We are all called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Those neighbors can be right in our own backyard or across the Anglican Communion. Over the past five summers, Christ Church, Winchester, has been developing relationships with the Church of the Transfiguration in Bani, Dominican Republic.
Through their week-long Vacation Bible School program, they not only have kids make crafts but they already create something useful. In 2014, this gift was a drawstring bag and a t-shirt with foot prints on it to emphasize their going out into the world to witness the love of Christ. As they wrote in their grant report, the draw string bags were conceptualized through conversations with teachers and clergy in Bani. It gives them something to continue to use throughout the year to carry their school supplies and books. Therefore, the relationships and tangible gifts help the children in ways beyond the Bible school.
Rebecca Gibson, a member of the mission team and Christ Church, shares below the impact of the Mustard Seed Grant and the overall impression on the team.
Our Mission Team from Christ Episcopal Church in Winchester has conducted Vacation Bible School mission trips to the city of Bani in the Dominican Republic for five summers since 2009. We have worked with the Church of the Transfiguration and several other smaller mission churches in the area. The Mustard Seed Grant has enabled us to purchase supplies for the children, such as crayons, glue, scissors, construction paper, colored chalk, markers and tissue paper. Many of these children have never had the opportunity to use craft items before. The joy on a child’s face shining through a paper plate lion mask is a true glimpse of God’s love for us and for children everywhere.
Over the years we have had the opportunity to develop relationships with the children and families of Bani. Watching them grow and become contributing members of their church community has been an aspect of mission work that we did not expect, but greatly appreciate. Our young friend Alexander, who recently graduated from high school and plans to pursue a medical degree, came to our first VBS as a student participant. He is now a valuable member of our team and a leader among the children. During the year he conducts a Saturday Bible School each week for the children of Transfiguration, often using the extra craft supplies that we have left for him from the mission trips.
The Mustard Seed Grant impacts those children for much longer than our ten day visits each year. Franklin and Francisca, a brother and sister who live in an unfinished dwelling across the road from the church, join us each summer. They are now young teenagers and they look forward to VBS all year long. Although they are shy, they participate fully in the program, dedicating themselves to each craft project with diligence, and encouraging the other children to play games on the playground.
Each time I return to Bani I am so grateful for the opportunity to know and work with the community of Transfiguration. I am happy that our group is able to provide them with the tools to reach out to the children and families of their community.
Written By: Rebecca Gibson
Photos Provided By: Rebecca Gibson and the Rev. Webster Gibson