‘Just Working With the Kids’

By Rachel Greco

For seven of the last eight summers prior to moving to Waxhaw, Danielle Townsend taught Vacation Bible School (VBS) in Wisconsin. So when she saw that the JAARS Fellow position of Cross Cultural Youth and Kids’ Ministries included developing a nine-week VBS curriculum and teaching it, her attention was piqued. It also helped that the position was an opportunity to minister to children and youth—just what she was looking for! 

Danielle was able to implement many of the object lessons and ideas from the previous VBSs she had led into the one she created for this year’s JAARS Summer Safari program. Danielle’s supervisor, Patti Garretson, wanted to put a larger emphasis on Bible memorization, and Danielle had worked with a Bible memory program in the past, so she was able to weave that into her curriculum. The children memorized about one verse a day! 

Danielle teaches kids at Summer Safari.

God has used Danielle’s time in the JAARS Fellows experience to grow her more than she had expected. For the first time she’s been on her own in an apartment and learned how to live independently by purchasing her own groceries, cooking, and paying rent. “The nice thing is,” Danielle said, “it’s in a safe space where I have a community if I need help.” If Danielle needs something from the store or has a question, she can just reach out to the other nearby Fellows.  

The variety of her job has also stretched Danielle because she has worked in the preschool and with high schoolers and planned the curriculum for Summer Safari. “I’m [also] on a multi-generational team, working with people of all ages, so it’s been a very growing experience.” 

Danielle has also grown in her knowledge about JA ARS. When she arrived, she wasn’t very familiar with the organization and all that it does. She didn’t expect there to be so many people living and working at the center, nor so many departments. “I’ve learned all the different things that JAARS does here and overseas, and it’s a lot more than I thought.” 

With the other JAARS Fellows in her cohort, Danielle took a Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. She didn’t want to take the course at first because the homework would eat up personal time. “But once I started doing it, I really love[d] it, and I’m so glad that they’re having us do it.” 

Just as the name indicates, the course has changed Danielle’s perspective on the gospel and missions. She has realized that God’s promise to bless the world through Abraham and eventually Jesus didn’t end there; the truth that Jesus lives in Christians means we need to go out and bless the world. 

Danielle doesn’t feel like she’s called to serve overseas, but God has shown her that she can reach the world for Christ right here in the U.S. Even in her role as the Cross Cultural Youth and Kids’ Ministries Fellow, Danielle is serving in missions. She didn’t see that at first, thinking: “I’m just working with the kids.” But then she realized that if she teaches the kids she interacts with, then she’s helping train them in the knowledge of Christ to hopefully someday follow him. And then they may go out to be mission workers overseas. “So I may have a behind-the-scenes part to overseas missions, but I’m still involved with it.” 

Dani (far right) with some seniors from the JAARS high school youth group.

The behind-the-scenes roles in missions are just as important as those on the “front lines.” 

You too can have an impact in expanding God’s kingdom here and around the world! Click here to learn more about JAARS Fellows.