Friday, November 11, 2011

Day of the Child Celebration at our church (Comunidadd Cristiana, El Hatillo)

One of the pleasures children experience here in Latin America is "Dia del Nino", which is like Mother's or Father's Day but for the Child, literally, it's "Day of the Child" and it's celebrated with festive activities, pinatas, and special school activities.

We decided to celebrate the children of our Sunday School with a morning of games and team building events. First we prepped the older youth for their special role of caring for the little ones by participating with them and encouraging them along. Then, we put the 125 kids together in five inter-generational groups, mixing up the ages from 3-18 years. We did this creative group divider game by handing out 5 different colored lollipops and after a few brief minutes, we had all the same colored-tongues gather into the same group!

From there we rotated the groups from station to station. You can see from the video how celebrated they felt!!

You can view this 3 min. video directly at YouTube by clicking on the image above or on this link:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Learning about Gratitude the month of November!

Our team of Sunday School teachers invested 10 hours writing the curriculum for the month of November with the theme of Gratitude. Even though Thanksgiving is not celebrated here in Latin America, we decided to dedicate every November to learn about being thankful. 
We started the process of curriculum creating searching for our Scripture passages thiat would be substantial enough to let us dig down deep. This form of using few passages but going deep is very novel since most Bible studies and sermons in Evangelical churches here tend to jump from one passage to another, the more the better it seems, which then precludes showing the believers how to really study the passage.

As we dedicated time to this search, God showed up among us and we experienced something that couldn't be called anything other than holy moments. One of those moments came when we started to study Luke 17 about the story of the 10 lepers. We analyzed the exact sequence of actions of the 10 lepers to understand the role, form, and how gratitude was expressed. We discovered that one first must recognize that you are a debtor, needy, and not entitled in order for gratitude to be birthed in you (the 9 Jewish lepers may have felt entitled whereas the 10th Samaritan leper did not...). For almost all 19 teachers present, it was the first time they can remember ever having studied a passage word for word. The intensity of this holy moment is visible on their faces and in their gestures as you  can see from the pictures below.

As we finalized Lesson 1 of 4, we closed with a time of thanksgiving. God moved us to assume the exact same position of the grateful leper--prostrate, face on the ground--at the feet of Jesus. This was another one of those holy moments. Several were moved to tears as their hearts were filled with gratitude. Nadia, one of the teachers of the 10-12 year old girls commented:  Literally, I felt like that grateful leper. I recognized my miserable condition and I wanted to take advantage of this moment to tell God how much I appreciated His answers that I have longed for. 

We finished the first lesson for November 6th. It took us 4 hours but in that space of time, we have generated so many ideas and new perspectives that the remaining three lessons came quickly. Another one of those holy moments came after I read an article about how the Japanese, when they receive something don't say Thank you but rather: I'm sorry, in acknowledgement of their debt with the person.. Javier (teacher of the 10-12 yr. old boys) jumped up to share an experience he had had in his travels throughout Honduras. There was this little town in the boonies where upon receiving something the people  said: Forgive me. He had always wondered about that expression. On the other hand, Javier had installed wells in towns where not one single person had said a word of thanks, it was like they felt it was their due, like the government owed them, so they didn't say thank. Until now, do I finally see that until you realized you are a debtor, you don't see the need to say thank you.  This brought a whole cultural discussion on whether it was a cultural phenomenon or due to lack of education or social etiquette. The fruit of which was that each of us was forced to grapple with our own lack of gratitude.

 For Lesson #2 (November 13) we will focus on 1 Thess. 5:16-18 where it's clear that gratitude isn't an option, but rather a commandment, no matter what the circumstances. Being grateful is to be accompanied by joy and prayer and would change our perspective. Thankfulness is an act of obedience, not a feeling.  

For Lesson #3 (November 20) we decided to study the Israelites (Numbers), analyzing how grumbling is the antithesis of gratefulness and that there were dire consequences to their complaining. One doesn't talk much about how the earth opened wide to swallow the complainers, others were killed and an entire generation never even made it to the Promised Land but died one by one in the desert. While we don't want to scare the very little kids, we do want to prompt the kids to describe the negative impact of complaining and not being trusting and grateful. (We are considering threatening them with 40 years in Sunday School to make the point! haha)

For our last lesson #4 (November 27) we will close with a service project, opening a space for all the students from 2-18 years old to show their gratitude to God through giving away something that's meaningful to them, giving it to other children in Honduras who have suffered great loss in the recent flooding. We are involving the parents to guide their children in this project. There's 3 conditions we want to stipulate:
Condition #1 That the kids give something that costs them something, following the model of King David who didn't want to offer to God something that cost him nothing.
Condition #2: That the parents don't do it for them, either buying it or giving them the money, but helping the child give something that he or she earned or is meaningful to them (avoiding the tendency to give something that doesn't fit anyways or you really don't like anyways....)
Condition #3: That the parents have some sort of ceremony at home, like a ritual where the young person says: I give this away.... in gratefulness to God for this.......
Even if some kid arrives that last Sunday with nothing, we will encourage them (with the parents permission) to give away something they are wearing. 

I might mention that the methodology that we used to customize each lesson was one that I created called the Flower and bee methodology.  If you are interested in reading about this approach, I have an extensive analysis on Use of the Biblein Sunday School Curriculum… where you can download it.  The title of the article is called: The use of the Bible in Sunday School  curriculum.

As we left that evening, we each shared what we learned that day and how we were ready to impact the lives of the 125 children and young people that God gives us each Sunday. Erika said: When I arrived this morning, I was asking myself: How are we ever going to speak 4 consecutive Sundays about the same subject of gratitude? I figure one Sunday is enough. Now, at the end of the day, I'm sure with what God has taught us, we could speak the whole month of December as well!