Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. — Lyrics by C. H. Woolston (1856-1927)
If you’re happy and you know it say “Amen.” If you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it… — Anonymous.
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. — Proverbs 22:6
As a 4-year-old I stood in a long line waiting to enter Vacation Bible School. This would be a fun time. At the front of the line, three of the older kids were chosen to carry the American flag, Christian flag, and Bible. Once inside we repeated a pledge to each one in unison. I remember very little of the early days of VBS while elementary grade VBS was full of fun. We made crafts from popsicle sticks and yarn and beaded bracelets. Stories were told by hand puppets and flannelgraph boards. Characters had names like Ezekiel, Habakkuk and Zephaniah and stories were about Daniel and the lion’s den and his friends: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. There were games and contests with prizes. Cookies with a hole in the middle so you could wear on your finger. Vacation Bible School continued until junior high when you could become a worker. You can likely guess the era of VBS if your memory verses are in the King James Version.
Warm days of late spring and summer bring with them Vacation Bible Schools throughout the community’s churches. Some are one day affairs while others can continue a full week. One summer Sam and I agreed to share the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale with the children. A large black tarp was taped to the floor and blown up by a small fan at the entrance becoming the whale. The children crawled inside with us. We opened a can of sardines to emit a fishy smell. Rather authentic we thought. Mostly the children wanted to touch the sardines.
I polled a couple of friends about their VBS memories and that of their grown children. Mike said he remembered going to a church in Starkville that had a gymnasium. Professional basketball player Pete Maravich, known as Pistol Pete, was the speaker giving his faith testimony. Mike got to play a “pick up game” with Pete, who became his hero.
Angela remembered cookies, punch, hotdogs, and a friend’s dad picking her up in his white car with the windows down. He allowed them to hang their arms out the windows. Nowadays Angela thinks maybe the dad took his vacation days to take kids to VBS.
Katie’s oldest daughter thought winning a stuffed Rhino on the last day was fun; she could recite from memory a whole chapter in the Bible. The next child thought snacks were cool. The youngest won a “Pop it” game.
It’s easy to think all was fun and games but years later those grown up children still sing songs they learned in Vacation Bible School. “If you’re happy and you know it, say Amen.”
Shannon Bardwell is a writer living quietly in the Prairie. Email reaches her at [email protected]