens to you!”

Ms. Beverly did an outstanding job with VBS every day.

I was thrilled about spending the day with the kids. They are such dear children and there were several of them, like Fernanda and Martir, who I remembered from last year. Yet they had grown so much. Each of them was so eager to learn and sing and discover what we will say or do next. It is so much fun to be with them.

Fernanda in the middle, looking all grown up.

Every morning started out with a song. The song of the week turned out to be “This Little Light of Mine,” complete with three verses and hand motions. The kids absolutely loved it, and every single one, from the kindergarteners to the 5th graders, participated with enthusiasm. By the end of the week, they were all singing the words in English and begging for it one more time. We sang, we danced; we threw our hands in the air and twirled around in a circle. And that was just the opening song. You couldn’t help but fall in love with VBS and the entire classroom.

Singing “This Little Light of Mine”

Devin leading the dancing.

During craft time we made a couple of different noisemakers, further emphasizing the “God Listens to You” theme. And since our VBS theme was Pandamania, everything was black and white and fuzzy and looked like the cute little osos (bears). We made dizzy drums and kazoos and everyone made a joyful noise the rest of the day.

They loved showing off their crafts for the day.

The first day VBS started there were 32 kids. So on day two we knew we would be safe by bringing enough supplies for 40. We were wrong. After passing out all we had, there were 3-4 little ones who did not get any supplies to make a drum. Somehow word of mouth had spread, and more children had appeared to join the fun. I panicked. I searched our bags. I looked for anything else to give them to create a craft and feel a part of the group. We settled for giving those few children a kazoo, which the group would be making later. This meant we would be short again in an hour or so and would have to figure out something else, but for the moment it worked. But I watched the kids throughout the day as they got something different or received nothing at all. They just accepted it. They took what they were given and did not make a fuss if they were left out. My heart was breaking that anyone should feel any disappointment, but I got the sense that these kids were used to it. They did not cry. They did not throw a tantrum. They accepted the news and watched on as their neighbor colored or cut. I suspect there are many times in life they simply have to do without, and therefore they just take what they can get. These children were so well behaved. They had total respect for their teachers and even us as volunteers. Their parents and teachers, even with limited resources, had taught them very well, and they were the sweetest children you could imagine.

Panda kazoos are complete! Ready to make some noise.

After crafts we headed outside for recess. The kids taught us a rousing game of “Pato, Pato, Gonso!” It turned out to be duck, duck goose, but no one ever ended up in the goose pot. It took awhile to figure this out, because I swear they were saying “plato” with an L, and I imagined the word standing for some form of platypus, and the only “Gonzo” I knew of was the fury blue Muppet with the big nose. When I said “plato” they all laughed and made fun of the silly American mispronouncing the words of a children’s game, and I learned quickly. Everyone sat in a circle and one kid went around bonking the others on the head saying, “pato, pato, pato, pato, pato, pato…GONSO!” The goosed child would then run and chase the tagger and try to hit him before he reached his original spot around the circle. Devin and I, being the only gringos in the circle, got our fair share of running and chasing the kids, as we were tagged almost every other turn. Playing such a simple, childhood game became a thrill a minute and a highpoint in my day.

The older girls were so sweet, trying out their English by saying, “Thank you!”

After games, we passed out snacks, and everyone engulfed the goldfish and lemonade we shared. Before the next craft we shared a Bible story and further explained the point that God listens to you. The night before I had a moment of panic when I realized the Bible story we were supposed to share was about Elijah, the prophets of Baal and the burning altar sacrifice in 1 KIngs.

(Now, I have a confession to make. I don’t think I’m very good at teaching children theology. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I suck at it. When I’m asked to teach the story of Noah’s ark, I can’t just focus on the cute and cuddly animals that marched in two by two; I desperately want to point out that during the flood there were thousands of dead bodies floating around because God got pissed off and made it rain. When kids start answering every question with Sunday School answers like “pray…read the Bible…go to church” I want to ask them, “Great. But WHY is Jesus your Savoir? What does that even mean?” I get caught with blank stares and more confused looks. If adults who have studied for decades can’t answer that question, why would I expect more from an 8 year old?)

Showing off their noisemakers to emphasize God listens to us.

So, the thought of teaching about burning sacrifices to a group of children made me panic. I didn’t know how it would translate or relate to their current lives. The thought of teaching all this in Spanish and expecting it to translate made me even more nervous. So I veered from the curriculum as I’m so often known to do, and frantically searched the scripture for another store explaining, “God listens to you.” It wasn’t easy. If you think you have a better example, by all means please share it with me, because I’d love a good story to teach to kids, of all ages. I switched gears and decided to focus on the Gospel, where Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. I figured some of the kids may know the Lord’s Prayer and could understand the concept well enough that when we pray, God listens.

Martha with her kindergarteners.

Carlos, our HOI group leader (we couldn’t win dibs on Marta in volleyball, no matter how well we played) helped to translate and read the Bible story in perfect Spanish. We taught them that all they need to do is lift their voice to God in prayer and God would hear them and listen. We gave thanks for the chance to communicate with God, to share time together with our friends, and gave thanks to God for listening to us. Carlos assured me that many of the kids had heard this Bible story before, and probably knew the Lord’s Prayer by hearing it from their parents. One way or another they were being taught how to pray, and that was good enough for me.

Devin found a new friend.

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