I grew up in a house where we never missed a Vacation Bible School.
I have made every single faith-based craft known to man. Some were not so tasteful… like the odd Jesus toilet paper roll craft... (Yes this exists, and yes, I think it's sacrilegious, too.) Others can only be classified as creative genius, such as the time I glued felt to a paper cut-out man, to exhibit Jacob stealing Esau's birthright. These crafts are very real, I have made them, and my mom still keeps them in a box somewhere.
My mom and I have always found so much joy in a good VBS craft. So, she was delighted this past summer when she realized she would get to lead VBS lessons and crafts on our Church’s mission trip to Ecuador.
Our church has been partnered for years with the Happiness Foundation, an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador. Their goal is to raise educated Christian men and women to become a positive influence within the country of Ecuador. Our goal… was to delight these children with crafts.
So, my family and I stuffed our carry-on bags with beads, crayons, homemade coloring sheets -- the works, for a way-South-of-the-border VBS experience, and we headed to Ecuador! You can only imagine what the customs officers must have wondered looking through our bags at the airport.
The first lesson my mom planned centered around the phrase “God Knows Your Name,” and was supplemented brilliantly by a name bracelet craft. We even had the good stretchy string, so the kids could take the bracelet off easily, instead of it becoming a permanent part of their anatomy. What we didn’t realize was the sheer volume of the letter A in Ecuadorian names.
Names like Anna Paula, Sebastian, Analia, Paulina, Aaron, Mattias, and so many more, made the letter A a hot commodity on bracelet day.
After digging and digging for a letter A, helping a sweet girl make her bracelet, I simply got tired of looking. I told her we were going to get creative, turn a V upside down, and just pretend it was an A.
She was vehemently against my resourcefulness.
She wanted HER name on this bracelet. Her correctly spelled name with all of its A’s. No substitutes.
When I saw her fierce desire to have her own name on this bracelet, I realized what this lesson must have meant to her. She was an orphan. She was fatherless. So, telling her there was a heavenly father, someone who created her, someone who knew her name, someone she belonged to, meant everything to her.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
Seeing this little girl find her validation in belonging to God made me realize I was looking for my own validation in all of the wrong places. Before going to Ecuador, I was obsessed with my own sense of belonging. I had just graduated from college, had lost my sense of security as a student, and had lost friends who were moving away to continue their education or start new jobs. I was stepping into a new adult world, trying to find a place where I fit, a place where I belonged.
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
—1 John 4:4
I was placing my sense of belonging in worldly things, and was left feeling empty when the things of the world revealed themselves as temporary. It took me going to Ecuador to understand I don’t have to find my belonging within the shifting sands of this world, I have a rock to stand on, someone I belong to, someone who is not temporary, but eternal.
Heavenly Father, I pray for each individual child at the Happiness Foundation. If they ever feel unwanted, remind them they are wanted and claimed by You. Help me to remember my true security and sense of self is not found in the temporary things of this world, but in You. Amen.
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