Do you remember those days? This time of year, one can see signs in towns all over the country -- invitations for children to go to Vacation Bible School. Parents will be hauling kids off for a week that somewhat represents a “Bible Day Camp”. Now, I must tell you that the majority of my 45 years have found me involved with a VBS in some capacity, be it child participating, a parent, to a volunteer helping with everything from Crews Leader, crafts, snacks, to story telling. So, I have reserved a week, sometimes more, to a VBS; let’s just say that it is something that I grew up with and has also become a summertime feature for my wee Hott ones as well.
So, why? Why, since I have been involved in the tradition of VBS year after year, this year – PandaMANIA VBS 2011! – has taken on an entirely different significance? Why is this VBS any different than the rest? I’ll try to explain.
And the kids! Oh the kids! I wish you could see the faces of these kids as they line up outside the door, waiting to enter the Bible Adventure Room. Eyes wide and gigantic grins; one would think that they were waiting in line at an amusement park to ride a world famous roller coaster! The anticipation is SO great; you might wonder if a popular Disney star like Selena Gomez or Justin Bieber was inside! Excitement levels are so high… Is it tickets to the final Harry Potter movie? Or could it be a performance from their favorite gymnast, Shawn Johnson, or a football star, Pat Manning?
No. It’s none of those. It’s not even the Disney channel, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. It’s just me and Pastor Andrew. And we’re here to share stories in the Bible.
And it’s not just Biblical history and the stories we all grow up with. You know what else it is? Not every child will grow up with these stories and hear them in the way that First Church allows them to be shared. More than the stories about Noah, Peter, Jonah, Hannah, Sarah and Abraham…; it is my honor to let each and every child know that they are loved no matter what. Today, I realize this simple thing more than ever!
They are loved by all the people at the church, their families, friends,... and by God! God made them each special. Each one. And no matter what utterly crazy thing happens in the world, God loves them.
No matter what.
And today, I realized something? After 12 years, I have seen hundreds of kids grow through the entire elementary program, graduate, and move on to college. I have watched them accept Jesus and celebrate these precious decisions. I have partied and played until my back aches (especially after today’s hiding from the Roman guards). Year after year, I watched many VBS children listen to the invitation and tell kids about eternity with Jesus.
Today, I realized what a blessing this is.
Because at this year’s VBS, a certain bundle of energy and enthusiasm was missed. You see, over the weekend, a terrible handgun accident took the life of a boy just thirteen, Andrew Arthur Butler. Born in the Ukraine (actually not Russia!), Andrew came to our church just a little boy. He attended VBS regularly and was always a part of our holiday dramas. Our VBS felt the absence of him and his family as they attempt to recover from this shocking event.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life." - John 3:16