In our quest to continue to learn about the activities, strengths, and needs of the CPC, I attended a “Kids’ Bible camp” (or VBS?) last weekend in Kananga. The Tshibashi presbytery, which includes about 1/2 of Kananga, has been doing these for nearly 4 years now. On every major break from school (Christmas, Easter, and summer break), they designate a certain number of days and invite the kids to come to one of the parishes for this ‘camp’. This particular time, it was 3 days, and held at the parish of “Katoka Sud”.
I arrived just before 9 on Saturday morning, the last day of the camp. About 20 kids were already there, singing fun kids’ songs. This is somewhat novel because we do not often hear songs here that have been written just for kids, with the energy and motions that we would associate with kids songs in America. Tètè, a law student with an incredible amount of energy and a gift for connecting with kids, was leading them in the French version of “deep and wide”. Groups of kids from different parishes trickled in with their teachers over the next hour, and soon there was a large energetic group of nearly 200 kids who ranged in age from about 3 years old to 14. Tètè transitioned quickly from one song to another, some French, some Tshiluba, using enough repetition and hand motions that all the kids stayed attentive and participated.
Then, the whole group transitioned outside, to the large yard at the front of the church. The kids formed a huge circle, with a smaller circle in the center for the smaller kids. Tètè led some fun and active songs, to get all the kids moving and participating. As you can imagine, it did not take long to draw a crowd of onlookers of all ages. It was fun to see how impressed and interested everyone was in this well-organized fun for such a large group of kids!
Then, back inside for some more singing, teaching, and games. A few more of the local pastors had arrived by this point, who had all participated throughout the three-day event. They reviewed with the kids the themes from the previous 2 days, and the kids all memorized a verse - “Let the one who gives, give with joy”. There was a short lesson, and then a few games. For the first game, several volunteers stood in front of the group. One end of a long piece of string was put into each of their mouths. On the other end of each piece of string was a piece of candy. The challenge was for the child to pull the string into their mouth without using their hands, until even the candy was in their mouth. Kids of all ages were selected to participate, and the kids were encouraged to keep going until they had reached the candy, then those who succeeded first were given prizes. Some of the kids were quite dexterous with their tongues!
For the second game, a table was set up, and 2 kids at a time sat opposite one another at the table. A candle was placed in front of each child, as well as a square of paper that had several peanuts on it. Their challenge: to reach across the table and blow out the other person’s candle, then eat one of their own peanuts, without using their hands. Each time one ate a peanut though, the child had to re-light his/her candle and blow out the other person’s candle before they could eat another peanut. Watching the kids try to blow out a candle while they were trying to chew peanuts made for some fun laughs for all the spectators, but they did a great job! ‘Game equipment’ is hard to come by here, so I was also encouraged by these fun and interactive games that used readily-accessible supplies.
For the final segment, the kids went back outside for a few more games and active songs . Each group of kids had come with their Sunday School teacher, and it was fun to see the teachers who showed a good rapport with their kids and a willingness to be silly with them. One of the goals of this program is to strengthen the weekly Sunday School programs in each parish, by giving them ideas and motivation for teaching the kids in effective ways.
One of the teachers passes out a sucker
to each child at the end of the day
I commend Tshibashi presbytery for their commitment to their kids and their creativity and perseverance in developing a strong program for kids. This is definitely one of the strengths of this presbytery, that hopefully other regions can benefit and learn from. Each church, just like each person, has their unique strengths and weaknesses, and when we appreciate and learn from the gifts of others, we honor our Creator.
“…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grown and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15,16)