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After-school club teaches Bible with skits at Warden church

In Warden, the Mennonite Church’s Wednesday after-school Venture Club teaches children Bible stories with skits and fosters interaction to encourage Hispanic-Anglo reconciliation.

Warden Venture Club
Venture Club children have snack.
About 10 years ago, members Mary and Glenn Burkholder and Marlene Unruh wanted to form a children’s club.  With several others and the pastor, David Morrow, they helped start the club for children in the Warden School District. 

Few church members’ children attend because they go to school in Royal City, so the Venture Club draws neighborhood children from unchurched families.  About half now come from the Hispanic Mennonite church, Iglesia Cristo la Unica Esperanza—Christ the Only Hope—which the Warden Mennonite Church helped start in 1997. It shares its building with them.

The iglesia now has about 35 worshipers and the Mennonite, about 60.
“We work together on many things,” said David in a recent interview.  “We hold joint services on occasion, have such joint activities as a Sunday School picnic and youth rallies.”

Drawn into the Mennonite Church by its stand on reconciliation and peace between God and humanity and among people, David seeks to help people in the church live out that theology.

Having served with the Mennonite Central Committee, the relief and development organization of Mennonite and Anabaptist churches, from 1986 to 1990 in El Salvador, David and his wife, Irene, a nurse practitioner, speak Spanish.  In El Salvador, she trained health care promoters and he trained lay leaders.

“We were there as witnesses to and for the United States and Canadian churches during the civil war,” said David who grew up in Tennessee and graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1983.  He served a Cumberland Presbyterian church in Arkansas before going to El Salvador.  Then he worked with the Mennonite Mission Board in Texas before coming to Warden.

“Living in a country during a civil war convinced us of the futility of war in resolving problems,” David said, expressing how hard it is in a time of war to communicate about reconciliation to people who have never seen the effect of war on civilians and children, as he has.

venture club girl
Girl enjoys snack
Reconciliation between the Anglo and Hispanic communities is an important part of his ministry in the Warden Mennonite Church, a church established by farmers in the late 1950s, after irrigation came and drew them there.  Many who settled there were Mennonites.
Now the population of Hispanics has grown to about 80 percent of many nearby communities and about 50 percent of Grant County, David estimates.

“In school and neighborhoods, the children are growing up together.  They seem less conscious of differences than adults are,” he said.  “There are tensions in the community that arise from the cultural and language differences, especially among the first generation, but children born in the United States tend to assimilate.”

The Venture Club, which runs for one and a half hours Wednesdays after school, begins with recreation and snacks.  Then children from kindergarten through sixth grade gather to sing songs that help them memorize Scripture.  Then they see a five-to 10-minute Bible skit—short enough to hold their attention and long enough to communicate the essentials of the story.  They learn Hebrew Scriptures in the fall and New Testament in the spring.

After the skit, they break into classes for their age group and can ask questions about the Bible story that tie to their lives.

“Our teachers will ask them questions to prompt their questions about God and personal relationships,” David said.

The organizers have developed the curriculum and write the skits and questions teachers can use.  As the children participate through a three-year period they see many Bible stories acted out.

Many grow up in homes that have no Bibles.  Through the children, we seek to bring the Bible into homes to communicate that God is love, God’s son Jesus is an expression of that love, and the teachers in the Venture Club love them.”

Leaders had tried several prepared curricula, but they didn’t connect with the children.  Skits seemed effective, so David and other leaders began writing skits to help children remember the stories and understand their meaning.  Now they have developed a three-year cycle that they can reuse.

“Some children come every Wednesday, and some are in and out.  The attendance peaked about three years ago with 30 coming,” he said.  “In addition to the founders, about 15 other church members have helped teach over the years.”

Beyond Venture Club, the church’s outreach includes a sister-church relationship with Las Lajitas, Mexico, and a community-wide senior high youth group with Young Life.

Someone from the congregation travels to Las Lajitas each year just to visit or to help on a building project.

“The partnership helps build cross-cultural understanding in the community.  Visits enable people to understand the environment in the country and culture from which many people in Warden come,” David said.

With many attending Venture Club only through the fifth grade, Young Life helps the Assembly of God, Catholic, Mennonite and the Community churches reach older youth.

For information, call 349-2444.


By Mary Stamp, Fig Tree editor - Copyright © November 2004