Goessel class applies hands-on lessons about helping others

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
Chrystiana Voth, Craig Banman and 10 others from the Goessel community spent five days of their summer learning about helping others in little, yet important ways.

That group made up the sixth grade-and oldest-class of vacation Bible schoolers in an annual program sponsored jointly by the Alexanderwohl and Goessel Mennonite churches last month.

The week focused on learning about serving by serving others-including working together at Joyful Noise Community Child Care Center in Goessel.

“There was a box of pieces of (games, puzzles and toys) that we got to sort through and find where everything went,” said 12-year-old Chrystiana about spending part of the morning of Day 1 at Joyful Noise.

While the girls sorted through toys pieces and organized dress-up clothes inside the childcare center, Craig, also 12, and the other boys were outside putting sand into a new sandbox and pulling weeds along the fence.

Both Chrystiana and Craig will be seventh graders at Goessel Junior High in fall. Their mothers, Janice Voth and Sandy Banman, co-taught the VBS class.

“We did some little project every day,” said Janice Voth, who developed the curriculum of lessons and activities that focused on the theme “Share & Care”-sharing experiences of serving others.

“This was my first year I ever worked with Bible school,” she said about being involved in the program that has emphasized service for the sixth grade for a number of years. “I thought there needed to be some scriptural basis for (the program).”

Voth said she adapted the curriculum from several library books and a handbook from DOOR-Denver, an urban organization that views ministry and service as an outflow of authentic Christian faith.

“I just took the skeleton idea from of what (DOOR) had and did that with this group.”

She created a booklet for lessons and Scriptural passages that corresponded with activities tied to five key concepts: give, play, befriend, hunger and homeless, and service.

The group spent half a day working on Day 3 at Haven of Hope in Wichita.

“Haven of Hope is a shelter for homeless women and children,” said Pam Hartman, coordinator of the volunteer program there.

Affiliated with the Union Rescue Mission in Wichita, Haven of Hope is supported by private donations and hours of volunteer labor, she said.

At Haven of Hope, the 12 sixth-grade volunteers from Goessel divided into two groups.

“Half of them pulled weeds and grass out of the playground, and also picked up any trash around the building,” Voth said. “The other group separated bulk flour and sugar into smaller packages (in the food pantry).”

After lunch, they helped prepare shelves in the kitchen storage area for a new paint job.

“We just did the taping part,” she said about the afternoon’s work.

The group worked on other projects at the church and different locations during the week.

On Day 4, the girls planted marigolds in the front of the church and the boys painted a shed for Johnnie Reimer, an elderly man who attends Alexanderwohl church.

Craig said the boys took about two hours to paint Reimer’s shed.

“He said he was really happy because now he’d be able to see a nice white shed,” Craig said. He added that some boys also got white paint on each other-“maybe on purpose.”

Teachers Voth and Banman coordinated the activities completed during the week.

“We had in advance sent out letters to several of members of our church-we wanted to be a slave for the day,” Voth said. “We didn’t get any response.

“Then Monday morning Johnnie called….He was just thrilled to have the guys there.”

On Day 5, the group first helped prepare for a luncheon meeting that would be held at the church.

“We set up the tables and made some fruit kabobs for the teacher evaluation meeting that was at noon,” Voth said. “We scurried that morning so we could get our prayer walk in.

“The idea of reaching out to others is not just to people who are far away from us, but we’ve got lots of people locally we can help,” Voth said. “In my mind, that was the emphasis and hoping they learned this.”

The prayer walk on Day 5 was a highlight for the teachers and some of the children, Voth said.

“When we went on our prayer walk, we gave a small loaf of quick bread (baked on Day 2) to the persons that we were praying with,” Voth said. “We were praying with primarily elderly in our church-we split up into to groups and went to homes in Goessel.

Banman said: “I had three or four kids with me. We were just walking around town. We had picked out houses ahead of time, and we knew houses we could go to as far as we had time.”

At one stop, a woman told the children she had just returned from the doctor with the news that tests showed her cancer was no longer in remission.

“She just started crying and just opened up to us,” Banman said. “I got tears in my eyes. The kids were just wide-eyed. She just really then talked to them and told them how she appreciated our stop.”

Before leaving, the children and the woman stood in a circle with their hands joined and prayed for her, Banman said.

According to Banman and Voth, the children yearly anticipate their week of service at vacation Bible school because the class has become a rite of passage from elementary to junior high school.

What the children gained through their experiences this summer may not be evident until sometime later.

“Hopefully it’s planting a seed,” Banman said. “As they get into the high school youth group and further, they’ll be interested in doing some kind of service, and see how important it is that they can help others.”

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