Missions in Reverse: Rhode Island VBS Run Jointly by Brazilians and Americans

By Jenn Convey, TeachBeyond Informal Education

In January of 2016 a team from First Baptist Church of Narragansett, RI went to serve at an TeachBeyond English Camp in Gramado, Brazil. The team became very close to some of the Brazil staff and stayed in touch with them.  From those friendships an idea was born to have the mission trip go in reverse – to have the Brazilian team go to the US to work alongside the church’s Vacation Bible School staff. After much prayer and discussion everyone decided to try to make it work. Finances were a big obstacle, as well as convincing the families and churches of the young Brazilians that there was a need for missionaries in the United States.  Many of the Brazil team were in or just out of college, and the economy in Brazil wasn’t strong. Fundraising done in Brazil helped with the project and the small church in Narragansett raised money to help bring nine counselors from Brazil to the US.

Although enrollment in the church’s VBS had dwindled over the years, the multicultural aspect of this new VBS, along with offering it for free from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm for five days, brought the numbers from 30 or so to nearly 100.

A large portion of the kids were not connected to a church normally, and many were hearing the gospel for the first time. The feedback from the parents and the entire community was overwhelmingly positive. An unexpected delight was watching nearly every individual in the Narragansett church participate in some way with the VBS. People purchased food items, worked on registration, cleaned, stood in as counselors, decorated for the theme, and served lunches and snacks.  It was a level of enthusiasm and activity the church hadn’t seen in its congregation in a long time.

The TeachBeyond Brasil/ First Baptist Church of Narragansett joint-VBS happened for the third year this past summer, with two teen days added in the second and third years. The people on the team from Brazil have varied some each year but the mission has remained the same. The church building and grounds have been used to honor God by teaching the gospel with joy and energy. Connections between Brazilians and Americans have been made and strengthened – and all agree that they continue to be blessed beyond expectations.