By Morgan Consier
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of International Mission (OIM) has released its third English Bible Camp curriculum, an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) resource that can be used to share the Gospel both in the United States and internationally.
The curriculum is designed to be an all-in-one resource that volunteers can use to lead a camp, regardless of whether they have experience teaching English or working in an ESL setting. This year’s curriculum is titled “Jesus Frees Us” and uses Old Testament stories to show how Jesus frees His people and how they can respond in love in various circumstances.
As the OIM has created the materials, they have made sure Jesus and the Gospel are at the center.
“We want to make sure that we keep the focus on the gifts that God gives us in Jesus — especially because, in an ESL setting, it’s a lot harder to communicate multiple concepts,” said Anne Gonzalez, manager of short-term training for the OIM and part of this year’s writing team.
The Rev. Andrew Fedder, LCMS missionary to Bucharest, Romania, used the 2019 English Bible Camp curriculum titled “To: You, From: God” with Arabic-speaking adults in his previous parish in El Cajon, Calif. The curriculum’s Gospel focus helped him choose it over other ESL camp resources.
“While we were looking for materials … I came across the LCMS English Bible Camp curriculum. The fact that it was from the LCMS gave me confidence that it was vetted theologically and would be of high quality,” Fedder said.
At the heart of the curriculum is the daily Bible lesson, which determines the words and concepts to be focused on that day. The lessons, which include crafts and a game, can be adapted for the needs of those leading or participating in the camps.
“Jesus Frees Us” also includes a theme song written by Benjamin Helge, LCMS missionary to the Eurasia region and part of the writing team. The song focuses on important words and themes from throughout the camp.
“Participants at [an] English Bible camp hopefully remember not only vocabulary words in English but the main theme of the camp as well as that Jesus has overcome sin, death and the devil,” Helge said.
Chelsea Irwin, missionary coordinator for volunteer opportunities in the LCMS Eurasia region and part of the writing team, has been helping with English Bible Camps for 13 years — through high school, in college as she studied ESL methods, and now as a full-time missionary. She has seen firsthand how the camps and lessons can be adapted from year to year based on the volunteers and the participants.
“One thing that I have noticed in writing an ESL curriculum is that you can never be fully prepared,” Irwin said, adding that it’s impossible to predict what level of English the students or interpreter will have.
Since the materials can be adapted for a variety of participant experience levels or ages, the curriculum can be used in a variety of settings.
“English can open doors to many people. That’s what makes this curriculum [applicable] globally,” Fedder said. “It applies to immigrants and refugees in the U.S. as much as it applies to church youth camps abroad or … adults in Eastern Europe who want to better their life by increasing their English proficiency.”
Jacy Jackson, a 2023 volunteer who helped field test “Jesus Frees Us” in Radom, Poland, shared how the camp impacted both children and volunteers alike.
“The kids were eager to come back each day with more excitement than the last day. God worked in amazing ways,” Jackson said. “Even the translators learned something new and felt inspired by the Gospel and God’s love.”
Morgan Consier (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an editor and writer who lives with her husband and children in central Iowa.
Posted Oct. 23, 2023/Updated Nov. 28, 2023