Liza Stanley, an Apache woman living in Bylas, Arizona tells the gospel story to over a dozen children every week in Sunday School. She's thankful because just a few months ago, the Bylas congregation wasn't sure if they would be able to sustain a Sunday School class. They wondered if children would come...and if teachers would really commit. Several years of attempts at children's education had sputtered out, leaving many frustrated. This spring, they reached out to Kingdom Workers and asked for mentorship.
In response, three Kingdom Worker volunteers (two grade school teachers and a Lutheran Pioneer leader) prepared Christian Education curriculum materials. They planned an encouraging trip to the San Carlos Apache reservation in late June, 2015. Local Kingdom Worker coordinator Anna Sherod encouraged the congregation to evaluate its own strengths and weaknesses before another attempt at re-starting the Sunday School. During the spring, two more congregations reached out and asked for workshops, so Cibecue and East Fork were added to the volunteer's itinerary. Pre-trip orientation urged the Kingdom Worker volunteers engage teachers in each congregation in independent, locally informed, and confident Sunday School planning.
Thalia Pollard, one of the education mentors, said that the most memorable moment of the experience was during a hot afternoon session in Cibecue, AZ. One of the nine trainees was feeling apprehensive about her teaching ability. This woman was given the chance to practice teaching a lesson to the group using a felt story board. Given the freedom to use the printed materials as a "guideline," she began excitedly explaining the story of salvation, weaving English and Apache together as the bits of fabric came alive. Everyone at the workshop was captivated by her story: the gospel joyfully shared! Cibecue's congregation used to have only one regular Sunday School teacher. Now, "The teacher, Verle, has been getting breaks," says pastor Gary Lupe. "More ladies feel confident in teaching."
The Bylas Sunday school has picked up momentum throughout the summer, and teacher Liza loves to talk about it. "What I remember the most [about the Kingdom Worker mentoring] is when [volunteer] Pat said to the whole group, 'We're here to give you the tools you need to get started, but in the end this Sunday school will be your own and you will use it to serve the children and the community that you know and love.' That stuck out to everyone, our group kept bringing it up all summer. When she said that out loud, she gave us the freedom to make it our own."
Liza reflected on the change that she's seen from Sunday School being something routine or anxiety inducing, to being a joyful part of their church community, "We realized that there are no limits on how it 'should be.' We learned to use the curriculum and our gifts to enhance and emphasize the truths of God's Word. We learned that we can prep for the classes together, we can lean on each other as a community." Taking a cue from the Cibecue congregation, the Bylas church has begun to teach children Bible vocabulary in Apache. Younger teens have stepped up to be teaching assistants. The Bylas congregation's Sunday School has become multilingual and multigenerational; they have truly made it their own.
Empowering laypeople to share the gospel is at the heart of everything that Kingdom Workers does. The volunteers that served the Bylas congregation and the local Sunday School teachers were uniquely supported by Kingdom Workers staff who worked to identify, connect, and guide them. We praise God for every person equipped to share the Gospel, for every soul touched on each of our mission fields. Please consider helping us to expand and increase our work with a donation, so that we can reach more people like Liza. Please pray for the members of the Apache Lutheran Churches, that they may share your story boldly with the next generation. Please pray that the hearts of the many who do not know God may be softened as the whole Christian church holds onto His Word, shining and brilliant with hope.
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Volunteers will have pre-trip orientation with the Apache Project Manager, Anna Sherod. A short on-site orientation including information about community culture, demographics, and history will also be provided for visiting volunteers.
Due to high incidence of alcohol abuse in the surrounding area, drinking alcohol will be highly discouraged on this project.