VBS returns to Compton Corps

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The Salvation Army Compton (Calif.) Corps held its first Vacation Bible School (VBS) in six years this week, under new corps officers, Lts. Juan and Claudia Barriga.

Youth in attendance worship at the Compton Corps’ Vacation Bible Study.
Youth in attendance worship at the Compton Corps’ Vacation Bible Study.

The weeklong program, themed “Everest: Conquering Challenges with God’s Mighty Power,” featured Bible lessons, testimonies, worship, games and prizes for the youth in attendance. The evening events drew as many a 60 kids, spanning several age brackets.

Volunteers from the Southern California Division’s traveling VBS team offered to help teach, which Lts. Barriga welcomed. Juan Barriga explained the decision to reinstate the program after such a lengthy absence.

“There are three reasons,” Barriga said. “One, it gets kids to learn about Christ in a way that they understand. Two, it allows us to bring more kids into the congregation and reach their families. And the third reason is that it gives children a safe place to be.”

Compton has long carried a reputation marred with gang violence and crime, but Barriga said he uses it as an opportunity to steer local kids from trouble and toward Christ.

“A lot of the kids here have a very negative view of this city,” he said. “So, I tell them ‘be the change,’ and they take that seriously.”

Lts. Barriga previously served as assistant corps officers at the facility alongside Major Gwendolyn Jones, now campus chaplain at the College for Officer Training, at Crestmont.

“She really taught us how to get things done the right way,” he said. “It’s not always what you know; it’s who you know.”

Lts. Barrigas have taken that advice to heart. Since stepping in, they’ve already secured donations from The Home Depot and earned recognition from Compton Mayor Aja Brown.

An expanded facility with over $80,000 in new equipment donated by the Chris Paul Family Foundation has also allowed Lts. Barriga to flesh out corps programming for youth, which make up “about half” of the congregation, according to Juan Barriga.

For Lili Moreno, 11, this was her first VBS but not likely her last. She said she’ll most remember playing telephone, studying Bible verses and making new friends.

“God can heal you or do anything to do what he can for you,” she said.

Alexandra Arias, 25, served as one of the volunteer VBS teachers. She joined the traveling VBS team this year after becoming a soldier at Long Beach Citadel Corps. She’s since taught at Glendale, Burbank, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Camp Crags/Gilmore and now Compton.

“It’s great teaching the kids, but we’re also learning as we go; we’re getting back to the basics,” she said. “So there are definitely a lot of good reminders. “[The most challenging part is] getting the kids’ attention. You have to have a lot of energy. You definitely come in knowing that God’s prepared to use you so you have to be ready.”

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