Heaven, Baseball, and English

Heaven, Baseball, and English

“We are strangers here; heaven is our home.” 

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

When thinking about Vacation Bible School this summer (January – our seasons are upside down), we realized that even though we live in Linares, we have many relationships in Longaví where we teach. Then the idea emerged, “Why not have two Bible Schools this summer? We can have one in Longaví and one in Linares!”

And so the idea grew and God blessed it:

  • We learned that a volunteer (Abbey Fehr) was interested in coming to Chile during the first week of January to volunteer and assist with VBS.
  • We found a beautiful partnership with the Teens for Christ at Lakeside Lutheran High School who were interested in donating materials.
  • Several of the youth at our church were very excited about the idea and wanted to help.
  • The director at my school in the countryside of Longaví gave permission to us to use the school grounds.


As the logistical pieces started to fall in place, we began to plan what VBS would specifically look like. In the past, VBS has only been done in Linares and it seems that a great percentage of attendees had been church kids who are now well into their late teens. We brainstormed ideas of how to reach out to the community and of how to spread interest. Realizing that four of the VBS leaders were from the United States, certified teachers, and native English speakers, we developed the idea of combining devotions with free English/baseball lessons. This further spun into the theme of “We are strangers here; heaven is our home.” The goal was to interest as many people/children as possible with free English and Baseball, but then of course the ultimate goal was to share the gospel with them and the beautiful reality that we are all foreigners here and that our true home in heaven has already been won for us!

It was truly a joy to work closely with the Teens for Christ from Lakeside Lutheran High School and their advisor Ruth Hirschfeld! I met Ruth when she attended a presentation Jon and I gave about the Linares mission at a church in Fort Atkinson. She came up afterwards and offered the idea of partnering with her students to get materials that could be used at our church for activities like VBS. At the beginning of November we were able to share with Ruth our ideas for VBS and what materials would be helpful and difficult to get in Chile (like baseball bats!). She and her students went to work and WOW the outcome was truly an incredible blessing.

Here are the Teens for Christ students. They organized a what looks to be an incredibly yummy bake sale that raised over $300!!! I believe it lasted several days! 

It is a pretty special thing to think of all the students and faculty members who helped us through this bake sale.

This special young lady and her mom fought against the snow to buy tons of materials for our church to use for events like Vacation Bible School. 
WOW – We have enough materials for SEVERAL events!

On top of this wonderful bag of donations and ALL of the work the students did during the bake sale, one of the students also applied for and received a special grant for the Kingdom Worker mission in Chile. Our ability to live and serve in Chile is partly dependent on donations. This young lady’s big heart and application for this grant meant that over $1,000 was donated in addition to the materials items. What an incredible blessing!!!!

We are excited to send special words of thanks and hugs for Ruth and her students with Jenny Proeber who will be visiting the states in February!

Volunteer Abbey Fehr arrived in late January, and her presence and help was just wonderful. She brought with her the suitcase of donations from Lakeside, and she helped us to create the VBS lessons and materials needed. Abbey is a teacher in a bilingual school so her Spanish skills were an additional blessing and allowed her to build relationships with church members and VBS students.

Welcoming Abbey to Linares!
Abbey and I celebrating as we unpacked the donations from Lakeside. 

In addition, Abbey’s church raised the money needed for her to come to Chile. Because of this blessing, Abbey donated the money she personally had raised to VBS as well! This extra financial donation covered additional costs including baseball hats with the VBS theme for each student, daily snacks during VBS for students and volunteers, printing advertisements for canvassing, printing materials in general including the daily devotions so that they could be sent home to the families, and a car rental to help in transporting materials and volunteers to Longaví.

Here is an example of the baseball hat that each student received. 

The VBS in Longaví was held for two days at the school where I teach. Since this was our first time hosting VBS in Longaví, we figured two days would be a great starting point. As mentioned above, the theme was “We are Strangers Here; Heaven is our Home.” Students that attended received passports that guided them as the “traveled” through daily devotions, English mini-lessons in various countries, and learned how to play baseball. Each student received a Lakeside folder that could house all their materials. This way they could easily take materials home to share what they learned each day with their families.

Each day began with a devotion. Here a member of our church, Camilo, is teaching devotion on the first day. During this devotion the students received their passports and filled them out. They learned how important passports are and that they are the “ticket” to being able to travel and to live in other countries. Camilo then attached this earthly lesson to a spiritual one with the questions: How do we get to heaven? Do we need a passport? What do we need? It was a beautiful introduction to Jesus and His death and resurrection – the perfect “ticket” to eternal life. We don’t need to do anything but have faith. He did it all! 
It was really cool to see the young men of our church step up to lead these devotions. It turned out to be a neat partnership. Jon was able to write the devotions while Camilo (who is majoring in English) translated the devotions and lead them with another church member Sebastian. 
Here Patricio is filling out his passport. There is a line that reads: Final Destination. There the students wrote “Heaven!”
After devotion, the students headed outside to different countries or stations. Every day they rotated through these countries to learn a new skill in English and to receive a stamp in their passport. 
Here is Jenny teaching adjectives with actions. 
Here I am teaching “to be” verbs. 
Abbey had the Party Station! Students learned basic invitation vocabulary. Then they were able to dress up and practice inviting (what, where, when, time, address etc.) one another to a party. Check out Pastor in his nice bow-tie. 
Camilo held down the number station. It was pretty cool for the students to see a Chilean who is in college learning English. 
Students especially liked the numbers station because they practiced listening to numbers and putting a Teddy Graham on the correct number. If they were correct then they got to eat it! One of our church volunteers liked the Teddy Graham’s so much she asked Jenny to bring some back for her after her visit to the states.  
Jon teaching baseball basics. 

