February 16, 2019 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens/IAD

A new vacation bible school program was unveiled during an online two-day workshop which promises to impact more than 300,000 youngsters this year across churches and schools in the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory. Nearly 200 territory-wide children and adolescents ministries directors met in Miami, Florida, on Feb. 10-11, to receive training in the comprehensive program while reaffirming their commitment to teach the love of Jesus to every child who enrolls in the annual initiative.

“One of the most effective evangelistic programs we have in children and adolescent ministries is Vacation Bible School, or what we have renamed as Vacation Bible Experience, where children can experience the love of God and the transformation of their lives in Jesus,” said Dinorah Rivera, children and adolescent ministries for the church in Inter-America and main organizer of the workshop.

Dinorah Rivera, children and adolescent ministries director, speaks to the more than 200 regional leaders on the important ministry of teaching children about the purpose God has for each one. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

The new program themed, “Made by God Created with a Purpose”, will teach children how they can relate everything God has done with the human body and their lives with a purpose to praise Him for what he has done and promises to do through them, explained Rivera.

“In a time when there is so much uncertainty of identity, we want to reaffirm the identity we have in Jesus Christ, the experience and assurance that we are created by Him and made with a purpose,” said Rivera.

Delegates rotated through different stations featuring the five-day series which will lead youngsters through hands-on learning about the senses and the main systems of the human body including the digestive system, nervous system, skeletal system and associate muscles, the circulatory system and respiratory system.

Damaris de Figueroa of West Venezuela Union gets ready to demonstrate an activity about the circulatory system during a workshop presentation. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

The program includes theme song and music for every day of the week in English, Spanish and French, as well as additional resources.

In addition, leaders were introduced to a community project they can incorporate as a follow-up of the VBS or a health expo day activity with the church’s “I Want to Live Healthy” tailored for children as “I Want to Grow Healthy”—which follows the eight natural remedies healthy living: good nutrition, fresh air, sunshine, exercise, rest, self-control, water and trust.

The eight natural remedies in the health expo are presented as eight gifts from God, with special lessons children can learn from animals and their special characteristics, said Belkis Archbold, health ministries director for the church in Inter-America, as she spoke to the delegation. “The health expo can be led by adolescents ages 14-16 and have an impact on children to learn how to strive to adopt good habits to live a healthier lifestyle at their young age.”

Leaders from Guatemala do the motions to the songs from the new VBS program. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

A full manual with resources and craft ideas for the “I Want to Grow Healthy” health expo were made available to the dozens of delegates.

Thelma Park, children’s and adolescents ministries director for the church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, is eager to jump in with her 11 conference/mission directors in preparing to receive more than 80,000 children during the summer with the new VBS program this year.

“I’m so happy to see this focus this year because children will be able to learn how their body works as they understand that they were created by God and that He has a plan for their life,” said Park. The more than 3,000 congregations are active in holding vacation bible school program as well as in hundreds of communities where there is no Adventist presence, she said. Park said that about 75 percent of the children who enroll in the program each summer are non-Adventists.

Edith Espinoza, children and adolescent ministries director in the Southeast Mexican Union demonstrates presentation on hte nervous system of the new VBS program. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Rosalinda De Gracia, children’s ministries and adolescent ministries director for the church in Panama, brought the biggest delegation to the workshop with 29. Most are children’s ministries directors at conferences and missions but some are school leaders who also hold VBS programs during the summer in the country.

“This program is so fantastic because it will strengthen our belief in what the Bible teaches about God being the Creator and provide the identity that children today need,” said De Gracia. Last year, more than 9,000 children took part in the vbs program with approximately half of them non-believers. It had so much impact that 220 children and adolescents were baptized as a result of the VBS program.

De Gracias explained that many public schools have contacted the church to hold the VBS program as part of summer program activities.

Dr. Laura Oros, a psychologis researcher form Argentida speaks to the delegation on Feb. 10. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAd

Dr. Laura Oros, a psychologist researcher from Argentina, spoke to the delegates on how they can promote positive emotions in children and adolescents in the midst of so many circumstances or situations that generate stress in their lives. (View presentation HERE)

Delegates also heard Deborah Angiolina Billings of Kristi’s House, a child advocacy center in Miami, speak on identifying signs and symptoms of sexual abuse among children. She also provided tools to support open communication for children to avoid future victimizations. (View presentation HERE)

The new Inter-America’s Friendship Club, a program that invites children to take part in weekly learning activities after the VBS program ends, was presented during the workshop. The eight-week theme program will focus on the wonders of the world and will take children on a journey of discovery, traveling across the different parts of the world to learn about cultures, relate to bible principles and stories, as well as engage them in praise and worship time, crafts and more.

 

Children and adolescents directors from the Dutch Caribbean Union territory view a VBS workshop demonstration, Feb. 11, 2019. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

During the workshop, organizers and delegates honored Evelyn Omaña, former children’s ministries director in Inter-America, for her committed leadership and dedicated service to the children and adolescents throughout the Inter-American Division.

Rivera encouraged leaders to continue on the mission of impacting the lives of children by taking good care of them, ensuring that they protect children to make sure they are healthy in the Lord, said Rivera as the workshop concluded. “Our ultimate goal is to draw children and adolescents to Jesus and make sure they can rejoice and feel happy to belong to the Kingdom of God,” Rivera said.

To learn more about Inter-America’s new VBS program for 2019, Click HERE

For a photo gallery of this event, Click HERE

To view the portions of the Vacation Bible Experience workshop, Click HERE

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