Dinorah Rivera, children and adolescents ministries director for the church in Inter-America, unveils the new Vacation Bible Experience program for this year titled “Climbing Mountains together with God” during an online workshop with dozens of leaders in Miami, Florida, United States, Feb. 19, 2020. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

February 26, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division

Inter-America’s children and adolescents ministries launched a new Vacation Bible Experience (VBE) program, during an online workshop, which promises to reach more than 300,000 youngsters across local churches and Adventist schools throughout the territory this year. More than 200 children and adolescent ministries leaders from throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) met in Miami, Florida, Feb. 18-19, to be trained in the evangelistic program and receive tools to reaffirm their commitment to sharing the love of Jesus to every child who enrolls in the annual initiative.

“Our main objective with the VBE program is to let children and adolescents know that no matter the circumstances, no matter what you go through in life, there is always a better way if we are holding onto God,” said Dinorah Rivera, children and adolescents ministries for the church in Inter-America, and main organizer of the workshop.  “You will have the opportunity to show and teach all the children and adolescents who come to the program the tools they need to trust that Jesus can safely guide us to our final destination–heaven.”

Themed “Climbing Mountains together with God,” the program highlights bible characters who faced numerous difficulties but who were able to overcome them, reaching the summit of victory, with each step holding on to the hand of God, explained Rivera. “No matter how high, how treacherous the mountain we may face, with God everything is possible,” she said.

Delegates learn the motions to the theme song for this year’s vacation bible experience program. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Delegates rotated through seminar stations with instructions and ideas on how to conduct devotional lessons, songs, activities, games, crafts, climbing honors, refreshments and snacks, historical information related to Mounts Moriah, Horeb, Sinai, Carmel, Olive during the five-day vacation bible experience program.

The complete program includes a theme song, and music for every day of the week for the different age groups from 0 to 14 years of age in English, Spanish, and French, in video format as well as additional resources. The comprehensive program was done thanks to collaborative efforts by several union children and adolescent ministries directors, said Rivera.

Laura Minely Ruiz, children and adolescents ministries director for the church in Chiapas, Mexico, said she’s eager to implement the new VBE this year throughout her territory. Ruiz brought her eight leaders representing the eight regional fields in her territory. “We are all excited about the theme this year because it goes well with the focus all our departments and ministries are emphasizing on the second coming of Jesus,” said Ruiz.

“The vacation bible experience program is very important in connecting with so many children and has been successful every year in 2,191 congregations,” said Ruiz. Last year, local churches and congregations saw more than 34,188 children take part in the vacation bible experience, and out of that amount, 25,507 children were non-Adventist, reported Ruiz.

Delegates work together in teams to compete on some games they would show children during the vacation bible experience program.  [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Ruiz explained that training throughout the hundreds of local churches across Chiapas, Mexico, will take place next month.

For Ranfys Valeriano of the Dutch Caribbean Union overseeing Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, the new vacation bible program is another opportunity each year to encourage more and more local churches to carry the program for the 800 or so children that the program impacted every year during the last five years.

This year, Valeriano is aiming to get the program translated into Papiamento so that more children in the community can be part of the vacation bible experience. In the past few years, they have had to wait to carry the program one year behind because of translation delays.  Valeriano, who has been leading in children and adolescent ministries, said that another challenge is that many of the churches lack the leaders and volunteers as well as proper resources to purchase the materials to draw in more children. But he is encouraging more churches on the islands to double their efforts and reach many more this year.

Pastor Saustin Mfune, associate children’s ministries director for the Adventist world church, spoke to the delegation and encouraged them to continue teaching youngsters to trust in God as they learn to climb the mountains that come their way in life. “We all need preparation to climb a mountain, for we are going to face a lot of limitations, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us,” said Mfune.

Saustin Mfune (left) associate children’s ministries director for the Adventist world church, encourages leaders to teach children to trust God. Esmeralda Guzman translates him. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Richard Aguilera, creator of One Mustard Seed ministries, expanded on the theme of the vacation bible experience on the gear, physical endurance, visualizing the path ahead, and reaching the summit hand in hand with God’s support.  Aguilera also spoke on how to impact the lives of children in their many church and community bible and outreach activities.

The workshop also included Inter-America’s new program to follow this year for the Friendship Club, a program that invites children to take part in weekly learning activities after the VBE program. The eight–week themed program will focus on eight precious stones around the world and will take children on a journey of discovery, traveling across different parts of the world to learn spiritual lessons and apply them to their lives while digging into bible principles and stories as well as engaging in praise and worship time, crafts and more.

Norma Villegas, children and adolescents ministries director for the church in North Mexico and main contributor to this year’s Friendship Club program, said the new theme is part of a three-program series that will teach children about the wonderful creations that God has made and point them to understand how God is preparing many more beautiful things in heaven.

The program includes a manual, children’s workbook, special songs, games, printable activities and more.

Norma Villegas, children and adolescents ministries director for the church in North Mexico, presents this year’s Friendship Club theme and activities. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Villegas believes wholeheartedly that the Friendship Club has more lasting evangelistic impact on the children that take part in a VBE activity and who are wanting to learn and take part in the activity past that week.

“Friendship Club serves to reinforce the bible principles taught in vacation bible experience, provides more one-on-one opportunities to get to know children and their needs better, as well as transitioning them to the life and activities of the church,” said Villegas. “It’s basically an eight-week follow-up program once a week, normally on Sabbath afternoon or even Sundays, which has seen many parents wanting to come to church.”

Last year throughout the North Mexican, 198 of the 800 churches in the territory actively running Friendship clubs, compared to only 15 churches running the club some years ago.  The difference has been that now the club has an emphasis of reaching the neighborhoods where children live to learn and better impact the needs of the community.

“We believe that this ministry can be used as part of evangelism outreach outside of our church buildings, and that has gotten more churches involved in following up with the club initiative,” explained Villegas.

Delegates attend one of many VBE seminars during the workshop event. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Villegas dreams of reaching each and every one of the children and their communities that her union territory saw last year with over 25,000 children. She explained that 70 percent of those children are non-Adventists and following up the VBE consistently will spiritually enrich the lives of so many families and awaken a need to seek God and His church. “The day we reach 50 percent of the children that we see through these initiatives, we will reach our entire baptismal goal in our union,” Villegas said.

Rivera encouraged leaders to continue strong in impacting the lives of children through the various initiatives and activities. “Whatever we do, our speech, our walk is to show each one of them the importance of having Jesus in their lives,” Rivera said.

Group photo of the two hundred delegation during the vacation bible experience training sessions on Feb. 19, 2020. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

To find out more about Inter-America’s children and adolescent ministries, Click HERE

To view the special ceremony of February 19, 2020, online, Click HERE

For the photo gallery, Click HERE

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