Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Vacation Bible School, Part II

     Braden this year served as a missionary at an outer-island vacation bible school. (Last year we went as a family; he stayed the entire week, the rest of us stayed two nights.) And boy did the experience mature him!
     Last year, he acted up prior to the trip—probably due to repressed anxiety.  This year, he was calm and prepared and it was mostly Deanne that got antsy over whether he had packed everything. (I love leaving him to do it all—that's how he'll learn, by forgetting something important. It's how I learned the importance of a toothbrush when I forgot mine for a Boy Scouts summer camp and got my first cavity as a result.)
     And upon returning, he spoke with calm clarity—very unusual for him! (I've for years mimicked his mumbling, hurried indecipherable gibberish in countless attempts to get him to slow down and speak clearly in sentences that make sense. He had the rushed habit of speaking before thinking—with garbled thoughts, ungrammatical sentences, and lazy pidgin (“gonna” for “going to”, “dah” for “the”, “dey” for “they”, “gotta” for “got to”, etc.) I emphasized the need to be able to switch pidgin on and off, that I don't care how he speaks with friends, but with us, he must speak coherently so that we don't have to strain to understand or constantly ask for clarification.
     Upon the group's return, our pastor told Braden to prepare a short speech for Sunday service describing his missionary experience. The speech's script—less than 600 words—was to be submitted for her perusal first. I didn't ask to examine his draft, which he finished the morning following his return. But I did advise to make it personal, not “I enjoyed myself with the kids”, but rather, “I got close to Jeremy, a shy boy or a naughty or active boy. He was having trouble fitting in...or whatever.” Or don't say, “I matured a lot” but rather, “I normally don't feel comfortable speaking in public, but during blah blah blah, I blah blah blah and realized...whatever. In other words, specific names and specific examples—those will make it real and alive.”
     He nodded and said, Yes, Dad.
     I didn't see him do any rewrites, so he either got it right or didn't care enough to change it, I concluded.
     On Sunday he shared first (of three missionaries), speaking slowly, clearly (enough), and confidently—even injecting some humor (about our pastor) that elicited spontaneous laughter—even as he laughed while joking. He also had three concrete examples of learning and growing experiences. Projected images (arranged by our Associate Pastor) of a child Braden played with appeared on the back wall as he spoke, enhancing his presentation. I was pleasantly surprised by Braden's performance, gratified for his opportunity, and hopeful for his future. (So often I've wondered, Will he ever get there? Will it be in time? Now, he seems on track. Physically, he's matured rapidly while his emotions and intellect slowly catch up in sudden spurts—same as me when I was a kid. In fact, he's probably ahead of where I was at his age in many respects, though expectations are far higher these days.)
     I later asked Braden if our pastor changed anything of his draft and he said, No. His writing, then, also improved. A lot! I chock it all up to the expanding experience and doing God's work for a needy population—mostly second generation Hawaii residents, kids whose parents are from the South Pacific, many of whom struggle to get by.
     Our pastor shared that in coming years, our church hopes to train the local older kids to conduct the vacation bible school themselves. (At which point, perhaps, our church could then start another vacation bible school elsewhere.)

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