Vacation Bible School: Why We Do It

Just the words “Vacation Bible School” conjure up happy childhood memories for me. Of popsicle stick napkin-holders and purple Kool-Aid. Of pledges to the flags and “Red Rover, Red Rover, send ——- right over.”

My husband Al and daughter Audra have been braving mornings of Vacation Bible School at our church, Ridgecrest Baptist Church, all week. The theme for the week has been “Amazing Wonders Aviation”. Attendance for VBS has hovered at 300 persons for children and helpers alike. Lots of fun, food, and fellowship. All centered around Bible stories, music, crafts and recreation.

Having done an informal survey of other churches in our area, I’ve found very few hold daytime Vacation Bible Schools any more. Most churches, if they still do one, offer it in the evenings when they can more easily secure helpers.

Some might say Vacation Bible School has outlived its usefulness. Like other old Baptist ways of Training Union or Sunday night worship, it’s often scoffed as a ministry idea that is outdated, ineffective, unappreciated.

Those naysayers couldn’t be more wrong.

Our revamped VBS is a new animal. At least at Ridgecrest where God has blessed us with the staff to pull it off, the children shuffle through the building in a block schedule. They are moved from place to place as a hall bell rings, signaling them to go onto their next activity. Thus, fewer specialized teachers are actually needed, and many of the helpers function simply as “crowd control/kid movers.”

 

Meet Max Elkins, a 24-year-old young man who showed up to help out.

He recognized my husband Al.  “I remember you,” he said to Al. “I used to come to Vacation Bible School when I was a kid and you were here THEN, doing the music.” It’s true, we’ve been serving at Ridgecrest 24 years, and have seen a lot, a LOT of kids come and go through the doors.

Max went on to say, “I’ve been attending Ridgecrest as a visitor, heard we were having Vacation Bible School this week, and wondered if I could pitch in. Where can you use me?”

After Al’s initial shock, he directed Max to the snack area, where Denise Simmons got him and everyone else on track, churning out neat treats for the kids in assembly-line fashion.

 

Vacation Bible School made a lasting impression on this young man and he wanted to give back.

We cannot predict the results this week of light-hearted exploration about God will have on tender hearts and minds.  Some children will definitely become believers.

Others will grow into adults, who will perhaps remember VBS with fondness and will entrust their children to us someday. Whatever the outcome, we get to plant lots of SEEDS and watch God produce a harvest.

Vacation Bible School. That’s why we still do it.

Lookin’ up,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haiti In My Heart

photo credit: Haiti Outreach Ministries

This post is about a country which I’ve never seen . . . but have carried in my heart for some time.

My home church, Ridgecrest Church, has been taking short-term mission trips to Haiti since 1999, once or twice a year.  Many times I wanted to go but could not, due to family issues or work issues. I have longed to see and touch and experience this country for myself.

But hallelujah, this time I’m going! Along with 26 other adults and teens (many of them seasoned veterans), we will be flying from Miami, Florida, into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 7th and will be gone seven days during Easter week. We are going to assist Haiti Outreach Ministries, our partner organization in Haiti headed by Pastor Leon Dorleans, his wife Jacky, and daughter Nadege, to do whatever construction projects or other tasks they assign to us. (That’s Jacky’s and Nadege’s picture up there to the left.)

Haiti, as you can imagine, still carries devastating scars from the massive 2010 earthquake. Many of its buildings are toppled. High unemployment and a scarcity of food are great problems, especially in Port-au-Prince, its largest city with  1.25 million people squeezed into a 15-square-mile radius. Many Haitians still live in tent cities, constructed of whatever materials they could salvage to sleep under. It is in the tent cities where a cholera outbreak post-earthquake further decimated the population. Haiti’s fledging government, struggling under the newly-elected President Michel Martelly, is trying to stay afloat and strengthen the country’s fragile, almost nonexistent infrastructure.

I went looking online for a news update on Haiti and found what seems to be hopeful signs. A recent article by Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson (The New York Times, January 8, 2012) relates how Haiti can be re-born through its rich heritage of rural farming. “It is easy to forget that, for most of the 19th century, Haiti was a site of agricultural innovation, productivity and economic success,” the reporters stated. They went on to detail how this could happen:

Municipal governments should construct properly equipped marketplaces for the women who sell rural produce. The Haitian state should develop trade policies aimed at protecting the agricultural sector, and take the lead in fixing roads and ports, confronting deforestation and improving systems of water management. Foreign organizations working in the country can help simply by making it a policy to buy food and other goods from local producers.

The return on the investment in the rural economy would be self-reliance, the alleviation of dangerous overcrowding in cities and, most important, a path toward ending Haiti’s now chronic problems of malnutrition and food insecurity. As Haitians look to rebuild in 2012, the best blueprints will come from their own proud and vibrant history.

We pray for Haiti’s new economy.  May the people boldly return to their agrarian roots, rehabbing deforested wasteland into verdant farmland and self-sufficiently feeding themselves.  May their new government truly serve the people, instituting needed social structures to make its citizens’ lives better. May Haiti’s children grow up to be adults instilled with hope and pride in their future.

We believers continue to pray for great spiritual revival upon Haiti, too. May the ministries like those of Pastor Leon’s continue to reach and touch lives, leading souls to know the Bread of Life, the Living Water of Jesus Christ.

Would you join  me in prayer? Heavenly Father, we acknowledge You as Sovereign God. We pray that You create inroads for the revitalization of Haiti, Father. May You put into place everything needed for Haiti’s citizens to again flourish and grow their own food, to be a self-sustaining nation. May you continue a mighty spiritual revival, that many souls come to know You as Savior and Lord.  May You bless the contributions of those who go to be Your hands and feet. May whatever is left behind in Haiti lead to Your bigger Kingdom goals, Father. We ask all these things through Jesus’ name and though His authority only, Amen.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

P.S. The school featured  in the YouTube video below is one of the ongoing projects of the Haiti Outreach Ministries that we will visit, Repatriote School. Blessings!