The students  LOVED baseball and every day asked to play longer. They especially liked trying the different sized bats out and progressing from using the tee to being pitched to. It was such a blessing to play in the shade of the school playground. Chile summers get hot!

At the end of each day, Pastor lead the group in closing questions and prayer. 
It was during this end of the day discussion that little Martina realized that you don’t have to be a “good girl” to go to heaven. The ticket is our Savior Jesus and having faith in him. 
Lots of hugs for Tia Abbey! It was such a blessing to have her with us. 
A special treat: these two students compete in the local cueca (Chilean National Dance) competitions. They were happy to do a dance for us! 
On the last day we created names for our baseball teams and painted faces before playing. The beautiful lady painting faces is Fran, another church member. She helped each day by getting our lunch/snack ready and participating in the activities. 
Group Shot! 
At the end of the last day students had their passports checked. If it was complete they received a prize!
The prize was a globe (thank you Lakeside students!) with the VBS theme and bible passage written on it. The globe, plus the baseball hat and folder of devotions and materials, will hopefully serve as reminders to the children of their true citizenship and home in heaven freely won and given to them through faith. 
VBS in Longaví allowed us to share Jesus not only with the students but also with their parents and the assistants who were working at the school. Many parents expressed gratitude and hopes for VBS to be run again next year and for many more days. “You should have this every Wednesday and Thursday for all of January!” Assistants, like Yohanna pictured here, asked many questions about what we were doing and about our church. Yohanna really wanted to wear one of our t-shirts and brought blackberries to share for all the volunteers and students. 
So thankful for these young men and their help! 
Also thankful for these beautiful ladies and their help! 

As a whole, it was wonderful to have VBS in Longaví! We look forward to doing it again next year hopefully for a full week. We realized that we have a lot of support from our schools and parents who shared a lot of details about VBS through social media. God is good!

Now, if you guys know us, then you know that we just couldn’t let Abbey leave without seeing some of our favorite sports in gorgeous Chile! We had an afternoon adventure drive up into the mountains and a day trip at the coast. In one afternoon and one day, Abbey saw both sides of Chile!

At the end of January, we had VBS in Linares. While Abbey was here, she helped us to canvas in the neighborhood of the church to spread the word. We also posted announcements to the very active Linares facebook page and canvassed again in the busy downtown plaza. VBS in Linares was very similar to the one in Longaví except that we were able to use the church for the lessons!

Every morning, as we waited for everyone to arrive, we played a fun learning English card game with Tia Jenny. The kids loved it!
Jon and Sebastian lead the devotions every day centering on the same themes of heaven, Jesus, and faith. We sadly don’t have many pics of this part because our camera man was leading the devo! 
Here is Ricardo with his passport. He was so proud to remember the word “Heaven” in English!
The English learning stations were outside in the shade of our new church! 
Church member Isabel stopped by one afternoon with her grandson. She brought snacks for the students to share and hung out with us for the afternoon lessons and prayer. 

Students learned many things throughout the week including numbers, colors, shapes, food, like & don’t like, descriptions etc. They were a wonderful little group with positive and very excited to learn attitudes. One mom texted us saying,”Antonella has been so happy to participate and comes home every day talking non-stop about what you did that day.”

Just like in Longaví the kids LOVED baseball. Here Jon and Jenny are teaching the basics of throwing. 
Every day we took a little walk to the neighboring fields to play. The suitcase that Lakeside sent turned out to be a huge blessing in itself for hauling baseball materials!

The week of VBS in Linares turned out to be quite eventful. Chile has been experiencing its worst forest fires in history and many are in our region. During this week, sirens were going off every couple hours as our fire fighters rushed to help neighboring cities. During the first half of the week we could see the smoke in the distance, however on Thursday afternoon we were in for a shock when suddenly thick smoke rolled into Linares causing the town to shut down and everyone to move inside and to close up all windows/doors. News spread quickly that fires near to us were moving closer and that the famous Super Tanker plane was working to drop water on those areas. Other news spread that the fires were close to our electrical grids. We spent the afternoon making the necessary precautions and praying for our fire fighters. God answered and the fires were pushed back! We are feeling very safe now with most of the fires nearby out and one under control.

Because of the fires and smoke roll-in on Thursday, we canceled VBS for it’s last day. It was a sad but necessary precaution. However, we were so happy to hear from the mom of some of our students who shared that despite the smoke and fire alarm, Lukas and Aneis still wanted to come to say goodbye to us. We were able to give them hugs and their globe prizes. Their mom was so happy and asked if we would be doing the same thing next year as well. Another of the students dropped by our house with his mom over the weekend to say hi as well.

As whole, it was such a blessing to be able to teach VBS twice this summer in two different cities. It is special now to look back and see all the pieces that made it possible: Ruth and her Lakeside students, Abbey and her church, members of our church here, parents who shared the news, etc.

We are already excited for VBS next summer!



2 thoughts on “Heaven, Baseball, and English

  1. Jeremy

    Awesome work, everyone!

    We recently discovered Jon’s vlog and the whole family has been watching it and praying for the fires to end soon. God bless!


    1. Thank you so much for your prayers – the fires are just devastating. Thanking God that the ones closest to us are out or controlled but there still are so many others. Praying for safety for the fire fighters and for the police to find everyone involved in starting them!


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