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July 17, 2019

"The Long Reach of VBS (Vacation Bible School)" By Joan Leotta

July is more than summer picnics and fireworks for the Fourth and French food for the Fourteenth (Bastille Day)—well, it used to be. 

July was Vacation Bible School time for our family. School ended late in June and August was time for our family vacation—a circumstance that fit the profile of many in our church. So, from the time they were toddlers until they took over the volunteering, July was a time for me to be immersed in puppets, nametags, play scripts, volunteer lists, and snack selections.
Yes, for most of the time my children were in VBS, I was a volunteer. We learned together. I often wrote and acted in the puppet shows. Some years, I just made snacks and helped with odd jobs at the camp. The years my children did the high school sports camp (Summer’s Best Two Weeks) my role was simply to drive them—ok, not simply since it was during rush hour in the Washington, DC Metro area.

While they were learning Bible verses and songs, meeting new people, making new friends, watching the gospel being lived out by adults other than their parents (teaches and volunteers),

I had to navigate the intricacies of COMMITTEES. It was a time for me, a person who loves others but who prefers to work alone on projects (Hey, I’m a writer!) and to learn to accept the ideas of others, to bow to someone else’s schedule plan (something I had not had to do once I left the outside work world).

Most of all, it was a special time for my relationship with our children. I drove them back and forth, so heard their lessons in the car as well as at home. I was privileged to hear their impressions of the day, as fresh as could be—and to help them work out problems they encountered during the day.

Moreover, it was a time of outreach into the community—we invited neighbors to go to VBS at our church—a time of babysitting for some families, but a time for us to pray that the attending children would meet that best of all friends, Jesus Himself, at the VBS.

While the children were in classes, I often chatted with the other volunteers, but before and after and often during, I sought some time alone to pray for my children and the others who were attending.

It was my hope that Vacation Bible School would be a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to swoop down into their hearts and transform their souls and their lives.  For those children who already had invited Jesus into their hearts, it was my hope that VBS would nurture their love of learning about God with the Bible as their guide.

I do not know the outcome of every child’s experience, of course. But I can tell you it imprinted the life of our daughter. One of the things we will do when our daughter comes to visit this month is read one of the lessons in our family Bible study—a study she initiated.

Each year she chooses a book (in this case a group of books, the Minor prophets) and selects a Bible study workbook for it. Then she facilitates our monthly telephonic (She lives six hours away) Bible study. How appropriate that this month it will be during July, VBS month! Maybe I will suggest a song and craft to accompany our lesson.

Note: Our son preceded us into the Lord’s Presence on March 30, 2002, at age 19. He accepted the Lord into his life at a very young age, thanks to conversations with us, his older sister, and the influence of VBS.

Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling.
Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973