My Grandma Orr’s advice still rings in my ears to this day. Thirty plus years ago she told me that I should look for a husband in church. She was right. I found someone with the same values I wanted in a life partner. When I moved to Wisconsin, I used her sage advice again and one of the first things I did even before I moved there was surf the net for a church in the greater Fox City area. I was not looking for a city church but one where there would be a mixture of farms families to white collar people. We never looked beyond the first church we visited, it fit and had all the opportunities we wanted, even though it was congregation of 1,200 members.
Being retired and a teacher, I was quickly brought aboard in to a worship committee, hand bells, Sunday School, woman’s Bible study, and Vacation Bible School, the latter which I am writing about.
This is the first year I worked with such a highly organized group that began in January with a monthly planning meeting, which by April moved into monthly work bees working on props and staging. It is about the same as doing a theater production. Vacation Bible School has changed greatly over the last half century.
When I was a child, our little church in Thompsonville, MI, had traveling missionaries come annually. One played the accordion and the other told wonderful flannel Bible stories. As a child I shamefully coveted the flannel figures and board and was totally fascinated with the entire story telling production.
Of course, Bible School in those days had wonderful refreshments: cookies and Kool-Aid. “Well, cookies and such WERE wonderful treats fifty some years ago. Also there were opportunities to win prizes like Bibles and statuary with Godly verses and sayings. I remember one year I memorized the required Bible verses and was able to pick a small white Bible with writing that now, is way too small to read. Another year I won a statue of an owl, that said “Trust in God”. We sang traditional Sunday School Songs and old time gospel tunes, all accompanied by the lady with the accordion. We played games and made humble crafts that reflected the message of the day.
Since I lived out in the country on a farm, VBS was something fun to look forward to after school dismissed for the summer.
What is VBS like now? There are CDs for the children and we sing to DVD videos that fill a huge screen with children using signing while moving to upbeat Britney Spear like numbers, professing the important message that God watches over us 24/7 and is always listening to us. The various VBS developers have had to keep pace with what kids watch and listen to, to keep their interest.
The flannel board is gone, now we use videos and interactive storytelling. The crafts have become more contemporary as have the games. The cookies and Kool-Aid have been replaced with catchy treats that tie in with the story or theme of the day. The area churches all run inviting themes: our this past week was “Pandamania” as a background for the songs, crafts, treats, and games. The stories remain the same, but cleverly tied into the theme.
I think in my little country church in Michigan we had 20-25 children attend VBS. Here in Wisconsin we have 150 or more. The number of volunteers is huge. Children and volunteers are encouraged to show love and serve their fellow man through mission projects for local food pantries and for our U.S. Troops overseas. All very worthy and loving causes.
Faith, why have it, you may ask? Because it can provide hope and spiritual guidance in your life. It gets you through rough times and the bumps in the road that life provides. It brings together people that you know will support you and love you. It is a unique group of people that serve others unselfishly. As in all groups, the dichotomy reflect some who are very active and others who are not. It is a group of people who come together because they want to better their life, not because they think they are better. It is a good solid environment to raise your children in. I was raised in this environment and late in high school and through college drifted and explored various philosophies and world religions. My decade of drifting proving fruitless and I returned to the foundation I began on, and have remained since. I volunteer and use my gifts and talents that I was given in my church. It is fulfilling and at times demanding. But it brings joy in many forms. I love involving kids in helping act out the story. And like today, before I knew it, I had a little wiry three year old scaling up my body like a little monkey and quickly finding a resting spot on my hip. I continued teaching, without a pause. The sign of a true teacher.
I have done something with VBS for the better part of thirty years. It would be easy to say, no I don’t want to use my time that way. But what a quality experience. In retrospect, I am always so glad I volunteered because of the camaraderie of fellow volunteers, personal spiritual growth, and because kids are fun and cool and best of all they go home with their parents at the end of each morning, with hope and an inspiring message.