The Growing Impact of VBS

Clapping. 410 Children. Bible Lessons. Soccer. Singing. Sack Races. Worship. Dust. Memory Verses. More than 600 Children. Porridge. Discussion Groups. Crafts. Children Eating.

These are just a few of the images indelibly imprinted in the minds of the volunteers who helped with GBHT’s 5th Vacation Bible School in the Kibagare settlement in August, 2023. In its immediately prior VBS, GBHT served around 300 children. With steady growth over prior VBS programs, GBHT staff prepared for 350 children for this VBS. On the first day, over 410 children showed up. By the last day, over 600 children were in attendance!

With daily increases in attendance, numerous adjustments were required every day. Starting out in the Hope Center and a local church in the community, by mid-week use of a nearby community center was added to divide the children into 3 locations. A social media shout-out for funding for food after the first day resulted in donations of $2,830 within 24 hours (a BIG “thank you” to those who donated), which meant that no child went unfed the entire week. Several mothers of attending children were recruited to add to the cooking staff to prepare an amount of food – by the end of the week – that was nearly double the amount that was prepared for the first day. While starting games the first day as an entire group, by the second day the kids were split into 3 groups to allow for meaningful participation.

By the end of the week, word had spread throughout the community that something significant was happening in the lives of the community’s children. A couple pastors of local churches showed up to see for themselves what was transpiring. Word spread beyond the community, and children showed up from a nearby settlement outside of Kibagare to participate. Every day, the volunteers and children made the 10-minute trek down the main road of Kibagare from the church to the soccer field for games. By the middle of the week, adults in the community were warmly greeting the members of the US volunteer team that kept walking this road twice a day.

Katie Ouma has been providing regular Saturday programming for middle school girls in the community, but there was no programming for the boys. Moses, a local teacher who was a first-time volunteer for this VBS had, by the end of the week, offered to come to the community every Saturday to provide soccer programming and training for the middle and high school boys in the community. Moses will include Bible study and mentoring as components of this ministry. This will be a vital addition to GBHT’s reach into Kibagare, as there is a dirth of positive male role models in the settlement. VBS meets immediate needs of food for children in the community who otherwise would eat very little in weeks that school is not in session. But in addition to the physical and spiritual nourishment that is also provided during VBS, there continues to be an outgrowth (from VBS) of more permanent programming by GBHT.

VBS is a lot of work for the staff and volunteers who conduct it. By the middle of the week, all of us were exhausted; the number of children attending grew exponentially each day, but only a couple more volunteers were helping serve by the end of the week. But what a richly rewarding time of ministry. GBHT staff are already strategizing about how best to accommodate the reality of these new attendance numbers for future VBS programming, and to capitalize on the new ministry opportunities that continue to develop. One thing is certain: the presence of volunteers from the United States provides a big assist to staff and volunteers who are serving for every VBS in Kenya. If you have any interest in serving children who are living in abject poverty, who are desperately seeking love and attention, please prayerfully consider going to Nairobi as a member of a GBHT-led team, or contact GBHT here about organizing and leading your own team. You will make an immediate and meaningful difference, and the impact on you and your team members will be positive and lasting.

Written By

Kevin Harvey

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