Take a stick - say, part of an old broom handle, or a length of dry bamboo - and collect some plastic bottle caps from here and there off the ground, and you've got the components for a perfectly good game. Stick caps is what I called it. One little boy liked to toss them up himself and hit them so he could play even when there were no friends around, but mostly the kids were taking turns pitching and hitting. I discovered firsthand that this game could become quite addictive. The kids I played with were great sports about taking turns, and after I had pitched a couple dozen times I was invariably handed the stick to give my best effort at hitting. My cap hitting abilities were about on par with my bat and ball hitting, so it was no more humiliating than playing whiffle ball in my backyard with the grandchildren. Some of those kids could hit a cap so hard that it split right in two when it made contact with the stick!
Me pitching bottle caps
Me attempting to hit bottle caps
Whenever there was a lull in the construction work it provided an opportunity to mix it up with the local kids who were always around. Some of our team members seem to have a special gift for building relationships with the children, and I envied them just a little, but my connecting point was to play games with them or take their photos. Every kid seems to know the word photo, and they love to be photographed and then look at the images on our digital cameras, so we could spend a lot of time together doing photo shoots. Occasionally I would even allow one of the children to use my camera to take a picture of me with another child, which was a special privilege that they seemed to love. Regi brought a couple frisbees and a ball or two, providing some variety from stick caps, and those toys will undoubtedly be used until there is nothing left of them. In my week in Pedregal, the only toys I saw that we hadn't brought with us were one tricycle, one doll and a couple of plastic guns. Other than that the kids played with junk. A latex glove kept two little girls busy in a dirt pile, filling it up, shaking it around, dumping it out, trying different methods of filling it or manipulating the filled glove. A boy was the envy of his friends as he played with a snake that he had caught.
Brad showing the kids the photo he just took of them
Children at medical clinic were given balloons (Notice dog.)
Boy with snake
Pete playing ball with kids
Kristi getting a new hairstyle
Me playing frisbee
Mark giving piggy back ride
Kristi is happiest when she is surrounded by kids
Brad & Roscoe have tagalongs
Regi & Kristi always have kids around them
Debbie is a child magnet
Brad thumb wrestles with some tough guys
Debbie giving away crocheted crosses
Lin braiding some pretty hair
Regi and one of his many friends
Lin & Maria
The stickers and small playthings that were given to the children throughout the week were excitedly received, but nothing beat the love of the bracelets. Too bad there were only a hundred to give away, as they were desired by boys and girls, teenagers and adults. They went like hotcakes and the kids who didn't get one were begging for them the rest of the week. These bracelets were special because of the ingenious symbols imprinted on them which provide a guide for telling the story of Jesus. The down arrow means that Jesus came from heaven to earth. The cross means that He died for us. The two curved lines like a double rainbow symbolize the empty tomb, followed by an up arrow and then another down arrow, meaning that Jesus went back up to heaven but one day He will come again. It is such a simple way to tell the story of Jesus that even a child could repeat it after hearing it once, pointing to each symbol and explaining its meaning.
Julia showing off her bracelet
Our prayer is that the children and teenagers who own and wear these bracelets now will think about the gift of salvation that has been offered, and that they will respond in their hearts by choosing to follow Jesus. If they think the love we lavished on them was something, it doesn't compare to the love of Jesus that is theirs just by saying yes to Him.