The Innovation of the People of Sierra Leone during Daily Vacation Bible School
by Willard and Yvonne Wagner
When I was a pastor, I always enjoyed the summer months when churches would feature Daily Vacation Bible School (DVBS). It was always one of the highlights of the year for our people. Even though this did cost the church money, everyone thought it was well worth the investment. Now a missionary these many years, we also have DVBS in West Africa. But because of the lack of resources and materials, we have had to improvise to make this event meaningful. Our church in Sierra Leone conducted a DVBS recently and the results were more than gratifying. Let me explain with words and pictures!
After two weeks of classroom instruction, they would take these 400+ children and divide them into “The Red House,” “The Green House,” “The Blue House,” and “The Yellow House.” Each “house” would then compete with the other “houses” in sports, Bible verses, sermonettes, dressing up and changing baby diapers (if you can imagine that, but remember this is Africa). This field day event was also used for their very ceremonial graduation from the hard work they had completed during the past two weeks in the classroom. We were encouraged to carry some small money (about $0.25 cents for each student) to reward the competitors for winning these events.
The joy of this field day was incredible—filled with fun, laughs, Leonine food (thank God we had our reserve money to help out with this one), sportsmanlike competition, renewing acquaintances in the neighborhood, and making new friends. It proved to be a great outreach to the community of Calabar in Sierra Leone. Even though we had a sound system, we had not anticipated the more than 4,000 people from the area that came just to watch what the IPHC was doing for their community. I regret now that I did not have a salvation message to preach to the spectators. But in reality, the activities of the day from our church was sermon enough, as that country had just been through one of the worst wars in the history of Africa. It was so refreshing to see people just laugh again, enjoy the program, and eat the food offered to the participants.
This was a memorable event in our missionary career with these children. We do reach all ages, classes, and tribes, but this endeavor with the youth seemed to eclipse them all. In our primary and secondary schools in West Africa, we are making a difference. We want to not only educate them, but teach them the “ways of the Lord” so they will not follow in the footsteps of their forefathers with their many fears and superstitions. We understand there are a few generational gaps between us and the kids (we are both approaching 80), but somehow the Lord helped us communicate the Gospel to them.
In our six Bible Colleges, we encourage the students and pastors to implement what you have read here. This is a great work, and we are so grateful to serve with very talented, dedicated, and gifted nationals under the auspices of IPHC WMMD while in West Africa. Please continue to pray for Sierra Leone and our other seven countries where we have effective ministry in West Africa. We need your continued prayers and support for our own personal lives, and look forward to being with these people again in the very near future.
Photo Credit: Willard & Yvonne Wagner